So… What is Media Literacy, and Why is it Important?

Media literacy is absolutely mandatory in today’s world. We are in an age where the passing of information over various media platforms happens so rapidly that those who are not media literate are left behind and simply not fully participating in our educative culture. When I say “our culture” I do not necessarily mean American or Western, I refer to our global culture. In the past, even recent past, information was not as accessible as it is today on a global scale. With the rapid recent development of the Internet and media platforms, our culture has become increasingly participatory. The Internet has become an information super highway where we can now see what is happening on the other side of the globe as it happens. Desired information is as accessible as the Internet is. That being said, it is vital that we strive to provide accessibility to everyone in order to ensure that our youth learns to be media literate, and also so that there is not a divide among the media literate and non media literate population of students. Media literacy means that we are able to educate ourselves and our students on a level that was not available even to the generation before ours. Media literacy also means taking responsibility and ownership for our ideas in a public forum. With social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and etc, so prevalent, as a culture we have only recently learned and experienced what it means to be media literate in the sense of taking ownership. Platforms like these are certainly important for getting the ball rolling on media literacy. Students who are media literate have a decided advantage and in turn have more opportunities to be well-rounded, multifaceted students who are knowledgable about the world and how it works.

As educators it is important to become familiar with media platforms and popular so that we can relate to our students. It is also important to understand that there may be some students who are not afforded the opportunity of media literacy in the home. We must not assume that all students are able to access the internet or certain media platforms. When that is the case we must find a way to teach media literacy and research skills to those students in an effort to keep them from falling behind. Students who are not media literate will miss opportunities to excel.

Along with training our students to be media literate, we must also teach our students to be critical of what they consume, view, and post. With media being more participatory than ever before, and with us all being media creators, there is more opportunity for non-scholarly articles, blogs, websites, posts, etc, that are purely opinion based. The Internet can no only be a place for vital information, but also a Pandora’s box, which is why we must teach our students media literacy skills and how to decipher the difference between scholarly information and opinion based information. Ways we can enable this type of learning without it seeming like counter manipulation is to allow students to conduct individual research and proper research techniques.

By preparing our students to be media literate and critical consumers of media, we also teach them critical thinking skills. By allowing our students to be critical thinkers, we offer them the sort of education that is not “prepackaged”. When students use their media literacy skills to become active researchers and critical thinkers they learn that they also bring something to the table in the classroom and continue this trend into their lives beyond the classroom. By training our students to be media literate we are developing within them the desire to learn and the skills to do so.

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