In the past decade, the education system has undergone various stages of change in terms of curricula and methods of imparting knowledge to students. The system, at present, aims to focus more on skill-based teaching instead of the traditional bookish rote-learning. This need of teaching and providing students with knowledge and experience, supported by appropriate skill-set in accordance with their abilities, has opened a new avenue for ways in which schools and parents can promote media literacy through education. Living in a digital age, our children are surrounded by information as soon as they are welcomed into the world. Be it your infant watching nursery rhymes on YouTube or your tween reading about her favourite footballer from a sports journal – everything provides information. Where does all this information come from? The media.
What is media literacy?
Media literacy means knowing and recognizing different types of media along with the information being conveyed by them. Anything from traditional media channels like newspapers, journals and magazines to audio-visual platforms such as radio and television- all of these constitute the media. With the advent of social media platforms, the spectrum of media has become broader than ever.
A large chunk of information is gathered by students either from home or their second home: the school. Hence it is of utmost importance for both the parents and the school to think of ways in which schools and parents can promote media literacy.
Media is known as the fourth pillar of democracy. Understanding how the media functions, provides an in-depth knowledge of how a democratic nation carries out its duties. Media literacy aims toward building a set of enhanced skill-set among students, making them informed young citizens. This objective corresponds with that of the Media Literacy Council. It aims “to cultivate digital users’ critical-thinking skills and refine their understanding of the issues in the online world so as to empower them to be safe, smart, and kind online.”
With information and news going viral in a jiffy, it has become a need of the hour to teach social media literacy to students before they become active users and creators of social media content themselves. There lies a sense of ‘immediacy’ on social media, to be the first to post or share something. Among all this rapidness, the authenticity of the information often gets lost and paves way for fake news.
Let’s face it. We cannot take smartphones and other digital devices away from students especially when it has become a medium of imparting education for most of them in current times. What we can do, is make them responsible users of the media by introducing and promoting media literacy for kids in schools and at home. While there are tons of educational materials available in the form of books or online websites, nothing can beat the importance of real-time classroom discussions. Now you must be thinking “but how do I do it?” “where do I start?” Relax! We have Media Literacy Made Easy:
5 ways in which schools and parents can promote media literacy :
- The ABCD of Media – Just like you begin by teaching the basics of every subject, start by teaching what the media is and how it works. This will lay a foundation for them to know what a vast industry it actually is, who creates information and how.
- Hands-On Learning – Giving them practical exposure to various media platforms apart from theoretical knowledge is essential to achieve a better understanding of the media. Their presence on social as well as traditional media platforms can help them observe the various aspects of media in the real world. For instance, ask each one of them to bring a newspaper or magazine of their choice once a week and read out any three headlines which they think is important. On the contrary, you can also ask them to bring any two screenshots of online advertisements that they came across over the weekend on any social media platform. Show these on a projector in your classroom and have a fun learning session on the different types of online advertisements!
- Understanding Motives – Every media entity, be it individual or organizational, creates information based on certain underlying motives. This may include commercial, political, social, or cultural agenda. Understanding and analyzing the right agenda behind information can be a great start for students to learn media literacy. This can be done by providing a group of students with a case study and asking them to give pointers based on their understanding. The teacher can then evaluate and discuss each of these points.
- Direction – Information is always directed towards something or someone – the target market or the target audience. With the help of relevant examples, help them identify the target audience of the media and whether the agenda influences the selection of the target audience and how. This will help them anticipate why they perceive a media message in a particular way.
- Spot the Difference – Content of media differs largely from one medium to another. Each of these has its own unique way of sending out information. Teaching the different types of media channels can be done through a fun weekend activity! Select one topic of information and ask your students to gather information about it over the weekend from any 5 channels of media. Make a collage of it and bring it to the classroom. Ask them to draw a table, pointing out the differences and similarities between each of the channels. Have a detailed discussion later!
How Media Literacy can be Advantageous in Student’s Development
- Critical Thinking – Media delivers messages but how the receiver decodes it, is what triggers us to think critically.
- Identifying Perspective – Exposure to media helps students in gaining individual perspectives, which they were unaware about. This identification, of having one’s own perspective, goes a long way in life and builds confidence in students.
- Analyzing Data – Coming across various types of media channels and studying the messages in each of them provides a good analytical practice session for students. They can even compare the data from one source to another and form their own conclusions!
- Factual vs Persuasive Media – Acquiring the skill to differentiate between fact-based media content and one trying to persuade acts as a great advantage for a student.
- Insight on what is Important – Media literacy provides students with an insight on what message is important and what can be ignored. Not all information that is gathered can be conveyed by the media. The reason behind the selection of the important ones is crucial to understand to promote media literacy among students. This can be helpful in terms of public speaking as well.
- Aims and objective – Media targets people. They categorize their target audience based on a number of demographics. This simply means that the media works with an objective and aims all their information towards a predetermined audience. This can motivate students to set short and long term goals for themselves and aim towards achieving them effectively.
Look around us. We are surrounded by media and its overflowing information, each trying to tell us something. It is upto us to prioritize our consumption of the media and choose what to believe. Media addresses and reflects various cultures and backgrounds. It has the capacity to give our students the taste of life right from their elementary years which otherwise would happen much later. With fake news growing to become a major concern for nations, it is now that schools and parents can promote media literacy and teach it to students as an important addition to our educational framework. A small effort of chalking out a plan on how to develop media literacy from our side can help our young students become informed and skilled individuals! Happy schooling.