Media Literacy: A Necessary 21st Century Skill

Media Literacy is a necessary 21st Century skill for all students.

It is slowly becoming apparent to educators around the world, that the 21st Century learning model must be different that the 20th century. I certainly believe this to be true. And in the past seven years, I have worked hard to help my students become media literate, which I believe parallels the necessary skills of a 21st Century learner.

Media literacy is a term that has been around a long time, but some people may not understand the concept, or even know the definition. Media literacy encompasses skills and abilities that enable us to analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a variety of media. Most prominently now for me and our students, digital media. To understand on a broader spectrum, there is a tremendous St. Louis organization, Gateway Media Literacy Partners (GMLP), who is devoted to educating our community, and to advocating this necessary survival skill.

There are 5 key questions to answer or discuss “at the core of inquiry-based media literacy pedagogy:” (Center for Media Literacy),

  1. Who created the message?
  2. What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
  3. How might different people understand this message differently?
  4. What lifestyles, values & points of view are represented in; or omitted from, this message?
  5. Why is this message being sent?


Television and film consumption used to monopolize my generation. But now all forms of digital media; laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc. are consuming our current generation’s interests and time. With schools deploying a 1:1 learning initiative (one computer or device for every one student) or close to 1:1, or at least hopefully incorporating more digital media in their curriculum, there is a real opportunity to discuss media literacy in classrooms across the country.

I teach two levels of Broadcast Technology & Film at Ladue Horton Watkins High School. I feel honored to have the ability and resources available to expose our students to media production.

Included in our classes, is the monthly creation of a student-produced television magazine show for education cable, but just as importantly, the web. Students also help me produce a monthly district communications program, which is live to tape, also for the web. In these classes, students use social media to promote their work, and create their own blog websites for reflection and writing practice. Students can also take a short film-making route, where they learn to develop and produce a 10-15 minute film, from concept to completion.

Outside of our class, we have a morning news team, with about 20 students on the staff. Many of these students have not taken my broadcast class. Yet they have an interest, and enjoy producing a live 5 minute video newscast each morning to our school. That newscast is then posted to the our high school web page as well.

Little did I know seven years ago when I began teaching broadcast technology in a public education high school, that the techniques, skills and processes that are required to successfully produce a video, could perfectly transfer to every other class in our school. I’m talking about any class and any subject.

The ease and accessibility to create videos is tremendous and I have the fortunate opportunity to present these ideas at the Midwest Technology Education Conference (METC), held at the St. Charles Convention Center in Missouri. My session is titled "Media Literacy: a Necessary 21st Century Skill." Educators from all over the country will be attending, building upon their passion and interests in creating a more dynamic classroom-learning environment, by incorporating digital media strategies in their lessons.  

In my presentation, I will talk about how all teachers, core subjects and electives alike, are utilizing student-created videos to illustrate content comprehension of their subject matter. It’s comprehension over style and quality. Teachers across the country are reporting increased retention of information through innovative techniques in public service announcement projects, science experiments, math equations and more. And with that creation, comes an opportunity to weave in media literacy lessons, and answer those 5 key questions. Our students are no longer just consumers, but creators, and we have an obligation as educators to engage in conversations with our students about media messages, to analyze or critically think about what messages are being conveyed, and the lasting impact of those messages.

To hear a preview of my presentation and get a feel for the concepts we will discuss, check out this podcast created by Cooperating School District’s(CSD) host Craig George.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Karl Donert May 01, 2012 at 07:56 PM
We've been using the term geo-(or geographic) media to express the fact that over 80% of all information has a location-based component. Do you have any experiences in this area or comments on this? Digital-earth.eu is a project connecting educators using geo-media tools and technologies. See us on Twitter@digitaleartheu, web www.digital-earth.eu, on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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