The Place Of Media Literacy In Education

Media Literacy is recognized as an important part of school curricula and a major life skill. Just why is Media Literacy important? As Teaching Artist Tanis Saucier puts it,

Media Literacy is important for the simple fact that we are all exposed to, and often inundated with media on a daily basis. Teaching students how to recognize certain photographic techniques that are often used in media, gives students the tools needed to evaluate and critically think about the media and messages they are experiencing.

Teaching Artist Tina Tenneriello of Hands On Media Education concurs:

Today we spend our whole lives online; education, work, citizenship, family, and friendship. [B]eing illiterate is not only a risk to your livelihood, but also to your safety, your security, and your happiness…The goal is to teach students how to make films to empower them to consume media in more critical ways and create media in more intentional ways.

Media Literacy, Art Workshops And School Curriculum

Teacher Kathy Panek of Grenville Elementary School describes the link between curricula and their ArtistsInspire project as follows:

Producing and reading media texts are an important part of the elementary, cycle 3 ELA curriculum. In this project [with Teaching Artist Tanis Saucier] the students will be taught different techniques to use in order to make purposeful decisions in ‘making’ photos, rather than just ‘taking’ photos.

Teaching Artist Tanis Saucier details one exercise from this project that sparked discussion around Media Literacy with students:

[w]hen showing sample images using a Bird’s Eye View technique in photography, students recognized that this gave the viewer a feeling of power while the Worm’s Eye View technique gave the viewer feelings of insecurity or intimidation. Students begin to look at everyday media with a new understanding of how choices are made, deliberately and consciously, to invoke certain responses from audiences.

At the same time as improving Media Literacy, Tanis’ workshops encouraged students to experience the artistic process. As Tanis puts it,

Exposing students to the world of photography provides a new way for them to view and understand the world around them while also giving them another avenue or ‘voice’ to express themselves.

In the case of Grenville Elementary School students, learning and art-making went hand in hand. According to Teacher Kathy Panek, “The students learned so much and yet had so much fun!”

Sec 1 students working online with Artist Tina Tenneriello. Photo credit: Teacher Samantha Grey.
Display of students’ photographs and writing. Photo credit: Teacher Kathy Panek