What is Media Literacy?

Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, critically evaluate, and produce communication in a variety of forms. It is similar to information literacy and involves many components of technology literacy as well.

The term “media” generally refers to mass media messages communicated through visuals, language, and/or sound that are produced for a remote mass audience using some form of technology. These include traditional print-based media (e.g., books, newspapers, magazines, direct mail); audiovisual media (e.g., radio, television, movies, video games); and computer-assisted communication (e.g., computer games, the Internet). Media also include recorded music, billboards and other signs, most games, package labels, and advertising in all of its forms. In the classroom, the media are likely to include textbooks, posters, and maps.

Like traditional literacy, media literacy involves critical thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to express oneself in different ways. Being media literate also entails using media wisely and effectively, including being able to judge the credibility of information from different sources. A media literate student will be aware of media’s influence on beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, and the democratic process. And in the same way that traditional literacy includes writing as well as reading skills, media literacy also emphasizes producing effective communication through a variety of different media forms.

Purpose Statement from NAMLE's Core Principles:
The purpose of media literacy education is to help individuals of all ages develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression that they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today's world.

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