Teaching Hints for Educators

This guideline, aimed mainly at educators, should give an introduction to media literacy and media education. As it indicates, there is no single definition of media literacy. The concept of media literacy includes various dimensions. One should be able to get access to media content and should be able to analyse, critically reflect upon and interpret various media messages. In addition one should also be competent in creating media content.

• Media education must be implemented by teachers who often have great autonomy in how much media literacy education they carry out in class. Therefore educators have to take initiative and actively promote media literacy education.

• Since media education involves such a diversity of skills and expertise, there must be a collaboration between teachers, parents, researchers and media professionals.

• In the classroom media analysis should consist of class discussions and reflection that are the basis for constructing new knowledge and in which meanings are negotiated. Media education should be inquiry-centred, co-investigative, egalitarian and dialogic. Students should develop critical autonomy and be able to make independent judgements on media texts.

• As an educator encourage in-depth study through comparing the extensive media coverage of a major media event or new trends in media such as the 'reality television' phenomenon. Use plenty of surveys to find out what students already know about the media.

• Also include media production in your lessons. Do not only analyse or criticise media, but do some practical work on media. Good equipment is desirable but not essential. Constructing different media messages can also be done at little cost.

• When constructing and deconstructing media messages specifically take into account the following, as they are often neglected:
I.) Audience: how each of us makes sense of any media text on the basis of our gender, culture , race, and our individual and collective needs.
II.) Institutions: focus on concerns about social, cultural and political relations.
III.) Industry: including critical topics such as ownership and control, the impact of transnational corporations and the global economy or cross media merchandising. Help students investigate monopolies, the extent of corporate resources for advertising and the incredibly powerful role of public relations' initiatives. 

• Do not only approach media education from a protectionist point of view. There might be problematic media consumption. Still, media education should not only judge the pleasure one can have with media. Teachers should begin by acknowledging their own problematic and contradictory culture passions and be prepared, when appropriate, to share them.

• Teach not only 'through' but also 'about' the media. Talk about media critically and be open about political issues that may implicitly influence the media messages. The media classroom deserves openness, intellectual rigor, enthusiasm and a willingness to take risks.

• Encourage searching for different opinions and statements aside from mainstream media. Use concrete topics to demonstrate how the dominant media are able to manufacture consent. Try to encourage students to transfer their insights gathered in classroom into other areas of everyday life: the politics of schooling, the role of authority in the family, the world of work. Explore alternatives to mainstream media. Look for media books and periodicals offering alternatives to mainstream media coverage. As well, you might want to consider novels with media themes as a stimulating classroom resource.

• Try to stay up to date! Constantly changes occur concerning media, especially new media. To stay relevant, media education must address comprehensively the new and converging communication technologies, from multimedia to the Internet. New media also have different forms of media language as opposed to traditional media.

• Get in contact with other teachers! Educators need to keep up with this constantly changing field and share ideas with colleagues.

Photo: Michael Douglas as Prof. Grady Tripp in "Wonder Boys", 2000