Unit 4- Media Literacy

This unit takes weeks 7 and 8 of the course

Week 7- Overview of Media Literacy

Week 8- Particulars of Media Persuasion


Week 7: Overview of Media Literacy

Essential Question
(s): What is "media literacy?" What are its historical roots? What are some of the basic tools and perspectives you can use to become "media literate"?


  • Read, view materials related to the essential questions.
  • Discuss with colleagues, reflect upon these materials.
  • Add your reflections to your ePortfolio.
  • Add your reflections on your personal media bias inventory (not the inventory itself) on your ePortfolio.

It was Thomas Jefferson who remarked that the success of a democracy depended on the literacy of its constituents. There are many points to be drawn from his comment. Here are only two.

First, even in the 1700s literacy was considered the gateway through which people had to pass if they were to avail themselves of social status and economic opportunity. We see here the beginnings of a secondary economy - an information economy - that would produce the technology we take for granted today. And second, one needed to be literate to protect oneself from all the charlatans, rumor mongers and mislead of the world, which, according to Jefferson, was just about all of us. Our approach to government is based on a healthy distrust of human motive. We have three branches of government, two houses of congress and a system of checks and balances because the Founding Fathers realized that trusting politicians to do always to the right, selfless thing was a dream. People were always trying to sell us something, whether themselves, their candidacy, their products or their perspectives, and we all needed to keep a watch on each other. The mind that was literate would be best prepared for a world like this.

Media literacy 1.0 vs. 2.0.

Media literacy 1.0 reflects a period during which we could only consume media, not create it.
I feel confident in saying Jefferson would call for "media literacy" today as part of our educational system simply so that we could detect persuasion in media rhetoric. The earliest iteration of media literacy - let's call this media literacy v. 1.0 - addressed how to understand how media persuaders worked their magic. Media literacy v. 1.0 largely describes the world of "mass media" in which very few had the means to broadcast to the masses. Because we could only consume media, and not produce it, the best we could do was become suspicious, educated consumers.

Media literacy 2.0 comes about because we can now produce the media we consume
. Now that we can all participate in the development of media using free social media and media development tools, media literacy v. 2.0 also includes being able to create media that is effective and literate - that is, persuasive. We live with the following rather intense irony: the best way to understand how media persuaders persuade us is to create persuasive media ourselves. This did not start with electronic media. Being able to write a persuasive essay has been a hallmark of literacy ever since civilized society decided to require literacy of the general public.

Steve Goodman said "Media is a filter while pretending to be a clear window" (2003). It is our job to understand the filter.

Primary reading(s):
  • Pages 212- 215 of Digital Community, Digital Citizen. You read this chapter earlier in the course, but reread this part because it specifically addresses media literacy, particularly what we mean when we talk about "media literacy 1.0 vs. 2.0."
  • Media Literacy: History, Progress and Future Hopes, by Dr. Edward T. Arke. This is a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology (ed. Dill). Official permission to use this is pending. The link will take you to the docs page for this course, where you can then download the article.

Primary viewing(s) and/or sites to visit:

1. Wikipedia entry about media literacy. Go ahead and scan the Wikipedia entry about media literacy.

2. The Center for Media Literacy's five key media literacy questions. The Center for Media Literacy has reduced the basic area of media literacy to five key questions.


3. What is media literacy? If you are interested in how the issue of media literacy is framed for the K-12 world, watch this brief video

4. Gary’s Social Media Count. An amazing dashboard read-out of the media that is in use in the world. Go to this site and watch for a minute or two.

  • Download, read, complete Conducting a personal media bias inventory. This is a brief exercise that will help you understand your own media bias. Just download the activity handout and follow the directions. It is very straightforward.
  • A note about conducting a personal media bias inventory. We tend to think of media bias as something done to us. The reality is that it is something we all practice, as consumers and producers of media. What seems to us like common sense or normal life is simply well practiced bias that have become habits. This is as true for our media consumption habits as it is for habits related to eating and social interaction. The goal of this activity is to understand your own media bias. You will observe yourself as a media consumer and then draw conclusions about the personal filter you use when you consume media.
  • Do not post this on your ePortfolio. It is very personal. But do discuss what you realized as a result of this activity as part of this week's discussion.

Discuss: Please go to Moodle and discuss the following questions: 

Primary questions:
  • Without being too personal, what did you learn from conducting your media bias inventory? 
  • How does what you learned impact your work as a media psychologist?
Secondary questions:
  • What is your understanding of media literacy 1.0 vs. 2.0?
  • How can we teach children to be "honest persuaders?" Is it possible?
  • Can we as adults be honest persuaders?
  • Does the purpose justify the persuasion?
Post to your ePortfolio
  • Your learning summary. Choose from the best of your discussion postings, add new insights, and prepare a formal response to the question: Without getting too personal, what are your "take-aways" from the media bias inventory activity? As always, please use the three-part format for your entry (abstract/thesis-development- conclusion and call for further inquiry). Please use the three-part format (abstract/thesis-development-conclusion and call for further inquiry).
And of course add any new links you came across that you feel will add to your ePortfolio.

Other resources

  • Frank Baker, who specializes in K-12 media literacy. Two good sources for his work are:
    1. NAMLE resources
    2. Frank Baker's media literacy clearinghouse
If you subscribe to RSS feeds, consider these:
  • Go to the Cool Hunting site and sign up for updates. The information you receive will become particularly important as we head into the next unit on advertising.

Week 8: The Particulars of Media Persuasion

Essential question(s):
What specific approaches and techniques do media developers use in order to be effective media persuaders?

Primary reading(s):

Download and read:
  • Intro to Media Literacy, by the Media Literacy Project. The link will take you to the page that is part of the Media Literacy Project; near the bottom you will see the link to the PDF file. This document provides an excellent overview of media literacy as an area of inquiry, as well the specific techniques used by media persuaders to convince an audience to adopt a perspective or buy a product. Pay particular attention to pages 6-12, "The Language of Persuasion." This section describes a number of the particular rhetorical techniques used in media to convince and persuade. Then you will watch a video, identified below, that demonstrates some of them.
Primary viewing(s):
  • Charlie Brooker - How to Report The News. We remind ourselves that the media is the message, at least in part. A corollary to that is the format is the psychological frame. We get used to formats. We settle into them because they are familiar and comfortable. The format itself helps pierce the judgmental mind and makes us more receptive to whatever we watch. This humorous piece (beware, he uses the F word) drives this point home very well.
  • Three Movie Sequences and The Persuasive Nature of Music. This is a quick and dirty screen cast that shows the impact of music on the meaning of video images. I play the same 30 second video clip 4 times, once without music, and then with 3 different kinds of music. You will see and hear the results.
Bottom line: When it comes to video, the visuals give the information, while the music tells us how to feel about it. How did the story differ, from movie clip to movie clip?
  • Watch and analyze any ad or news story, referencing "the language of persuasion" in  your analysis. There is no set way to do this; use whatever approach makes sense to you. Your goal is to describe in a page or so how the mediasts who created the media you watched approached using the tools of media persuasion. Look at it this way. They and their team spent a long time discussing what would make you believe whatever it was they were saying. Why do you think they took the approach they did? You will post this on your ePortfolio.

Primary discussion questions: Please go to our Moodle forum and discuss the following:

  • What particular approaches to media persuasion were most revealing or relevant to you?
  • What ad did you analyze? What did you find out?
  • How does what you gleaned from this week's activities impact your life as a media psychologist?
Secondary questions:
  • If you were to create media that you wanted to be persuasive, which techniques would you use? Why?
  • Does the goal justify the use of media persuasion?
Post to your ePortfolio

Your learning summary.
This week that consists of:
  • Your ad or news analysis.
  • Add any new links you came across.