What is Media Education?

Media literacy deals with the culture and lifestyle of students. They enjoy thinking and talking about what is going on in the media. For teachers, it is an opportunity to have students examine how they are influencing and being influenced by popular culture. -Atlantic Curriculum

Media education is the process through which individuals become media literate – able to critically understand the nature, techniques and impacts of media messages and productions.

In Canadian schools, there is a growing awareness of the need to connect classroom learning to the real world and to bring media content into the classroom for analysis, evaluation and discovery.

Media education acknowledges and builds on the positive, creative and pleasurable dimensions of popular culture. It incorporates production of media texts and critical thinking – decoding, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating media – to help us navigate through an increasingly complex media landscape. That landscape includes not only traditional and digital media, but also popular culture texts such as toys, fads, fashion, shopping malls and theme parks.

Media education encourages an approach that is always probing, posing questions such as: Who is the audience of a media production and why? From whose perspective is a story being told? How do the unique elements and codes of a specific genre affect what we see, hear or read? How might different audiences interpret the same media production?

In the digital age, the principles of media education are the same as they’ve always been, but the existence of cyberspace is adding new and challenging questions. How, for instance, does technology affect how we relate to others? Is new technology enriching or undermining culture, learning and a sense of community? What roles do ownership, control and access play? What are the challenges in regulating a global, borderless medium like the Internet?

Media education isn’t about having the right answers: rather, it’s about asking the right questions. Because media issues are complex and often contradictory and controversial, the educator’s role isn’t to impart knowledge, but to facilitate the process of inquiry and dialogue.

This role of the teacher as a facilitator and co-learner in a student-centred learning process is not only the model for media education; it has also become an accepted new critical pedagogy. Today, the chief challenges are to locate and evaluate the right information for one’s needs and to synthesize what one finds into useful knowledge or communication. Media education – with techniques of critical thinking, creative communication and computer, visual and aural literacy skills at its core – is a key part of a 21st century approach to learning.

Visit MediaSmarts’ section on Digital and Media Literacy Fundamentals to learn more.