Center for Media Literacy
practical resources for individuals, educators, parents, and caregivers of children
to help us cope with living in a global media culture
Although life may have been much simpler before the invention of any sort of electronic media, humans have always used multiple forms of communication — from hand signs to verbal noises to scratches and markings on temporary or permanent surfaces. By now, most communication has gone electronic, but its effectiveness still depends on sender and receiver holding some common understanding of both message and medium used for the process.
That's where 'media literacy' comes in. Just as we acknowledge the value of basic literacy (reading, writing, calculation) to our ability to function effectively in the world, we now need to better recognize the importance of understanding how various media affect the communication process and outcomes we strive for every day.
As a writer, photographer, living-room musician, and producer of all manner of media — print, electronic, written, visual, aural, transitory, permanent — media literacy is a subject near and dear to my heart. In one of my earliest professional experiences, I worked with a small, independent, nonprofit agency to support the development of their middle school and high school curriculum known as "Media Now!" With this uniquely designed collection of learning activities, students learned how to tell a story and deliver a message by creating television programs (now called 'videos'), films, and photographic essays. As students worked their way through the activity packages and learned how the media worked from the inside out, they were better able to distinguish fact from fiction, manipulation from useful information. Today, we live in a global media culture, and now, every citizen of the world needs such skills. The school classroom, as always, is a great place to start learning.
The Center for Media Literacy, was established in 1989 by a small group of dedicated souls located in metropolitan Los Angeles, California (USA) as an independent resource for individuals, educators, parents, and caregivers of children. As the website explains:
"CML works to help citizens, especially the young, develop critical thinking and media production skills needed to live fully in the 21st century media culture."
They describe "a new vision of literacy for the 21st Century: the ability to communicate competently in all media forms, print and electronic, as well as to access, understand, analyze, and evaluate the powerful images, words, and sounds that make up our contemporary mass media culture. Indeed, we believe these skills of media literacy are essential for both children and adults as individuals and as citizens of a democratic society."
CML's MediaLit Kit™ identifies the 'five core concepts' of media literacy as:
- All media messages are constructed
- Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules
- Different people experience the same media message differently
- Media have embedded values and points of view
- Media messages are constructed to gain profit and/or power
When we, as consumers of media, understand the rules of the language used to create the messages, we become truly literate global citizens who can be full participants in the societies where we live.