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A Big-Picture Approach to Teaching Media Literacy

April 12, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

I’m currently working on Media/Information Literacy with my freshmen; it’s one of my favorite units because it is both constantly changing yet always pertinent. This is my third time through, and every time around I’ve approached the topic from a different angle. I’ve got enough material to do a full year-long class, so it’s always a challenge to pare it down to the essentials.

This year I’ve decided go for a broad overview with a culminating research project that asks students to teach a chosen topic more in-depth. Hopefully, this will let me broach more subjects than in the past, while giving the students an opportunity to pursue further learning in areas that really interest them. Provided here are some of the resources and activities I’ve tried out in this unit. I’ll update this list as I go along.


This What is Media Literacy Prezi is a great overview

The Shift Happens videos are awesome discussion starters

Copyright Issues

The EFF’s Teaching Copyright curriculum is a one-stop-shop for copyright issues

The Creative Commons Video Page has some fun and engaging animations to help teach modern changes in copyright.

A Fair(y) Use Tale is a good video about fair use, but my students found it a bit long and slowly paced

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained

Advertising Techniques

Have the students search for advertising techniques, and use Glogster to create a magazine cover using those techniques.

Television Advertising

The Deconstructing a TV Commercial lesson, while a bit dated, is good for introducing film techniques, many of which can be observed in YouTube videos. My kids came up with a game based on this lesson where I would play the audio from a commercial (stopping right before the product is mentioned) and they would guess the product based on aural clues.

Gender in Advertising

How Toy Ad Vocabulary Reinforces Gender Stereotypes

GirlPower Photo Retouching

Dove Evolution

Viral and New Media Advertising

This is an area where the students can really take on a teaching role. Have them identify viral advertising in their daily lives. Why does it work? Is it advertising or entertainment? Does it matter?

Serenading Unicorn

The Old Spice Guy

Advertising Will Change Forever

The Collaborative Web and Crowdsourced Knowledge

Introduce students to the “talk” pages behind Wikipedia articles. How do multiple editors come to a consensus? How are articles written by many shaped to sound unified? For an extension, you could create a wiki of your own and have small groups write articles using the Wikipedia guidelines.

Wikipedia Edits to Become More Restricted

Britannica Tries to Be More Like Wikipedia

Social Networking and Information Security

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

A-Z Guide to Web 2.0 Jargon

True Life Tales of Social Media Gone Bad

Privacy, Facebook and the Future of the Internet

College Applicants, Beware: Your Facebook Page is Showing

Other Media Lit Resources

Media Literacy

Center for Media Literacy

Media Lit Research Project

90+ Videos for Tech & Media Literacy

Cory Doctorow Discusses Media Literacy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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