Media Literacy in the 21st century

By: Leah Alsept


Two University of Findlay professors say the overload of information and the speed it is available in the 21st century may be the first step in understanding media literacy.

The CML (Center for Media Literacy) defines the term as, “a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to cable to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.”

Dr. Harley Ferris, assistant professor of English at the University of Findlay, finds that slowing down and asking important questions helps.

“When that comes to critically analyzing media that we are bombarded with: ‘Whose paying for this stuff? What are they getting out of it? What happens if we go along with their ideas?’” he said.

Depth of the information so readily available is also an issue.

“So much of our media is toxic, in the sense that it is not ‘nutrient rich.’” Ferris continued, “But there are some things in there that we can use if we know how to find them.”

Dr. Courtney Bates is the assistant professor of English and director of the Writing Center. She teaches her students techniques to become literate in the text they consume in class by annotating, because she’s had students that have come to college and never annotated before.

“Making annotating practices clear and explicit… gives them an opportunity to give them a method they like, and they can continue in their other classes when I’m not looking over their shoulder,” said Bates.

Annotating is the process of reading a passage of text, rereading it, then making notes throughout the text.

Ferris says sifting through the noise is another key to better understanding of what’s in the news.

“The big difference between being uninformed and misinformed… is that we are misinformed because there is so much out there.” he said.

On social media and the internet, Ferris says it’s changed the way truth is understood.

“It’s given rise to things like “truthy,” where things ‘feel’ true,” Ferris continued.

“Because we have all of these platforms, they are all relying on algorithms to show us what comes next. From a rhetorical standpoint, it’s actually changing the way we understand reality. We aren’t teaching computers to think more like humans, but teaching humans to think more like computers,” he said.

Bates says the benefits of teaching her students to look for depth in what they read can them apply that concept in their daily life.

“Annotating, when it becomes familiar and habit of mind, life gets so much less boring,” said Bates.

The 5th Annual U.S. Media Literacy Week is October 21-25, 2019.

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