Discussions of literacy traditionally focus on reading and writing abilities. While traditional text-based literacy has proven to be a powerful way for citizens to express their own needs or interests, another variant of literacy known as media literacy has developed in light of the growing importance, impact and evolution of mass media. Newspapers, television, magazines, radio, movies and the Internet are persuasive and ubiquitous sources of information and entertainment for millions of people of all ages yet there is little formal or universally accepted curricula in the United States dedicated to discerning the complexities, biases and processes of mass media institutions – institutions Cortés refers to as the “informal educators” (2005, p. 55) in modern society.
While it is clear media have an impact on individuals, societies and cultures across the globe, it is unclear when, where or how media literacy programs should be introduced in education. Numerous countries including Australia, England and Canada already have extensive K-12 media literacy programs, yet it is ironic that media literacy is not a widely accepted or widely practiced discipline at any education level in the United States, the world’s largest producer and exporter of mass media products.
Therefore, the purpose of this project is to contribute to the ongoing exchange of ideas and practical pedagogical applications of media literacy in higher education in the United States. To do this, the author will first explore various definitions of media literacy. Next, the author will discuss the core of media literacy: the development of critical thinking skills in students. To conclude, the author will describe an innovative media literacy exercise that puts media literacy research and theory into practice in the college classroom.
|Keywords:||Media Literacy, Education, Cultural Imperialism, Mass Media|
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Journalism, California State University, USA
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