“We no longer live solely in a print-centric world” (Baker, 2010, p. 133). We all have access to the Internet, television, music, images, movies and other emerging technologies. While this seems so evident, why is that schools often fail to help students foster the necessary critical skills that will help them properly access this media? This represents a key 21st century fluency: media literacy.
The 21st Century Fluency Project notes that media literacy is an important fluency that encompasses two components:
1) The ability to look analytically at any communication media to interpret the real message, how the chosen media is being used to shape thinking, and evaluate the efficacy of the message.
2) The ability to create and publish original digital products, matching the media to the intended message by determining the most appropriate and effective media for that message.
I am learning that teachers need to be proactive in teaching media literacy skills. Instructional recommendations suggest that this should not be a separate class, but a topic that is integrated across the curriculum. Media literacy instruction should includes lots of hands-on experiential learning to assist students as they encounter media in their research and daily lives. Through authentic exposure to various forms if media, students are offered the opportunity to develop this set of skills. This can take place as part of individual reflective work or in cooperative group settings.
Baker (2010) notes that goals of media literacy instruction are “to create critical thinkers and viewers who have the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to understand, analyze, and create media messages, as well as to comprehend their purpose and audiences” (p. 143). He offers a number of interesting classroom applications across the curriculum. It will be worth returning to this chapter again.
It is important, however, that we provide the necessary professional development to support teachers as they engage students on this important fluency.
Baker, F. W. (2010). Media literacy: 21st century literacy skills. In H. Hayes Jacobs (Ed.)Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world, (133-152). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.