Exerpts from

 Literacy for the 21st Century / Orientation & Overview

© 2003, 2005 Center for Media Literacy / www.medialit.org



Exerpt #1  


What is Media Literacy ?


 “The convergence of media and technology in a global culture is changing the way we learn about the world and challenging the very foundations of education.

No longer is it enough to be able to read the printed word; children, youth, and adults, too, need the ability to both critically interpret the powerful images of a multimedia culture and express  themselves in multiple media forms.

Media literacy education provides a framework and a pedagogy for the new literacy needed for living, working and citizenship in the 21st century.

Moreover it paves the way to mastering the skills required for lifelong learning in a constantly changing world.”

Elizabeth Thoman, Founder and Tessa Jolls, President

Center for Media Literacy / Los Angeles, California


Exerpt #2


A Challenge to Education


”Most of what we have called formal education has been intended to imprint on the human mind all of the information  that we might need for a lifetime.


Education is geared toward information storage.


Today that is neither possible nor necessary. Rather, humankind needs to be taught how to process information that is stored through technology.


 Education needs to be geared toward the handling of data rather than the accumulation of data.”

David Berlo ,Communication and Behavior / 1975





Exerpt #3

Transforming Literacy for a Global and Digital Age

Since the beginning of recorded history, the concept of “literacy” meant having the skill to interpret “squiggles” on a piece of paper as letters which, when put together, formed words that conveyed meaning.  Teaching the young to put the words together to understand (and, in turn, express) ever more complex ideas became the goal of education as it evolved over the centuries.


Today information about the world around us comes to us not only by words on a piece of paper but more and more through the powerful images and sounds of our multi-media culture.  Although mediated messages appear to be self-evident, in truth, they use a complex audio/visual “language” which has its own rules (grammar) and which can be used to express many-layered concepts and ideas about the world. Not everything may be obvious at first; and images go by so fast!  If our children are to be able to navigate their lives through this multi-media culture, they need to be fluent in “reading” and “writing” the language of images and sounds just as we have always taught them to “read” and “write” the language of printed communications.


In the last 40 years, the field of media literacy education has emerged to organize and promote the importance of teaching this expanded notion of “literacy.”  At its core are the basic higher-order critical and creative thinking skills— e.g.  knowing how to identify key concepts, how to make connections between multiple ideas, how to ask pertinent questions, formulate a response, identify fallacies– that form the very foundation of both intellectual freedom and the exercise of full citizenship in a democratic society. 


Indeed in a time when candidates are elected by 30-second commercials and wars are fought real-time on television, a unique role of media literacy is to prepare citizens to engage in and contribute to the public debate. 


It also expands the concept of “text” to include not just written texts but any message form — verbal, aural or visual  (or all three together!)– that is used to create and then pass ideas back and forth between human beings. 


New ways of learning

This explosion in information has presented a major challenge to the world of formal education.  For centuries, schooling has been designed to make sure students learned facts about the world– which they proved they knew by correctly answering questions on tests. But such a system is no longer relevant when the most up-to-date facts are available at the touch of a button.  What students need today is to learn how to find what they need to know when they need to know it– and to have the higher order thinking skills to analyze and evaluate whether the information they find is useful for what they want to know. 


How will schools do this?

 First, schools and classrooms must be transformed from being storehouses of  knowledge to being more like portable tents providing a shelter and a gathering place for students as they go out to explore, to question, to experiment, to discover!


Secondly, to use a phrase from the great Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, teaching must be distinguished from “banking.”  No longer is it necessary for teachers to deposit information in students’ heads. Retaking the principles of democratic pedagogy dating back to Socrates, wise teachers realize they do not have to be a “sage on the stage.” Instead their role is to be a “guide on the side:” encouraging . . . guiding . . . mentoring . . . supporting the learning process. Creative classrooms today are ones where everyone is learning, including the teacher! 


Thirdly, curriculum, classes and activities must be designed that will engage students in problem solving and discovery.  And today’s multi-media culture, which includes print but is not limited to it, provides a nearly limitless resource for real world learning — from how to identify “point of view” by exploring how camera angles influence our perception of the subject being photographed to how to determine whether information on an Internet site is bogus or legitimate.


The transformation of our culture from an Industrial Age to an Information Age is why a new kind of literacy, coupled with a new way of learning, is critical in the 21st century.  This new kind of literacy is outlined in the CMLMediaLit Kit / A Framework for Learning and Teaching in a Media Age.


The complete CML MediaLit Kit framework, including worksheets, charts, and detailed lesson plans may be found at www.medialit.org








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December 5, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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