Media literacy shows up in schools in lots of different ways. Sometimes teachers are doing media literacy education, but they don’t use the label. In other cases, teachers use the label for lessons that use media, but don’t include activities that actually help students become more media literate. To minimize the confusion and help teachers plan with clarity, I created this checklist.
A lesson, activity, project, curriculum, or initiative is likely to meet the goals of media literacy education if it:
⬜ Goes beyond merely using media to teach; media are used to help students acquire new or improved critical thinking skills.
⬜ Teaches students to ask their own questions about media messages rather than just responding to questions that the teacher asks.
⬜ Teaches students to ask questions of all media (not just the things that they find suspicious or objectionable, and not just screen or digital media but also printed media like books or posters).
⬜ Includes media representing diverse points of view (e.g., does not reduce complex debates to only two sides and/or actively seeks alternative media sources).
⬜ Encourages students to seek multiple sources of information and helps them learn to determine which sources are most appropriate or reliable for any given task.
⬜ Requires students to justify opinions or interpretations with specific, document-based evidence.
⬜ Seeks rich readings of texts, rather than asking people to arrive at a pre-determined “true” or “correct” meaning.
⬜ Does not replace the investigative process with declarations about what a teacher or a cultural critic believes to be true.
⬜ Incorporates into analysis (including semiotic or aesthetic analysis) an examination of how media structures (e.g., ownership, sponsorship, or distribution) influence how people make meaning of media messages.
⬜ Teaches students to ask questions when they are making (not just analyzing) media, helping them to notice and evaluate their choices, and also to understand that their social media posts are media.
⬜ Encourages students to see themselves as media makers by putting communication tools in their hands and inviting them to consider applicable ethics before sharing their works publicly.
⬜ Encourages students to use multiple means of expression (image, sound, and word) and helps them determine which ones will best achieve their goal(s).
⬜ Respects that people interpret media through the lens of their own experiences, so different people might interpret a media document or message in different ways (e.g., a student might disagree with a teacher without being wrong).
⬜ Focuses on a media document’s significance (including who benefits and who is disadvantaged) or what people might learn from it rather than trying to determine whether a particular piece of media is “good” or “bad” or whether a student likes it.
⬜ Helps students move through anger and cynicism to skepticism, reflection, and action.
⬜ Encourages students to act on what they’ve learned without determining for them what actions they should take.
⬜ Provides for assessment of media literacy skills.
© 2012 Faith Rogow, Ph.D., Creative Commons Attribution - No Derivative Works 3.0. Publication for non-profit education use permitted - author notification required
You may want to pair this resource with the recently revised handout: CATEGORIES AND SAMPLE QUESTIONS FOR MEDIA DECODING