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What is Media Literacy?

For centuries, literacy has referred to the ability to read and write. Today, we get
most of our information through an interwoven system of media technologies.
The ability to read many types of media has become an essential skill in the
21st Century. Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create
media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex
messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines,
books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media. Media
literacy skills are included in the educational standards of every statein
language arts, social studies, health, science, and other subjects. Many
educators have discovered that media literacy is an effective and engaging way
to apply critical thinking skills to a wide range of issues.
Media Literacy Projects approach to media literacy education comes from a
media justice framework. Media Justice speaks to the need to go beyond
creating greater access to the same old media structure. Media Justice takes into
account history, culture, privilege, and power. We need new relationships with
media and a new vision for its control, access, and structure. Media Justice
understands that this will require new policies, new systems that treat our
airways and our communities as more than markets.
Media literacy skills can help youth and adults:
- Develop critical thinking skills
- Understand how media messages shape our culture and society
- Identify target marketing strategies
- Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do
- Name the techniques of persuasion used
- Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies
- Discover the parts of the story that are not being told
- Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and

- Create and distribute our own media messages

- Advocate for media justice


- relating to, or involving conscious mental

activities (such as thinking, understanding, learning, and

Attitudinal - relating to, based on, or showing a person's opinions
and feelings
Behavioral - the way a person or animal acts or behaves
Psychological - of or relating to the mind

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to

"recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate,
evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."
What is Information Literacy?
Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all
learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and
extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their
own learning.(1)
The Presidential Committee on Information Literacy defined information literacy as a set of
skills, which require an individual to: recognize when information is needed and have the ability
to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.(2)
In January of 2000, the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education were
approved and in February of 2004, the American Association for Higher Education and the
Council of Independent Colleges endorsed them.(3) The Standards dictate that an information
literate person:

Determines the nature and extent of information needed

Accesses the needed information effectively and efficiently

Evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information
into his or her knowledge base and value system

Uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

Understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of
information, and accesses and uses information ethically and legally

Information literacy can no longer be defined without considering technology literacy in order for
individuals to function in an information-rich, technology-infused world . The National Higher
Education Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Initiative has developed a
definition of literacy for the 21st century which combines cognitive and technical skills with an
ethical/legal understanding of information.
ICT proficiency is the ability to use digital technology, communication tools, and/or networks to
define an information need, access, manage, integrate and evaluate information, create new
information or knowledge and be able to communicate this information to others.(4)
You will neither become information literate nor communication technology literate overnight.
Just as with speaking skills and writing skills, your abilities will improve over time as you gain
expertise in the topics you choose to investigate. This process will give you practice in
searching for, selecting and evaluating the information you encounter and will allow you to
create new ideas, which you communicate to others using a variety of technological tools.
Technology literacy is the ability of an individual, working independently and with others, to
responsibly, appropriately and effectively use technology tools to access, manage, integrate,
evaluate, create and communicate information.

Consider this: Until the early 1990s, most cell phones were too big
for pockets. Movies were unavailable on DVD until 1997. Google
didnt arrive until 1998. There was no MySpace until 2003, and
YouTube launched two years after that.
As technology advances, the definition of technology literacy
changes. In 1980, it meant knowing how to program code. In 1995,
it meant knowing how to work basic tools like word processing and

Now the definition of technology literacy is much richer and more

complex because there is more information available than ever
before. And the tools for finding, using and creating information are
rapidly becoming more diverse and sophisticated.
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) defines technology
literacy as the ability to responsibly use appropriate technology to:
Solve problems
Access, manage, integrate, evaluate, design and create
information to improve learning in all subject areas
Acquire lifelong knowledge and skills in the 21st century

Technology literacy requires students to demonstrate new skills and

In 2007, CDE rolled out technology literacy standards for students.
These standards slightly modify the International Society for
Technology in Educations (ISTE) national education technology
standards to include design as an aspect of critical thinking and
ISTE national education technology standards
1. Creativity and innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge,
and develop innovative products and processes using
2. Communication and collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate

and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support
individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
3. Research and information fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate and use
4. Critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making
Students use critical-thinking skills to plan and conduct
research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed
decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
5. Digital citizenship
Students understand human, cultural and societal issues
related to technology, and practice legal and ethical behavior.
6. Technology operations and concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology
concepts, systems and operations.