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This is Why Media Literacy Matters in a Transforming World

Media literacy has become a more important consideration in our children's futures than ever. Educators must be familiar with media's role in our changing world. It's here to stay as a main component of how society shares information across a vast population quickly. 

Luckily, more and more educators are realizing the potential to reach more students through things that such digital natives are familiar with.

When importance is given to finding and harnessing ways that students learn best, the modern teacher benefits as much as students. At the same time we must be addressing citizenship within the digital community. Otherwise, students are left to fend for themselves online, and we do a disservice to them by leaving them uninformed.

Twitter, Facebook, and various sites keep us up to date in real time. The changing world is indelibly marked by the lens of politics seen through social media. We are seeing more information (and misinformation) about those who strive for public service, and that information is at our fingertips.

As such, citizens are more informed than they were a decade ago. Part of media literacy is the crucial ability to determine reliability of all that information.

A New Face in Education

Media literacy helps us take vast amounts of data and compile them into immediately understood presentations. This is literally changing the face and the pace of education. TEDTalks, Kahn AcademyYouTube and the like are now becoming storehouses of presentations, lectures, and lessons which stand the test of time. As a result, they can be used as extensions of anyone's lesson. 

Applying the 2Ls of Media Fluency

With these points to keep in mind, let's examine how Media Fluency can make sense of the waterfall of images, videos, and text in the digital world. There are 2 roles it plays in developing students' media literacy talents:

  1. Listen—Listening is about measuring the effectiveness of messages being communicated by media. It’s about being able to look critically at the content of a website, video, blog, wiki, TV show, newscast, or video game. This involves a careful consideration of both the message and the medium. It involves being able to decode the real message in the wide range of media available to the average individual, and understanding how messages can be shaped, biased, or even completely misrepresented.
  2. Leverage—Leveraging means learning how to communicate effectively, and being able to identify the most appropriate medium for getting a message out. For one particular message, a podcast might be the best tool. Other times, a web site might be the most effective, or a video, or perhaps a printed document or an interactive PDF. In the Leverage stage, we select and apply the most appropriate media for the message considering content, purpose, audience, individual abilities, and any predetermined criteria. Here again, we consider the medium and the message separately but using different criteria. We are now looking at these two elements as the creator, as opposed to being the viewer.

To know both sides gives budding media specialists the advantage of having an awareness of what goes into creating media, and knowing what makes good media accessible. To know both lifts the veil of ambiguity. It makes us aware of the pitfalls of untrue media for advertisement's sake vs. truthful public service messages.


  1. How do we understand a particular media message?
  2. Is the message loud and clear?
  3. Is it accurate and adequately verified?
  4. How effectively was it delivered?
  5. Did it serve the message?
  6. Did it flow well?


  1. Do we fully understand our intended audience?
  2. What is the major objective of our message?
  3. What will the content consist of?
  4. What is our strategy to get our audience from point A to point B?
  5. How will we lay out our content for logical understanding?
  6. How will we effectively debrief, review, and/or revise what we've done?

To conclude, as students understand the creation process of media presentations, they will gain insight into the purpose of particular media formats.

Think about being a cook in a restaurant who lives behind the scenes and has a more informed picture of the process and purpose of food service. By teaching media literacy, we can discern more intuitively the reliable and unreliable sources. Don't let your students fall victim to misinformation.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Sept 30, 2018, updated Nov 11, 2021