Multipdisciplinary 34, 36
Teaching Media Literacy with Technology
Media literacy is the ability to analyze media and create media products. It’s a vital
digital age skill that is now embedded
in the Common Core State Standards.
But not everyone understands what
media literacy is, so let’s discuss some
of the components.
Visual literacy has been primarily confined to our arts classrooms,
where students learn how to look at
a painting and discover how to read,
analyze, and deconstruct the techniques the artist used. Usually, this
involves the study of concepts such as
lighting, color, and composition.
Today, the need for visual literacy
has spread to other disciplines. Because so much information is communicated visually, it is more important than ever that our students learn
what it means to be visually literate.
A recent Pew survey found that 83%
of U.S. teens take pictures with their
cell phones. Because mobile phones
and tablets are equipped with miniature cameras, it’s easy to take photos
and upload them to any of a number
of image-sharing websites.
Many teachers acknowledge that
their students believe everything they
hear, read, and see. They tell me their
students don’t have the visual literacy
skills they need to be critical viewers
and competent communicators in a
digital world. So it makes sense that
educators engage students in activities
that involve both analyzing and creating visual images.
With Photoshop and other digital
image-altering software, it’s easy to
manipulate images. Yet many students
don’t recognize when photos have
On the website Is Seeing Believing
( www.frankwbaker.com/isb), teachers can find examples from the U.S.
Civil War to present day of images
that have been altered in some way.
The site also includes examples from
popular culture and the news to help
students recognize the wide range of
Another site, PdDisasters.com,
tracks examples of images that have
been altered. HuffPost.com also runs a
regular column, Photoshop Fails that
showcases mistakes in altered images.
A number of blogs also call attention
to failures and mistakes in the digital
manipulation of images.
These sites are a good way to start
a discussion with students about how
to tell if an image is altered. And more
important, to discuss the ethics of image
altering. They should ultimately under-
stand that just because an image can be
altered doesn’t mean it should be.
Advertising in many forms continues
to target and get the attention of all
of our students, so it’s worthwhile to
teach them to analyze and create ads.
From ads for toys to cosmetics to political campaigns, target marketing is
a tremendous force in popular culture
and students’ lives.
One way to engage students in discussions about advertising is via Voice
Thread. Sixth grade teacher Diane
Aldridge of Mineral Wells, Texas, USA,
used Voice Thread to teach advertising
analysis and deconstruction. Using a