Creativity in Teaching Media Literacy

By Covington, William G., Jr. | International Journal of Instructional Media, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Creativity in Teaching Media Literacy

Covington, William G., Jr., International Journal of Instructional Media

Media literacy is a topic of growing interest as the information age provides increased mens of receiving material from a wide range of sources. With an abundance of information, the need to determine the value of content becomes pertinent to all members of society. Media literacy provides a framework for judgments to be made about the information one receives. Conveying the ideas in an acceptable matter is a challenge requiring creative communication.


Instructors of media literacy have two major categories of audiences for their presentations: captive and voluntary. Rather than viewing the audience members as being at either extreme it might be more helpful to view these two categories as being at two ends of a continuum. Realistically most audience members will fall somewhere between these two extremes.

A traditional university classroom where students are required to take a course in order to earn their degrees could represent a captive audience. A passionately motivated entrepreneur attending a seminar that he paid to attend as a business investment could represent the other extreme. The middle of the continuum can be represented by a student who "catches the vision" of the instructor and perceives the value of the course content as the semester progresses. She is no longer there just to meet Graduation requirements. A second example of an audience member in the middle is that of an employee attending a seminar paid for by their company, but failing to be convinced of the complete applicability the information has for the daily work setting.


Another consideration on the issue of audience is the fact that people learning about media literacy will later view media in a context totally separate from the one in which the course was presented. Sociologists have disagreed about the potential isolation factor created by modern mass media. Some have warned about "an alienation and loss of identity, which was previously fostered by enduring institutions such as family or community" (Eisenberg and Goodall, 1993, 167).

Writers in this camp claim that areas that were once family reserved for the family as sources of expertise such as childbirth, fashion, education, and role modeling are now removed from that arena due to media influence. The medium separates family members and creates a more individual interpretation on these and other topics.

The geographical location of a newspaper, television station, cable system of other media source influences the content presented to the public. "Distinctive cultural, political, and economic patterns in any given area make up the 'climate' in which each medium must function and to which it must adjust" note Davison, Boyland and Yu (1982, 80).

Other factors noted by Davison and his associates are: media infrastructure, personnel and audiences, and management. In describing the influence of management on media content, the fluctuation of ever-changing circumstances is taken into account. "Whether it is guided principally by considerations of pride, prestige, or profit, top management does have a major influence on media content," (Davison, et al, 1982, 89).


In 1992 David Bianculli made an argument for literacy as it applies to the medium of television. He used the term "teleliteracy" to make his point, writing that it "is the demonstration of fluency in the language and content of TV--and there's no reason to fight or fear it" (Bianculli p. 7).

Like all media, television presents challenges for those seeking to study it as a means of communicating ideas and values. Newcomb and Hirsch (2000) see the limitations of studying television in a cultural context or as an aesthetic object. They argue for the treatment of issues using a rhetorical approach.

The Internet has gained much wider penetration since Bianculli first made his case for electronic media literacy. …

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