In the modern world, much of who we are and what we think depends on the various media messages we receive. These carefully crafted messages have a documented impact on our perceptions and behaviors. As we learn more about the techniques of media manipulation, we can be certain to make responsible decisions as consumers and citizens.
Learning more about the media and how it affects us requires that we become more media literate. Media literacy is concerned with helping individuals develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of mass media, the techniques used by media outlets, and the impact of these techniques. Developing media literacy can be likened to the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the small, lever-pulling man behind the image of the mystical wizard. This is the point where Dorothy and her crew come to realize that the wizard is a carefully constructed fiction rather than some omnipotent force.
Like Toto, we too need to learn how to "pull back the curtains" to reveal the truth behind the countless media messages that we are exposed to on a daily, even hourly basis. By going beyond the surface of such messages, we begin to understand the implicit as well as explicit ideas that are conveyed. Such scrutiny enables us to become active processors rather than passive receptors of the glut of messages in our daily media diet. This critical awareness will better prepare us to deal with the complex issues facing modern society.
According to media expert and author Neil Postman, "The way to be liberated from the constraining effects of any medium is to develop a perspective on it-how it works and what it does. Being illiterate in the processes of any medium (language) leaves one at the mercy of those who control it."
This site has a reading room with background articles on many media literacy topics. It also features an online catalog of books, videos, and curriculum kits.
Several of the programs on this site focus on issues related to media literacy. These sub-sites feature resources as well as statistics, polls, Q&A with teens and experts, and young people speaking out on the issues.
The site offers resources aimed at assisting teachers and others concerned with the influence of media on children and youth. It offers links to information about censorship, media ethics, advertising and gender, race, ethnicity and media. They also provide directories of other media literacy organizations, links to discussion groups, and links to other sites.
Project Literacy Among Youth (PLAY) is a not-for-profit sponsorship of media literacy among youth. It is a scholarly, yet practical, experimentation with the ways in which all communication technologies can and do shape the education of youth, and the degree to which youth actively participate in that process as critical-minded audiences.
Get to know the people behind the Clio Awards. These awards are given annually for excellence in advertising.
Meet the "first lady" of media literacy and health promotion.
It is often difficult to locate and evaluate information found through search engines. However, databases contain articles and information that has usually been checked by editors and is much more reliable. So check out the fabulous databases located on Utah's Online Library which are provided free of charge to public education and public libraries.
Meet Rosie the Riveter. The media campaign centered on her image helped change the mindset of women in the workforce during World War II.
(An Education World e-Interview With Catherine Gourley)
Catherine Gourley shared her thoughts about media literacy and its role in education. Gourley's book, Media Wizards: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Media Manipulations, introduces techniques to help students crack the codes of media messages.
Peruse this executive summary that outlines research to date on the prevalence and effects of violence in media.
This is a fun activity to help kids evaluate websites and determine if they're legitimate.
Online activities to help students understand the tricks of advertising.
This site examines TV commercials and points out the techniques used to sway the buyer.
This article analyzes how the web is used to market to children. It also provides many classroom activities to help children become better web consumers.
Just Think teaches young people to be both critical thinkers and creative producers. It is based on the belief that a better understanding of the media surrounding us facilitates a better understanding of the society in which we live. The site features lesson plans and a variety of other media literacy resources.
This Canadian educational website contains a wide range of resources to help teachers integrate media literacy and web literacy into their classrooms. It offers teaching units, student handouts, timely reports and background material for media education across the curriculum, K - 12.
This site links to numerous articles and lesson plans designed to help teachers integrate media literacy into classroom instruction.
PBS Teachers offers a variety of media literacy lesson plans and activities to integrate into the language arts, social studies, math, science, and health classroom.
- Brunner, Cornelia and William Talley. The New Media Literacy Handbook: An Educator's Guide to Bringing New Media into the Classroom. Anchor Books, 1999.
- Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. Seven Stories Press, 1997.
- Chomsky, Noam. Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. South End Press, 1989.
- Degaetano, Gloria and Kathleen Bander. Screen Smarts: A Family Guide to Media Literacy.
- Gourley, Catherine. Media Wizards: A Behind-The-Scene Look at Media Manipulations. Twenty First Century Books, 1999.
- Healy, Jane. Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It. Simon and Schuster, 1990.
- Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Pantheon Books, 1988.
- Kilbourne, Jean. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. Free Press, 1999.
- Kilbourne, Jean and Mary Pipher. Can't Buy My Love. Touchstone Books, 2000.
- McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964.
- Postman, Neil and Steve Powers. How to Watch TV News. Penguin USA, 1992.
- Summers, Sue Lockwood. Media Alert!: 200 Activities to Create Media-Savvy Kids. Media Alert!, 2000.
- Wakin, Edward. How TV Changed America's Mind. 1996.
- Rosen, Yohnah Elana. Changing the World Through Media Education. Fulcrum Publishing, 1998.
- Silverblatt, Art. Media Literacy. Greenwood Publishing Company, 1997.
- Sivulka, Julian. Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising. Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1996.
- Tyner, Kathleen. Literacy in a Digital World: Teaching and Learning in the Age of Information. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998.