The Newfoundland language arts curriculum includes expectations that incorporate media education themes. The curriculum document English Language Arts Grades 10-12 Overview (2001) includes a section that demonstrates the complementary relationship between media literacy and English language arts:
Today’s students live in an information and entertainment culture that is dominated by images, both moving and static.
Information, visual, and media literacy are critical elements of English language arts 10–12. They have a significant role to play in helping students to select, assimilate, evaluate, and control the immense amount of information and the diverse messages produced every day in a complex information and entertainment culture
the ability to access, interpret, evaluate, organize, select, produce, and communicate information in and through a variety of media technologies and contexts to meet diverse learning needs and purposes
the ability to understand how mass media, such as TV, film, radio, and magazines, work, produce meanings, are organized, and used wisely
the ability to understand and interpret the representation and symbolism of a static or moving visual image - how the meanings of the images are organized and constructed to make meaning and to understand their impact on viewers
Media study is relevant to students. Media literacy deals with the culture and lifestyle of students. Students enjoy thinking and talking about media productions. For teachers, it is an opportunity to have students examine how they are influencing and being influenced by popular culture.
The media is a major source of information. Young people are increasingly getting their information from mass media sources such as magazines, TV, and Web sites. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity to examine the reliability, accuracy, and motives of these sources.
Media study allows students to investigate issues of power and control. Mass media information, more and more, is being consolidated into the hands of a few people. There are relatively few decision makers or gatekeepers to decide what and who gets heard. Local information is often overlooked because it is expensive to produce compared to buying a prepared article, broadcast, program, or newsgroup. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity for students to investigate issues on a local level in relation to the wider world.
Mass media is usually produced somewhere else for general consumption. It rarely reflects the culture of smaller groups of people. This is especially true in Canada due to the geographic proximity to the USA and its huge media production capacity. It is necessary for young people to see themselves and hear their own voices in order to validate their culture and place in the world. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity to encourage young people to find ways into the discourse and decision making that are affecting the world that they will live in. A major part of this is producing their own media and finding ways to get it to an audience. The mass media can then become a pathway from the local level and a means of personal influence in the wider world.
All forms of media have format and structures that are identifiable and open to critique. When media products are well produced they can contribute to students’ aesthetic awareness. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity for students to understand and recognize quality in media productions and thus become informed and demanding consumers of the media.
Media literacy is a form of critical thinking that is applied to the messages being sent by the mass media. Therefore, media literacy is more about good questions than correct answers. Media-literate people become self-filterers of the messages of the media.
Here are key questions for discussion in promoting media literacy:
- What is the message?
- Who is sending the message?
- Why is it being sent?
- How is the message being sent?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Who benefits from the message?
- Who or what is left out of the message?
- Can I respond to the message?
- Does my opinion matter?
- Do I need the information?
Click on a grade level under English Language Arts for a list of media-related outcomes and links to supporting resources from the MediaSmarts site. (Note: as many of our lessons can be adapted to suit different grade levels, specific lessons may be listed for more than one grade. Teachers should also note that individual lessons often satisfy a number of learning outcomes.)