Building a “Bridge” Between Theory and Practice: A Case Study Approach to Teaching Critical Media Literacy

Building a “Bridge” Between Theory and Practice: A Case Study Approach to Teaching Critical Media Literacy

Loren Saxton Coleman (University of Southern Mississippi, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4059-5.ch013
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This chapter explores critical media literacy pedagogy. Using case study method, the author argues that The Washington Informer's, “Bridge” publication can be used as a practical pedagogical tool to teach students how to analyze and deconstruct media texts, and simultaneously inform students on how to produce alternative, counter-hegemonic media texts. This approach is consistent with literature on critical media literacy that calls for engaged and empowering pedagogy to encourage students to think critically about their roles in creating and maintaining a radical and participatory democracy.
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Teaching Critical Media Literacy –What Is It?

Potter (2016) defines media literacy as, “a set of perspectives that we actively use to expose ourselves to the mass media to process and interpret the meaning of the messages we encounter,” (p.24). Potter’s concept of media literacy involves three main components: personal locus, knowledge structures and skills. This definition of media literacy basically explains that media literacy is developed when individuals actively use their goals and drive to seek out information (personal locus) to help develop useful sets of organized memory or knowledge (knowledge structures). This organized knowledge, according to Potter (2016), should exist along a continuum, inclusive of cognitive, emotional, aesthetic and moral dimensions. Potter (2016) argues that the internal drive to seek knowledge coupled with the diverse knowledge structures develop skills to process and interpret meaning in media.

In contrast to Potter’s (2016) concept of media literacy that largely focuses on meaning and interpretation of text, other scholars suggest that media literacy take a critical perspective—one that would focus on engagement with media as texts, and the conditions in which these texts are produced and consumed. Tisdell (2008) states that critical media literacy positions students to become transformative learners. Distribution of power during consumption and production practices is explored as students struggle to create and contribute to a more just society (Tisdell, 2008). Similarly, Kellner and Share (2005) state that critical media literacy is pedagogy that informs students how to analyze media codes and conventions, critique stereotypes, and dominant ideologies in media texts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Media Literacy: Media literacy that focuses on engagement with media as texts, and the conditions in which these texts are produced and consumed.

Washington Informer: A Black newspaper founded in October of 1964 by Dr. Calvin Rolark, “to highlight positive images of African Americans,” published in Washington, D.C.

Critical Media Pedagogy: Encourages students to think critically about not just how their worldview is mediated through media, but also, how their media production helps create a worldview of others; helps reinforce the importance of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking: Interactive process that highlights the importance of independent thinking and helps students find their voices.

Democratic Education: Education as practice of freedom; a process that highlights how the ability to think independently is an indicator of a responsible citizenry; an engaged process that values free speech and the will and right to dissent.

Bridge: The Washington Informer monthly supplemental publication produced by and for millennials, distributed online and in print.

Black Press: Emerged in 1827 with Freedom’s Journal in response to “anti-black” campaign in White-owned press; actively protest the negative and violent narratives and representations perpetuated in mainstream newspapers about Black people and communities.

Alternative Media: Participatory and fluid activity in critical response to dominant journalism structures.

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