In 2016, it is rare to see someone who is disengaged in some form of media. With the growing popularity of cell phones, tablets, and social media, a world of information is available instantaneously. As technology improves and becomes more accessible, the responsibility to teach digital and media literacy skills raises a few eyebrows.
Media conveys messages through visuals, language, and sound, and are then mass-produced for a target audience, and mediated by some form of technology (Scheibe & Rogow, 2012). This definition includes media books, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of non-technological media. While the initial responsibility to teach safety measures regarding digital and media literacy falls on the parents, the majority of the responsibility to educate students in this field falls on the educators.
The goal of the educator to teach media literacy, is to provide the necessary tools to the student to navigate their own experiences with media and think for themselves (Scheibe & Rogow, 2012). Allowing students to have an open mind and critical thinking skills in the messy world of digital media literacy is a difficult task for any educator. With instant access to what is happening around the world, students are not only given a minute by minute update, but the opportunity to view the opinion of others and voice their own personal thoughts.
For example, with the upcoming election, mixed media messages are coming from either presidential nominee regarding current national and global events. While thousands of individuals jump on-line to “like” or “retweet” these messages, it is key to remember all media messages are constructed (Scheibe & Rogow, 2012). Scheibe and Rogow (2012), express this fundamental concept is valuable to keep in mind, as it is not only the message itself that is valuable, but the team behind the message.
As seen in the links below, there is a team behind both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns, who aid in constructing these messages on their Twitter feeds, not only to get a “like” or a “retweet” but to gain voters and supporters. Each message they send out to their millions of followers, is for a purpose. Due to this purpose, educators must teach their students critical thinking skills, including an awareness of interrelated critical questions, ability to ask and answer critical questions at appropriate times, and the desire to actively use critical questions (Scheibe & Rogow, 2012).
Unfortunately, media literacy education, is a difficult area for students to understand, as they not only learn about media, but how to critique media messages. People want to believe those they trust in are good, and their word is true. It is the key challenge for educators, to not only have their students read into the surface of the media being thrown at them, but to take a critical approach, and understand the deeper meaning behind the message. Students need to consider who the target audience is, what the purpose of the message may be, and the impact it could have on the future. It is key for the educator to convey to the student they are able to use their individual skills, beliefs, and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages.
In order to do so, educators must develop a skill set within their students, allowing the necessary knowledge to decode digital and media messages. This skill set includes distinguishing fact from opinion, analyzing points of view and identifying biases, drawing inferences, and making and defending conclusions using document based evidence. Educators also need to ensure students have a wide variety of media methods to decode, including contemporary and historic, high and low tech, mainstream and alternative, commercial and independent, professionally and user generated, and representative of different media genres. To best aid the student, educators must insure they leave behind their personal judgements, to allow the students to determine what is right on their own.
What tips should educators be provided, to ensure they will not pass their judgements or biases onto their students when decoding digital and media literacy? For additional helpful tips, click on the links below:
Baker, F. (2012). Media Literacy in the K–12 Classrooms. International Society for Technology in Education
Google Images. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/images/digitalmedia_400px.jpg
Scheibe, C., & Rogow, F. (2012). Critical thinking in a multimedia world. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.