Media Literacy

What is media Literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to understand, analyse, and create media messages. It is an evolving skill set that teachers and students must frequently encounter in the classroom, as the environments in which we consume and create media constantly change and become more complex.

Becoming media literate and teaching media literacy to students involves understanding how media messages are constructed and the techniques used to convey information and ideas.

Most importantly, it includes evaluating the credibility and reliability of media sources, recognising bias and disinformation, and understanding the impact media can have on individuals and society.

We have never lived in an era where it has been so easy to create and consume media and share it with the world as it is today; as such, we should be more enlightened about the purpose and intent of the messages being presented. Becoming media literate has never been more important as the validity and credibility of news, facts and opinions are more challenging to determine.

Students who are media literate are better equipped to critically analyze the information they receive and make informed decisions about what they believe and how they engage with media.

As teachers, it is crucial to integrate media literacy into all curriculum areas so students understand media reaches and influences us in many ways.

What skills are required to become media literate?

Becoming media literate is a process of critical thinking, healthy scepticism and understanding the factors that drive and influence the media itself. For this to occur, we have broken down these broad skills into individual components that students and teachers need to understand more deeply.

  • How to analyse media messages: This involves teaching students the techniques used to inform, entertain, and persuade an audience and helping them understand the messages being conveyed.
  • How to evaluate a source: When students can determine the credibility and reliability of media sources, they will make far wiser evaluations of the message and purpose of the content they consume.
  • Understanding the impact of the media: What influence does the media have upon individuals, groups, and society? Teaching students why we should embrace freedom of speech and the search for truth above all else is essential. Students who understand the chaos of controlled and corrupt media approach it with a healthy level of scepticism and respect.
  • Understanding how media is produced: By understanding the complexity and simplicity of producing various forms of media and sharing them with an audience, students can better determine if the media message they are consuming has been created by an agenda-driven machine or an expert in the field on a given topic.
  • Knowing the difference between fact and opinion: It may seem simplistic and obvious, but when students can quickly identify if a statement is an absolute verified fact that has weight and credibility versus an opinion, it completely changes how that message is received. If students cannot separate these two areas, we educators have significantly failed them.
  • Recognizing media manipulation: As terrible as it may seem, there are tens of thousands of people devoting their lives to producing propaganda, advertising, or disinformation for profit, persuasion and power every single day. Make it clear to all students that not all media should be trusted and that constant disinformation will be presented to them throughout their lives.
  • Identifying and Understanding Bias: When students understand that all media has a purpose for being created and may frequently contain some degree of bias, they will look beyond simply what they are being told and ask why this message is being shared.
  • Digital Literacy Skills and Media Creation: Navigating the media requires a basic understanding of technology and digital media. Providing students with the skills to effectively use technology and digital media to access, analyze, and create media messages moves them from consumers to creators with a practical and ethical understanding of the impact that their media messages can have.


Never before has it been so easy for someone, anyone, to create a message and share it with hundreds of millions of people, and even more concerning is that it has never been easier for governments to control that flow of information within their borders so that they control the narrative on every news story, and to the bend and erase history at will. We see this in action today in countries such as North Korea, China and Russia.

Disinformation is the spread of false or misleading information, often intended to control public opinion or promote a specific agenda. This problem has become increasingly prevalent in recent years and has driven a sharp rise in wild conspiracy theories, scams, and radicalization. It is essential that students are taught to navigate this complex digital landscape and identify credible sources of information.

The information era of the early 2000s has doubled down on its capacity to share and consume information through digital technology and has taken an unfortunate turn in recent years to create an information superhighway leading to a complex system of facts, opinions, bias, hatred and outright lies that are becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, especially for those who have grown up knowing nothing else but consuming their news through YouTube, Social media and the weight of opinion from social influencers outranks that of experts and proven research.

How did we get here?

The answer to that question is complex, but three critical turning points have driven us to the point at which we find ourselves.

1: The ease of content creation: This point has been covered well enough, but when anyone with the literacy skills of a child can use tools such as artificial intelligence to write a flawless 2000-word article or create a 10-minute video explaining in the style of a professional news outlet and share it with millions of people via social media via paid promotion for well under $100 this marks a clear turning point in the way we consume and create media.

To create and deliver content at this level of quality and scale only a decade earlier would have cost thousands of dollars and required far more checks and balances.

2: Algorithms determining what we consume: In the same way in which Spotify and Netflix determine what shows and music we should listen to based upon what we like, and thumbs down and so on, social media drives our consumption of news and information in the same way.

The primary intent of social media is to keep users on the platform for as long as possible regardless of what we are doing: watching videos, liking photos, or sharing posts. It doesn’t matter as long as our eyeballs remain on their platform. This allows social media outlets such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to sell advertising and generate billions of dollars of revenue each month.

So just as you might prefer Beiber over Beethoven on your music playlists, computer-driven algorithms will increase music that has more in common with your tastes and then remove those that do not. Undeniably, these algorithms are practical and helpful in ensuring your wants and needs are often met.

But wait; what if those algorithms effectively removed some of the most fantastic music we have ever heard? Music that might provide insight into new cultural areas puts us in a completely different headspace or opens our eyes to how other generations of music shaped the music we listen to today. What a shallow pool of musical tastes we would quickly swim in as our playlists blend into the same 100 songs we listen to all the time. Sound familiar?

So if we transfer that process of algorithms feeding us our musical tastes into how social media feeds us news and events, it is not hard to see how our biases, likes and dislikes can be quickly targeted and capitalized upon in the same way.

The more significant problem here is that if you are interested in news articles revolving around science and technology, for example, not only will you find your news feed packed with these stories exclusively with news stories of this nature, but other news events will be removed.

3: Welcome to the Algorithmic “Rabbit Hole”

The third and final act explaining how we got here is the most interesting, and we can use it as a metaphor from the story Alice in Wonderland, where she enters the rabbit hole and is transported to a surreal state of being that is both disturbing and delightful.

The “YouTube” rabbit hole is a phenomenon that demonstrates this process most effectively; how we start innocently viewing videos on a specific topic, such as “NBA highlights from the 90s”, that within 10 – 12 videos will evolve into a new stream of “recommended content” exposing “NBA Scandals”, that then leads to “Celebrity Conspiracy theories” to videos focussed on (Insert topic here) full of foul language, wild opinions, conspiracies and flat out lies.

So what is happening here, and why?

If we remember that the sole focus is to keep you on the platform so that advertising can be sold, the algorithm also knows that you will quickly tire of the same content no matter what it is. As such, it needs to provide alternate content that is in a similar vein that might also be more contentious and packed full of user feedback and comments that will create a higher level of engagement.

Effectively the algorithm needs to keep upping the “sugar, or dosage”, leading creators to create more contentious and hyperbolic even radicalized content as the race for your attention span continues to evolve. All the while, that balanced understanding of any topic is pushed to the side and eventually completely removed in favour of your new and more extreme and niche areas of interest. And this is not a healthy place for anyone to exist, especially those who are blind to the process that led them here.

This leads creators to create more wild and contentious content to draw an audience, and the cycle is repeated.

Conscious and state-controlled disinformation

Until now, we have been referring to companies using technologies to keep users engaged and persuade them to consume particular information streams for financial gain. Still, it did not take long for authoritarian countries to use this same technology to generate propaganda, erase history and sway public opinion within their own borders and those of their ideological rivals.

The big difference here is we are moving at scale from a backyard operation of disinformation to an environment in which state-sponsored projects where money, time and resources are unlimited and the capacity to create chaos on a global scale dramatically increases. Effectively enabling the process of weaponising disinformation.

Why bother trying to invade your enemy when you can far more easily create chaos and revolution amongst their own citizens in relative obscurity?

Ironically, it is the countries that value free and open media that are at the most significant risk of falling victim to disinformation attacks as there is little capacity to filter, censor and control the flow of information within social media as opposed to autocratic nations have removed the technical pathways and human rights of free press and free speech within their own borders.

A Complete Teaching Unit on Fake News

fake news unit

Digital and social media have completely redefined the media landscape, making it difficult for students to identify FACTS AND OPINIONS covering:

  • Fake News
  • Bias
  • Clickbait
  • Rumors
  • Radicalization
  • Social Media, algorithms and technology
  • Research Skills
  • Fact-Checking Beyond Google and Alexa

Teach them to FIGHT FAKE NEWS with this COMPLETE 42 PAGE UNIT. No preparation is required,

Media Literacy Teaching Strategies

Media Literacy Teaching Strategies

Media literacy has become essential in the digital age, enabling individuals to navigate the vast information landscape and critically analyze media messages. Educators must equip students with the tools and knowledge necessary to become media-literate citizens. This article will explore practical strategies for teaching media literacy in the classroom, providing teachers with practical approaches to empower students to decipher and engage with media content.

In this article, we will approach the principles of media literacy from five perspectives and provide three practical examples of media literacy lessons in the classroom.

1: Build a Foundation of Media Literacy Early On

Teaching media literacy from an early age is paramount for several reasons.

Firstly, starting early allows educators to develop critical thinking skills in students. By introducing media literacy concepts and practices at a young age, students learn to question, analyze, and evaluate media content. They become more discerning consumers who can distinguish between reliable and unreliable information. Early exposure to media literacy enables students to understand the persuasive techniques, biases, and manipulative strategies employed in media, empowering them to make informed decisions about the information they encounter.

Secondly, with the pervasive presence of digital media in children’s lives, early media literacy education helps students navigate the digital landscape responsibly. Young children are increasingly exposed to online platforms, social media, and digital content. By teaching them media literacy skills, educators can guide students to critically evaluate the reliability of online information, identify potential risks and dangers, and understand the consequences of their digital actions.

Early exposure to media literacy aids in developing digital citizenship skills, enabling students to protect their privacy, engage in respectful online communication, and become critical consumers of digital content.

Moreover, early media literacy education is vital in countering misinformation and fake news. In the internet age, misinformation spreads rapidly, and young minds can be particularly vulnerable to its influence. By introducing students to fact-checking techniques, teaching them to identify credible sources, and instilling critical evaluation skills, educators empower students to actively debunk falsehoods and discern the authenticity of information.

Teaching students about media literacy from an early age is essential for fostering critical thinking skills, navigating the digital landscape responsibly, and countering misinformation. By equipping students with media literacy skills, educators empower them to become active and discerning participants in the media ecosystem.

Digital and social media have completely redefined the media landscape, making it difficult for students to identify FACTS AND OPINIONS covering:

  • Fake News
  • Bias
  • Clickbait
  • Rumors
  • Radicalization
  • Social Media, algorithms and technology
  • Research Skills
  • Fact-Checking beyond Google and Alexa

2: Promote Active Media Consumption

Encourage students to engage with media content rather than passively consume it actively. Teach them to question the sources, intentions, and biases behind the information they encounter. Encourage critical thinking by asking open-ended questions and facilitating discussions. Assign media analysis projects where students evaluate the credibility and reliability of different sources.

Let’s look at three strategies for promoting active media consumption in students.

Media Analysis and Discussion: Engage students in media analysis activities that encourage critical thinking and discussion. Give them various media examples, such as news articles, advertisements, videos, or social media posts. Guide them to identify the main message, purpose, intended audience, and persuasive techniques employed in each media piece.

Encourage students to question the credibility of the sources, evaluate the evidence provided, and consider any biases or stereotypes present. Facilitate group discussions where students can share their insights, challenge each other’s perspectives, and develop their analytical skills.

Fact-Checking and Verification: Teach students how to fact-check and verify the information they encounter in media. Introduce them to reliable fact-checking websites and tools, such as Snopes,, or Google’s Fact Check Explorer.

Guide students through evaluating sources, cross-referencing information, and verifying claims made in media content. Encourage students to question the accuracy and reliability of information before accepting it as true. Provide real-world examples of misinformation or fake news stories and engage students in hands-on activities where they can fact-check and debunk false claims.

Media Creation and Critique: Encourage students to become active creators of media content and engage in self-reflection and critique.

Assign projects where students create media artifacts, such as videos, podcasts, or blog posts, focusing on a specific topic or theme. During creation, emphasize the importance of ethical media production, accurate representation, and responsible storytelling. After students complete their creations, facilitate peer feedback sessions where they can provide constructive criticism, discuss the impact of their media choices, and reflect on how their biases and perspectives may have influenced their work.

By incorporating these three approaches into media literacy education, educators can foster active media consumption skills in students. Students will develop the ability to critically analyze media messages, fact-check information, and engage responsibly with the media they encounter.

3: Develop Digital Literacy Skills

Equipping students with digital literacy skills is essential in today’s digital landscape. Teach them to navigate online platforms responsibly, evaluate websites for credibility, and protect their privacy. Introduce them to fact-checking websites and tools that can help them verify information. Discuss the ethical considerations surrounding online content creation, including copyright and plagiarism.

Here are three strategies to enhance your student’s digital literacy skills.

Digital Research and Information Literacy: Teach students how to conduct effective online research and evaluate the credibility and reliability of digital sources. Introduce them to various search strategies, such as using appropriate keywords and advanced search operators, to find relevant and trustworthy information. Guide students in critically evaluating websites, considering factors such as authorship, domain authority, date of publication, and potential biases. Provide them with practical exercises where they can analyze and compare different sources of information on a specific topic. Emphasize the importance of citing sources and avoiding plagiarism in their digital research.

Digital Communication and Collaboration: Teach students effective digital communication and collaboration skills. Guide them in using appropriate language and etiquette in online communication, whether through email, discussion forums, or social media platforms. Discuss the importance of considering the audience and context when communicating online and the potential implications of their digital footprint.

Foster opportunities for collaborative digital projects, where students can learn to work together virtually, use digital collaboration tools, and engage in respectful and effective online teamwork. Emphasize the importance of clear and concise digital communication, active listening, and constructive feedback.

Educators can help students develop essential digital literacy skills by implementing these three strategies. Students will become adept at conducting effective online research, evaluating the credibility of digital sources, protecting their online privacy and security, and engaging in responsible digital communication and collaboration. These skills are vital for their success in the digital age and empower them to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and discernment.

4: Address Bias and Stereotypes in the Media

Guide students in identifying and challenging bias and stereotypes present in media. Teach them to recognize how media influences societal perceptions and impacts diverse communities. Provide examples of media representations that reinforce stereotypes and facilitate discussions on how these representations can perpetuate inequality and discrimination. Encourage students to seek out alternative narratives and diverse voices.

Here are three strategies for teaching this in the classroom.

Media Analysis and Deconstruction: Engage students in critical media analysis and deconstruction activities to identify and challenge bias and stereotypes. Select media examples, such as advertisements, news articles, TV shows, or movies, that contain explicit or implicit biases or reinforce stereotypes.

Guide students to analyze the language, visuals, representations, and portrayals in the media content. Encourage them to question the underlying assumptions, stereotypes, and biases present. Facilitate discussions where students can express their observations, share alternative perspectives, and explore the potential consequences of these biases and stereotypes. Encourage them to critically reflect on how media influences societal perceptions and impacts diverse communities.

Undertake Media Representation Projects: Assign projects that involve creating media representations that challenge bias and stereotypes. Ask students to create their own advertisements, news articles, videos, or other media artifacts that counter prevailing stereotypes and promote inclusive representations.

Provide guidelines and prompts that encourage students to think critically about the messages they want to convey and the impact they want to make. Emphasize the importance of accurately and respectfully representing different social, cultural, and ethnic groups. Encourage students to collaborate and share their creations, discussing the intentions and impact of their media representations.

Promote Diverse Media Consumption: Encourage students to actively seek out and consume media content from diverse sources and perspectives. Introduce them to media outlets, books, films, and online platforms prioritising diverse voices and challenging stereotypes. Provide recommendations and resources that showcase alternative narratives and perspectives.

Guide students in critically evaluating the diversity of media they consume and discussing the representations they encounter. Encourage them to question the absence or underrepresentation of certain groups and to explore media that provides more balanced and inclusive portrayals. Facilitate discussions where students can share their findings, insights, and reflections on the importance of diverse media consumption.

By incorporating these strategies into media literacy education, educators can effectively address bias and stereotypes in media. Students will develop the skills to critically analyze and challenge biased representations, actively create media promoting inclusivity, and seek out diverse media content. This empowers students to become more discerning consumers, critical thinkers, and advocates for media representations that reflect the diversity and richness of our society.

5: Embed Media Literacy Across the Curriculum

Integrate a media literacy curriculum across various subjects beyond traditional media studies. Show students how media literacy skills relate to science, history, literature, and other disciplines. For example, in a history class, students can analyze primary sources or examine the portrayal of historical events in films. By connecting media literacy to different subjects, students understand its universal applicability.

Embed Media Analysis and Content Creation into all subject areas: Integrate media analysis and creation activities across different subjects to enhance critical thinking and communication skills. For example, in English language arts, analyze media representations in literature or explore the persuasive techniques used in advertising.

In social studies, analyze historical documentaries or discuss the portrayal of different cultures and societies in media. In science, examine the portrayal of scientific concepts in popular media or evaluate the accuracy of scientific claims in news articles.

Encourage students to create media artifacts demonstrating their understanding of the subject, such as videos, podcasts, infographics, or written articles. Students gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter by integrating media literacy into various subjects while developing critical media analysis and media creation skills.

Create Collaborative Media Projects: Implement collaborative media projects that span multiple subjects, promoting interdisciplinary learning. Design projects that require students to research, analyze, and create media content related to a specific topic.

For example, students could collaborate on a digital storytelling project that combines historical research, creative writing, and digital media production. Students could create multimedia presentations or documentaries integrating scientific research, data analysis, and visual communication skills. By working together on these projects, students develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic, enhance their media literacy skills, and learn the value of collaboration and teamwork.

Promote the pursuit of Media Ethics and Digital Citizenship Discussions: Incorporate discussions on media ethics and digital citizenship into various subjects to foster responsible media consumption and online behaviour. Dedicate class time to explore topics such as media bias, fake news, online privacy, cyberbullying, or the responsible use of social media. Engage students in critical conversations about the ethical considerations of media production and consumption.

Provide opportunities for students to share their perspectives, debate relevant issues, and develop strategies for responsible digital engagement. By addressing media ethics and digital citizenship in different subjects, students comprehensively understand their responsibilities as media consumers and producers.

Educators can seamlessly integrate media literacy across all curriculum areas by employing these strategies. Students will develop critical thinking, creativity, communication, and digital citizenship skills, enabling them to navigate and engage with media in various academic contexts effectively.

Bonus tip for teaching media literacy: Stay Updated and Adapt:

Media landscapes and technologies evolve rapidly, so educators need to stay updated and adapt their teaching strategies accordingly. Stay informed about emerging media trends, new platforms, and changing media consumption patterns. Continuously refine your teaching methods to align with the ever-changing media landscape.

Teaching media literacy is essential for equipping students with the critical thinking skills to navigate the complex media environment. By starting early, promoting active consumption, developing digital literacy, fostering collaboration, addressing bias and stereotypes, incorporating media literacy across subjects, and staying updated, educators can empower students to become discerning consumers and active media content creators.

By implementing these strategies, educators play a pivotal role in shaping informed and engaged citizens who can confidently navigate the media landscape.

As educators, let us seize the opportunity to cultivate media literacy skills in our students, enabling them to analyze, evaluate, and create media content responsibly and effectively.