While there is a good deal of debate about what media literacy is, I define it simply as having the skills to recognize, evaluate, and apply the persuasive techniques of media" (Ohler, 2013).
"We want students to not only learn with media but also to learn about media" (Ohler, 2015).
Here we are, a mere two decades later, and students carry devices in their pockets that out-power the technology used to power early space exploration. From their mobile phones...and from the hallway, the lunchroom, the school bus, or any other place they happen to be...students can create media within moments that appears to be professionally created...and they can distribute the media they create far and wide (WORLD-wide) in a few taps of the screen. We've come a long way, baby!
The aspects of media literacy that are important to me as an educator, parent, grandparent, and global citizen surround the understandings of our personal responsibility in creating media that is fair, accurate, and responsible. When I consider the power students carry in their backpacks and pockets each day via laptops and mobile devices, I believe it is of utmost importance that these "kids" understand they can create and spread information that can change lives. That's a weighty responsibility...one that must be taken seriously.
That's where the role of education enters the picture. Parents are digital newbies, in many ways. They likely go to their children for tech support and sometimes are not aware of what is "out there" in terms of new media because they are still finding their way around the digital landscape. Their children, on the other hand, were born into this world. They know how new media works; they know how to create and manipulate messages; and they fully understand the power it holds. What they may not fully grasp is their own role in creating and disseminating messages via the available media tools. As educators, we must be intentional and proactive in the ways we teach media literacy and build it into our everyday educational practices. Through lessons, activities, the embedding of media literacy discussions in core content work, and purposeful focus on the role students play in creating media messages, we have a serious responsibility to serve as a bridge between the generation of "digital newbies" and "digital natives."
In addition, we need to help students understand how important their own close analysis of media creation and analysis is. Frank Gallagher (in the Vimeo video) said, "So much of what we think we know about the world comes not from first-hand experience, but from media." Similarly, Steve Goodman's observation suggesting that "Media is a filter while pretending to be a clear window" (2003) must be front-and-center as we talk with students about media literacy, encourage them to use new media tools wisely, and as we help them fully realize their responsibilities as a new generation of "reality makers" via the media tools so readily available to them.
CyberWise1. (2011). What is Media Literacy? (YouTube video). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKlJOxwyMWU
Digital Disruption. (Accessed 9 Apr 2015). "Teaching Tools." Retrieved from http://www.digitaldisruption.co.uk/teaching-tools/
Gallagher, F. (2014). Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship. CableImpacts. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/113438565
Goodman, S. (2003). Teaching Youth Media: A Critical Guide to Literacy, Video Production, and Social Change. New York: Teachers College Press.
Ohler, J. (2013). Digital Storytelling in the Classroom. (2nd Ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.