Helping students sift through the countless messages they encounter on television, on the Internet, and in video games, newspapers, magazines, and other media is a complicated task for teachers in the information age. Now, the Alliance for a Media Literate America, or AMLA, is providing some direction through “core principles” for media-literacy education that are expected to be unveiled this month. The principles outline the Denver-based organization’s recommendations for teaching children to analyze media messages critically.
“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,” the document says.
The guidelines are based on research in communications, media and film studies, health, psychology, and education. They include a sample grid of questions students should be trained to ask about the source and intended audience of a media message, how the message is presented, its intended purpose and meaning, and the context and credibility of the information.
Focusing on how children learn about media is a decided shift in the field, which has to this point focused on what is taught in media-literacy lessons.
Some media-literacy advocates say the principles are necessary to raise awareness among educators about the importance of teaching students how to evaluate all kinds of media.
“Teachers are telling me that young people believe everything they see, read, and hear,” said Frank Baker, a Columbia, S.C.-based media education consultant. “The AMLA is trying to get others in the education community to say this is critically important today, especially in a world where we have pervasive advertising, 30-second commercials about political candidates, and we have spin coming out of the White House.”
The alliance plans to roll out the core principles at the annual National Media Education Conference in St. Louis, to be held June 23-25.
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2007 edition of Education Week