What does it mean to be “media literate?”

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January 25, 2013 by Welcome to the Jungle

Every year I have the students keep track of their own learning by keeping a weekly journal of what they have learned. At the end of the term, I evaluate these journals. Ten journals of ¾ of a notbook page of writing or more equals ten marks. I don’t mark spelling but I look for ideas they have been processing. I return the journals on the last day of classes. From the very first day, I tell them one exam question they have to answer:
            The goal of this class was to help you become more “media                    literate.”                 What is mean by “media literate?”
How have you become so?
What have you learned about the media this year?

Yesterday, my students in the first term wrote their exam. Here are some selected answers to this exam question from grade 12 students. I won’t reveal their names, and the purpose of this is to share with you some of the typical grade 12 responses. Spelling mistakes are likely mine. I always find it interesting to see what they are learning.
Best wishes,
Mike Gange, Fredericton High, Media Studies Teacher
Exam questions responses

We are so consumed with the media around us that its very important that we understand it and become “media literate.” Being “media literate” means that you understand how the media works and know the real messages of things. Being aware of the media is very important.
I’ve become more media literate this semester by taking a closer look at the surrounding media. Learning about the process and conventions of all of it really gives you a critical eye. I was unaware of the rule of thirds that was used in television, but after learning about it, I see it everytime I watch TV now. Something else I have learned is that even if we do not consciously pay attention to the media, it still affects us either way, especially our society which thrives on media.
In our current society, we like to think that we’ve moved from stereotypes or sexism, but it is still all too present in our media. We’ve learned that sexism is still driving a lot of media today and its important o understand how and why its wrong. We’ve learned here how to deconstruct what we see and that way we can see the reality construction of media.
 Girl 1. R., female, age 17.
What does it mean to be media literate? In my opinion I think it means to be aware of the media around us and to be able to analyze the messages that they throw at us. To be able to sit down and watch an advertisement and to really break down what is really being said.
This year, I found I have become more media literate the following ways: usually when I watched TV, I would pay very close attention to the advertisements being shown, but after being aware of themedia, I start thinking more and more about what is being shown in certain ads. I’ve also become more informed about the messages sent to children, which isn’t right. Advertisers prey on the younger generation by making sneaky ads about toys, play sets, etc.so the children make their parents buy it for them. In media studies I learned a lot about movies, music, advertising, and much more in between. I learned about the Oscars, and how 5000 members of the Academy vote and shape our opinions about the movies. I learned that video did indeed kill the radio star. And how the song was consciously chosen as the first video played on MTV and the difference between ads and PSAs.
I learned a lot this year and am going to miss learning about all different kinds of media. I did enjoy every aspect of this class especially the advertising unit. I wish this class could go on all year.I am interested to know so much more about the media.
Boy 1. M., male, age 17.
The point of this class has been to educate us about how to deconstruct all the media surrounding us and analyze it. There are many ways of doing this, depending on what type of media is being analyzed. For example, Hollywood movies generally follow the same formula and therefore can always be evaluated through such components as title, sound, actors, directors, theme, cinematography etc. However if you were analyzing a radio advertisement, you could consider different options such as voice (male/female, authoritarian, fatherly, brotherly, maternal, siren) subtext (music in the background) elements of persuasion (humour, sexuality etc).
My understanding of the media has greatly developed this year. It is now easy for me to express my thoughts and opinions right way about every thing I am hearing and seeing because I have the tools to do so.
The term media literate means understanding and being able to comprehend the media, which means mass communications like television, radio, movies, music, magazines and so on. It is being able to understand the messages promoted through the media and the tools of persuasion used to do so. I have become more media literate by understanding these four key concepts of media: that media constructs reality, it has its own forms, codes and conventions, it sells ideologies and values meessages and its is a business and has commercial interests. After understanding this I expanded my learning by looking at all aspects of the media (TV, movies, ads, radio, and so on) and learned the best ways to deconstruct each one.
I have learned that sometimes the messages brought out by the media are subtle and other times very obvious. The media uses many strategies to get the viewers attention. No matter what form of media there is almost always more than what meets the eye; looking deeper into the values they are sending out can at times be surprising. For example, when MTV paid Michael Jackson to make a video, Thriller, it sent out the message the MTV supported Black artists, when in fact they did not play many Black artists other than Jackson.
This year, I have come to understand how the media has developed from the beginning of radio in the 1920s to today’s social media frenzy. It is amazing how the media has become such a major part of our culture and the influence it has on the population. I have also realized that we are bombarded with media so understanding it is the key to understanding our own society and the values within.
Girl 2. D., female, age 18

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