Media Literacy is a Critical Literacy


Well before I became a teacher, I was in the intellectual minefields of justifying my film studies within the circles of english majors and aspiring political scientists. Although film is without argument the most global industrial art form with an unprecedented reach (only heightened by Web 2.0 and Streaming), with its own evolving technical language and over 120 years of technological and narrative history, the study of film (or popular media) is consistently deemed or viewed upon as “lesser.” For example, in my work as a high school teacher, when I take my students to see movies at our local multiplex, I’m aware that colleagues may pass judgment – reinforcing the notion that sharing in the movie experience is just entertainment. Although entertaining, popular film and media holds great cultural meaning and taking into account the visual dominance of the medium, it’s a missed opportunity not to empower students within the context of what they so readily consume and access. As such, within the realm of education and the moral imperative to empower student voice and narrative, film production is a medium that readily marries cultural literacy with personal experience.

The practice of leveraging media literacy an enabler of cultural responsiveness is my critical focus for my work as a Master of Education student at Queen’s University and is rooted in my 14 years of teaching experience. With a focus on media literacy the goal is to construct learning where students are provided with the multi-modal tools to share who they are. Within this context, learning becomes personalized. The promise of personalized learning is a cross-cultural responsibility for teachers to shape – providing students with deep learning opportunities that motivate and foster self-worth. Equally, film (or video) is a viable enabler. As most students readily hold a production and distribution device in the palm of their hand (the smartphone has democratized the model of production), they can easily tell a story – their story.

Whether is be financial literacy and documenting their journey at a grocery store as they work within a budget to religion class where a short film is produced within the context of Catholic virtues, video production provides for the activation of voice and global competencies. Video production is all encompassing – students growing as collaborative, critical, creative, innovative and communicative learners.

For a deep read into this, check out “The Past, Present and Future of Media Literacy” by Renee Hobbs and Amy Jensen. Their deep exploration of media literacy with a focus on popular film is a real education in the power of the medium to shape deep learning and how media literacy was intentionally displaced by traditional academic thinking.




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