March 13, 2020: What Does it Mean to be (Media) Literate?

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Albert Einstein

What might be some different elements of being “fully” literate?

The quote above is one of my favourites! I appreciate that it reflects uniqueness and takes a strength-based approach. Everyone has ability in some area, whether it be math, science, music, or nature… The list could go on. Everyone is ‘literate,’ but it depends on the context. Whenever I hear the word ‘literate’ my natural instinct is to think of reading and writing. However, as an educator, it is important to recognize literacy comes in many different forms. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences happens to be where my mind wanders when thinking of different forms of literacy. It is noted that everyone has all of these forms of intelligences present, but the level of aptitude in each type of intelligence is where the divide happens between them. Like being literate on a certain topic, the amount of understanding will be different based on a person’s life and learning experiences. In the 21st century, different skills/knowledge are needed to function in today’s society versus the skills/knowledge needed at other points in time. As times change, there becomes a need for different literacies that may not have been applicable before. From Shelby’s required reading this week, it was noted that students are teaching their parents about spotting fake news and helping them to become more media literate. In order to support media literacy, the article highlighted that New York City schools have implemented a program called Checkology that is aimed at grades 6-12. Assessments have shown considerable growth in students’ knowledge of identifying credible sources and “fake news.” As the need for different forms of literacies grow, education begins to evolve. With that being said, being fully literate in an area means to have a comprehensive understanding or knowledge base of a particular skill or topic that is usually relevant to current times.

Based on my own opinions, some elements of being “fully literate” are as follows:

  • A comprehensive understanding of a particular topic
  • Relevant to today’s society and needs
  • There are many different forms of being literate, but other forms for different people are stronger than others
Photo Source found here

What does it mean to be literate today?

Looking back at Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and other forms of literacy, I wonder if anyone has expanded on Gardner’s theory and thought about the idea of “media/digital intelligence?” Or would media/digital intelligence simply fall somewhere in between verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligence? Being literate in the 21st century calls for an increase in media literacy, as our world is filled with an abundance of information– some credible sources and some not. Discerning between the two is becoming increasingly important. Common Sense Media notes some strategies that could be helpful when teaching our 21st century learners about media literacy. The strategy that resonated with me the most was taking an integrative approach, rather than teaching this skill as a sit down, “one off” lesson. It needs to be occurring in an authentic context in order to be meaningful to kids. In addition, it was highlighted that it is not the parents’ job (or the teachers’ for that matter) to tell children whether they are right or wrong, but rather it is about the exchange of ideas and looking into something further. Common Sense Media also lists some guiding questions for children to think about when deciding if a source is credible:

These questions remind me of the Citizenship Unit from Concentus Education that I’ve taught in Social Studies for the past two years. We do an activity where we examine different articles and childrens’ story books to evaluate the biases and perspectives from which the story is told. We use this organizer to help guide the students responses and to provoke some interesting conversation. The basic objective of the lesson is to have students think critically about a piece of writing and how it could impact people beyond their world. Media literacy is literacy!

Daniel’s required reading highlighted an interview with Renee Hobbs. I appreciate that she mentions the collaboration and creation pieces involved in media literacy, as this applies to almost everyone who interacts with social media in some capacity. She notes that by using YouTube and Twitter to create videos or posts is considered media literacy. Initially, I thought that media literacy was simply having an understanding of identifying credible courses/”fake news.” However, this interview demonstrated that it is more than only that one aspect. Having an understanding of how to use social media outlets also plays a role in developing media literate students.

As important as being literate in the context of the 21st century, there are some other pieces that we must consider. From Brad’s required reading this week, it is highlighted that in order to be “media literate, being “literate” in the traditional sense is the first step. However, it is also noted that this could possibly change in the future. Furthermore, we must consider the access piece when discussing media literacy skills. These skills can be difficult to learn without having access to digital technology, making some people disadvantaged when acquiring media or digital literacy skills. Something even as simple as search and find strategies, as noted in Daniel’s reading (see above), is an important piece when learning media literacy. It still puzzles me on how to remedy the issue of access for people in other parts of the world where digital technologies are not as prevalent.

Nonetheless, I think it’s time we start viewing media literacy as a crucial part of our literacy programs in schools. The world is a different place and news is everywhere. Being able to discern fact from fiction is a valuable life skill that prepares students for the future.

Thanks for taking a read!


6 thoughts on “March 13, 2020: What Does it Mean to be (Media) Literate?

  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions. It is definitely time to start viewing media literacy as a crucial part of our teaching. Adults and children access a variety of literacy online, more now then ever. We need to keep up with the times! It is great to be learning all this now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking a read!

      I agree! It never really occurred to me until we started discussing this in class and how media literacy impacts day to day living. Important life skill!


  2. Great post Leigh! I love that you bring multiple intelligences into your argument. It’s completely true. I also appreciate that you discuss the importance of being literate before being media literate. I think that is a important step that is necessary before we throw students into digital literacy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well developed post. You definitely understand the importance of media literacy and the factors that contribute to its development. I’d argue that media literacy is becoming a huge part of the all the other literacies and that you wouldn’t be able to be fully literate in any literacy unless you understood how media literacy relates or is part of. Great tie ins to other classmates work as well. Good read. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking a read!

      Great perspective! Until we started discussing this topic in class and I started learning more about it, I never realized how much media literacy impacts day to day life.


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