What is media literacy and why should you teach it in your classroom?

How many advertisements do you come across in one day- ten, fifty, hundreds, thousands? Some sources say we encounter 4,0005,000 ads a day all trying to persuade us to do something, believe something or buy something (while making money for their shareholders). We may not be consciously aware of seeing these ads, nor are our students who are exposed to the same content we are on a daily basis. Are students equipped to recognize when they are being manipulated? Probably not. Media literacy is a skill, not a topic. It is the responsibility of every educator; in every subject, in every school.

The goal of teaching media literacy is to educate our students on how to question what they see. Media literacy has dozens of “subtopics” that can be explored year-round in your classroom. This post shares some fun media facts, concepts, and resources to get you started.  

Media Literacy “Fun Facts”

  • Media is not good or bad; it is just a tool that delivers content.
  • Adults spend 12 hours, 7 minutes a day consuming media.
  • It is estimated that 6 companies own close to 90% of media.
  • Magazines print different editions for different areas and demographics.
  • Advertisers focus on women’s bodies as “parts of a whole”, so they always have something to fix.
  • Personification in advertising plays to our emotions and seeks to have us form “relationships” with products, giving alcohol names such as  ‘Jim Beam’ to imply that we are not drinking alone).

Media Literacy Concepts

  • Media constructs our culture.
  • Media messages affect our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
  • Media uses different “persuasion” tactics to get you to do something, buy something or believe in something.
  • Media constructs fantasy worlds.
  • No one tells the whole story.
  • Media messages reflect the values and viewpoints of the media maker.
  • Individuals construct their own meanings from media.
  • Media messages can be decoded.
  • Media messages contain “texts” and “subtexts”. Each person creates subtext based on prior experiences, prior knowledge, opinions, attitudes, and values.

Nicole’s Favorite Resources

What Does Your Tattoo Say About You?

Do you have a tattoo?  What’s the story behind it?  What does it say about who you are?  Tattoos have been around for over 5,000 years.  For centuries people have been marking their bodies for a variety of purposes; love, status, tribute, and medical just to name a few.  Today the tattoo industry is busier than ever, although an internet search for “tattoo removal” proves there are clearly some that regret the decision.  Is our online existence that much different? Do we not post statuses that declare our love, tribute, medical dilemmas and more, much like people tattoo their skin?  If that is the case, do we not regret some of our social media posts as well?

The term “digital footprint” is well known and represents what trace of us we leave behind when we are visible and active online.  It is a catchy phrase, but in my opinion not completely accurate. Footprints can be washed away. They can be covered over so they are no longer visible.  A tattoo is much more difficult to make disappear. Even in attempts to remove tattoos, there is always some trace of the scar (or ink) that remains. It is important to teach our students that what they do online never truly goes away. What better place to start than with us, the educators. As such, it is our responsibility to know what our online reputation looks like so we can help guide our students in developing theirs. As an adjunct professor my courses always include data mining. Sometimes, I give my students a “stranger” (aka a friend of mine that they don’t know) to find as much information on as they can (what’s fun about this one is I have them make a slideshow of their results and send it to the actual friend!). Sometimes I have them create a curriculum vitae of their online persona, using only the data they find about themselves online (that one can be an eye-opener!). In all instances, my graduate students (who are almost all in the education field) have a chance to take a “deep dive” into their online brand. The purpose of this activity? Once we have a clear understanding and feel the emotion of what we find online, albeit positive or negative, we are better equipped and invested in passing this on to our students.

Following are tips and resources to get started on your own data dive.

Tips:

  • Log out of all internet browsers before searching (being logged in will skew your results)
  • Use quotation marks when searching (i.e. “Nicole M Zumpano”)
  • Search using multiple search engines and browsers (i.e. Google, Firefox, Safari, Bing, Internet Explorer)
  • Search using your professional name (I go professionally using my middle initial; Nicole M Zumpano)
  • Search images
  • Search using your social media usernames
  • If married, search using your maiden name

Help Documents:

http://bit.ly/Data-Mine (This one lists several sites you can use to conduct a data mine on yourself)

http://bit.ly/Data-Adventure (This one is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” related to digital tattoos)

http://bit.ly/Tech-Check (Finally, clean up your digital life! This is a monthly “to-do” list to keep your digital existence in order!)

Being aware of the image you portray (or don’t portray) online is one of the first steps to a healthy digital literacy diet. Happy mining!