What is Media Literacy?

Media literacy is an informed, critical understanding of the mass media. It involves examining the techniques, technologies and institutions involved in media production; being able to critically analyze media messages; and recognizing the role audiences play in making meaning from those messages.

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"Media education does not aim to shield young people from the influence of the media, and thereby lead them to better things, but to enable them to make informed decisions on their own behalf."  
David Buckingham

The need to study the media in a critical and coherent way has become increasingly obvious in recent years, as they have come to occupy a central position in our cultural and political life.  Virtually all that we know, or think that we know, about the world beyond our immediate experience comes to us through the media. 

The fact that the media have remained outside the school curriculum at the same time as they have come to dominate so many aspects of our society, and indeed, our individual consciousness, is a tribute to their power to influence us on levels of which we are unaware.  It is not surprising then, that we have come to study the media; it is only surprising that it has taken us so long to start.  

Media literacy is concerned with the process of understanding and using the mass media.  It is also concerned with helping students develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques.  More specifically, it is education that aims to increase students’ understanding and enjoyment of how the media work, how they produce meaning, how they are organized and how they construct reality. 

Ultimately, media literacy education must aim to produce students who have an understanding of the media that includes a knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, biases and priorities, role and impact, and artistry and artifice.  Media literacy is a life skill. 
Ontario Media Literacy Resource Guide 

Why Media Literacy is important
Read Teaching the Key Concepts of Media Literacy

Source: Rick Shepherd, "Why Teach Media Literacy," Teach Magazine,
Quadrant Educational Media Services, Toronto, ON, Canada, Oct/Nov 1993.