In my first year of college, I remember taking two very different classes with two very different professors on the topics of what will be talked about in this post. One class was titled ‘Media Literacy’ and the other was ‘Mass Communications’. The first class was a sort of media education in which we were taught how to process the overwhelming amount of content and text produced by the larger powers: television, music, magazines & newspapers, video games, social medias, etc. The aim of this class was to not only teach us critical thinking skills, – how to question, evaluate, and understand the texts of the surrounding popular culture – but to also aid us in developing a critical eye in which we are cognizant of how the media influences us and those around us… I remember this class kind of blowing my mind.
The latter class – ‘Mass Communications’ – was somewhat like the first but differed slightly. The title of the class refers to the way the masses communicate. Specifically, how we, as people, communicate with one another. This class was less focused on media literacy, but more so on digital literacy. The difference between the two, in my opinion, is that media literacy is one’s understanding encompassing all things created by the surrounding culture with an intended purpose to inform, persuade or entertain, while digital literacy is how individuals use media as a tool, what they create with it, and how they understand this process. Think “digital” as “digits” or the things you use to touch… also known as fingers. By thinking about it this way, you can remember that digital literacy is the understanding of how we are interacting and taking part within the media rather than simply consuming it.
After having been a part of both of these courses, I can’t help but reflect on how valuable I remember them being. I mean, it felt as if my eyes were opened to the vast landscape of the technological world; a world I thought I knew, but now know to be so false at times and to push along an agenda that we don’t always agree with or even see… I wish that I had been given these teachings at a younger age, especially since I was well-immersed in the media and digital landscapes long before these classes became available to me. Media literacy and digital literacy need to be a part of the conversation; not when kids reach college, but when they set foot into high school, and perhaps even younger than that!
The kids I see today seem to disregard what they say online, how they act, and what they take in… In other words, they pay little attention to how they network within the technological spheres, mostly because they are unaware that they are doing so. This is because the tools these kids have access to – through their phones for the most part – come easily accessible and cheap (if not free) to them. With this ease of access, they are able to create, share, and evaluate effortlessly; the rest of the world doing the same thing…
As John Spencer, an advocate for increasing digital and media literacy in schools, points out, “the best stuff doesn’t always rise to the top and, if we’re not careful, we mistake the speed of consumption for the depth of knowledge. This is why we need students to learn the art of curation” (Link to Blog). To paraphrase, Spencer is saying that because the only true regulators of online information is people, it is the people who must pick and choose what information is shared by throwing out the false and locating the true: digitally literate individuals are the judges needed.
But how do we achieve a population of the digitally literate? How do we teach students to be critical of information they come across? It would seem that the limited literature I have reviewed all says the same thing: teach to ask questions. Strictly speaking, teach students to become literate in comprehending and analyzing texts by speculating and critiquing. Renee Hobbs (2011) can clarify and expand on this: “the concept of literacy is… defined as the ability to share meaning through symbol systems to fully participate in society” and “the term ‘text’ is… understood as any form of expression or communication in fixed and tangible form that uses symbol systems, including language, still and moving images, graphic design, sound, music, and interactivity” (Hobbs, 14). Teach students to become literate of texts is basically what I am getting at here… What a perfect job for a future English teacher like myself, right? Anyways, below is what I came up with in terms of how to best address and analyze a text; but from the literature I have combed through, there seems to be a variety of similar procedures:
The three A’s in Analyzation:
These three components are what I find to be the most important when it comes to understanding the credibility, validity, and purpose of a text… Similarly, MediaSmarts (a website dedicated to digital and media literacy) explains “the key concepts for media literacy – that media is constructed; that audiences negotiate meaning; that media have commercial, social and political implications; and that each medium has a unique aesthetic form that affects how content is presented” (Link to Source). These key concepts could all be connected back to the three A’s previously mentioned.
In the future, I plan to teach the three A’s or some sort of well-fashioned procedure that is similar to it. Really, I just plan to teach my students how to question… question everything. Take nothing at face value, but flip it over, spin it around, throw it up and down… Who knows, maybe you’ll see something differently.
***Not really sure if what I wrote makes any sense… It’s a sort of hodgepodge that I should have spent more time on probably***