Media Literacy in the 21st Century



not too long ago the world was a simpler place people could live their lives well by knowing just a few important skills and a few tons of information schools taught reading writing and arithmetic because these were the only skills needed to be productive members of society students use these skills to learn about the world back then knowing the difference between a noun and a verb or knowing how to multiply and divide would get you on your way to understanding the world with these skills people had what they needed to learn more about everything life had to offer however today's world requires a new set of basic skills that didn't seem necessary last century today's student is faced with challenges that can't be solved by knowing letters and numbers the world has become much more complex and the stakes are even higher to understand today's world we need to understand more than letters and numbers today we need to understand the information we receive and the meanings behind them the delivery system for today's information isn't math or English books its media instead of using the signs and symbols used by William Shakespeare and Albert Einstein today's media uses the signs and symbols used by Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates Media invades our lives sometimes without our asking it to it influences us on every level and it can come to us in many forms most people don't realize the media's power on us but it's there and it's certainly very powerful so in addition to the existing literacies we need a new form of literacy media literacy simply put media literacy is the ability to access analyze evaluate and create media in all its forms in order to understand how media affects us we first need to understand what is affecting us we all access media sometimes without even realizing it whenever we turn on a TV at home or pick up a newspaper in the morning or look at a billboard on the street we're accessing media accessing media is the first step to understanding it because we instantly absorb the message being sent to us at the access stage we don't necessarily realize that we're being influenced we simply take in them as such at face value and allow the message to have its intended effect on us for example when we go to see a scary movie at the theater we rarely sit there and analyze the music lighting or acting we usually don't question the filmmakers choice of plot twist or direction of the story we just sit there and watch quietly allowing ourselves to be scared just like the filmmaker wanted us to be it isn't until after the movie that we begin to question the film's various components it's only after the movie is over do we try to explain why it was good or bad when accessing media we also need to recognize that some of us access media differently and so our experiences will be different for example people who are hearing-impaired will access audible information differently than those who are not hearing impaired this is also true for those people who are visually impaired even so each person is able to access media at the same level as everyone else with their own abilities we all access media but unfortunately this is all we tend to do for most of the media we're exposed to we don't have the time or the desire to sit around and think deeply about most of the media messages around us instead we tend to focus on the media that we feel is most important or relevant to us at that given moment and as a result the vast majority of media we're exposed to goes unexamined but when we do decide to analyze a piece of media we gain a better understanding of the messages intention and of the way that it grabs our attention analyzing a piece of media involves examining a piece of media objectively and separating the various elements that make up that particular piece for example let's say we're analyzing an old western movie we'll watch the movie and ask ourselves what various elements make up the movie of course there's a cowboy of some sort who rides a horse there's also a wide-open plain that the cowboy lives on there are the bad guys who did something wrong there's the music in the background something associated with westerns then we can analyze the crew who's the director the writer the producer by simply taking the time to analyze the various elements making up the movie we're starting to be an active participant in our media world we aren't simply being engrossed by the story we're actually trying to pay attention to things that define this movie most people don't take the time to analyze the media they consume they're happy to just take in whatever it is they're watching reading or listening to and don't care to really understand the information they're receiving

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