If someone living in the 19th century were to travel to our era they would be most amazed by the fact that our children, rather than working in the fields or in factories, spend their days in school. Today we view education as a human right, and at MediaSmarts (formerly known as Media Awareness Network) we believe that digital and media literacy should also be a right in the education of children and youth. That’s why our website is one of the world’s largest sources of free media education resources: from articles that help prepare parents and teachers to deal with media issues; to lessons and other resources that help teachers bring digital and media literacy into the classroom; to educational games that teach kids essential skills directly. As a result, our resources are used in homes and classrooms across Canada and around the world, helping to prepare today’s youth for tomorrow’s challenges.
Our best-known free resource is almost certainly our lesson library, which allows teachers to search our educational resources by grade, academic subject, topic and type of media and contains hundreds of lessons ranging from classic media education lessons on stereotyping like Villains, Heroes and Heroines to cutting-edge digital literacy activities like Taming the Wild Wiki. Somewhat less well-known, but greatly appreciated by the teachers that use them, are our Curricular Outcome Charts. These show where media and digital literacy skills and concepts are found in the K-12 curriculum of each province and territory, and provide teachers with an easy link to lessons and other resources that meet the curriculum expectations of each course.
Of course, our site also has valuable resources for parents as well as teachers: from the basic lessons on advertising tricks found in Co-Co’s AdverSmarts to the complex online hate issues explored in Allies and Aliens, our free games bring digital and media literacy into the home and classroom in a friendly, accessible and entertaining way. Parents and teachers also turn to our articles on Digital & Media Literacy, which provide information and helpful tips on topics ranging from body image to cyberbullying. Parents, teachers and community leaders also have access to our numerous free workshops – including our Diversity and Media Toolbox, which includes resources on how to address diversity representation in media and hate speech on the Internet – and our interactive e-Parenting tutorial, which helps parents learn how to keep tabs on their kids’ online activities. Finally, people in all sectors of society use our research and policy documents which include Young Canadians in a Wired World, a groundbreaking study of how Canadian youth use the Internet and other digital technologies.
To keep our website operating and our resources freely available, we’ve worked throughout our history with government, industry, teachers’ groups and other not-for-profits. We do not receive any core funding from the federal government: contributions have always been in the form of project funding. As a not-for-profit charitable organization, we have a small number of generous sponsors, whose funding helps to support our general operations and specific projects. All of our sponsorships are carried out under strict guidelines: for instance, we retain control of all educational content and copyright to all resources and materials aimed directly at children do not contain corporate branding.
Finally, we also receive charitable contributions from groups and individuals – which is why we’re asking you to help us grow by donating to MediaSmarts. Your donation can help parents, teachers, community leaders and children have access to tools that help them to develop the digital and media literacy skills that are becoming more important every day. We are dedicated to making sure that children and youth have the critical thinking skills they need to navigate today’s media environment – and tomorrow’s – and to providing our resources in both official languages for free wherever possible. Please help us keep growing, and reaching more kids!