Opinion: Media literacy is essential education - The Fulcrum

Understanding Media Literacy

     In 2013 Andrea Quijada spoke about the importance of media literacy education via a TED Talk, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this talk she describes her childhood and the desire to have the power to know the absolute truths of the world (from knowing if someone was telling the truth, to knowing if a widely accepted societal truth was valid). As she grew, she found herself inundated with lessons regarding media literacy education, namely via her parents. Quijada describes key elements of media literacy, which primarily include the understanding of a media’s text, subtext, and the ability to deconstruct media using both. She uses several advertisements to demonstrate the uses of these items. The text is shown to be the literal message that a particular media is giving to the viewer. The subtext is described as the personal connections one has to a particular message, and the many potential ways in which one interprets the message (and hidden message if applicable) based on their perspective. Quijada explains that deconstruction is the process that one undergoes in order to unravel the meaning and hidden meanings of a media and to ultimately evaluate that media’s truth.

Media Literacy and Problem Solving

     During Andrea Quijada’s TED Talk regarding media literacy education, she provides several rationales for its use and ultimately the strong need for its inclusion in learning environments at all levels. To begin with, the understanding of media text is a very basic skill that is required by all citizens to function on a daily basis. Understanding the subtext of media becomes essential for those who wish, and/or need, to understand the true message that is being disseminated via the media.

An example provided by Quijada are company advertisements. A credit card company, for example, is shown using the text of their advertisement to promote their new and easily procurable credit card. Understanding the subtext of the tagline, however, requires one to delve deeper. In this particular example, the advertisement equated a line of credit with financial freedom. As one deconstructs the advertisement using both text and subtext and combines each with knowledge of how credit card companies function (ex. how they make money, the accruement of debt etc.), it becomes clear that the advertisement is not promoting a truth. While this knowledge may be commonplace for some, it seems to be Quijada’s message that the majority of the population does not delve deeper than the text of media (or deeper than subtext that is bias and superficial in nature).

Ultimately, it seems as though Quijada is making the case that media education leads to the development higher level thinking skills, which may then lead to the ability to problem solve for the betterment of one’s own life and of society as a whole. It is this ability to problem solve that allows one to become aware of truths, as Quijada desired when young.

Media Literacy and Traditional Literacy

Using literacy education individuals can be taught to think carefully about their own thinking and to ultimately deconstruct a particular text so that they may understand that text at the deepest possible level (Keene & Zimmerman, 1997). It appears that media literacy education accomplishes this as well. In fact, media literacy education may be an effective segue into traditional literacy education given that it strongly connects students to literacy in their own lives (i.e. the world directly around them). Quijada discusses this as she provides examples of students who were successful with media literacy assignments over other assignments due to its practical nature.

Media Literacy in the Literature

     Following a review of the literature regarding media literacy education, it appears that Andrea Quijada’s call for familiarity and use of media literacy at all levels of education is a logical one. Pereira et al.’s (2012) article, for example, establishes a clear need for such media literacy education. They cite the European Union’s acknowledgement of the need via their establishment of media literacy education councils, which have been successful with stimulating the teaching of media literacy learning methods to European Union citizens. An integral part of this success has been a well-developed, highly modern, booklet that has been disseminated to a significant number of these citizens. Mihailidis and Hiebert’s (2005) article also describes the importance of media literacy education, and Camps’ (1993) article describes how media literacy education councils can further assist the wide-spread acknowledgement of media literacy’s importance (through the upholding of media literacy education standards).

In addition to the need for general citizens to be aware of media literacy learning methods, Schwarz’s (2004) article describes the need for higher education instructors in particular to teach future teachers media literacy learning methods. Lacina’s (2005) article supports the declaration of this need and offers specific recommendations for classroom media literacy education. These recommendations range from simple classroom activities to detailed methods that may be taught to students in order for them to deconstruct media at the level Quijada identifies as ideal in her talk. Ziegler’s (2006) also article provides several examples of media literacy education’s use in the higher education classroom.

Media Literacy Education and the 21st Century Learner

     It seems that Andrea Quijada and the many media literacy researchers present in the literature support the idea that such education will create students (and ultimately citizens) that are able to think at a higher level and to use that skill to not only solve problems of today, but to solve unforeseen problems that lay in the future of society. This makes media literacy a type of education that may very well lead to the attainment of problem solving skills that are, and will be, needed most by the world and its people.



Camps, V. (2009). Media education beyond school. Comunicar, 16(32), 189-196.

Hiebert, R., & Mihailidis, P. (2005). Media literacy in journalism education curriculum. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 9(3), 162-166.

Keene, E. O., & Zimmermann, S. (1997). Mosaic of Thought: Teaching comprehension in a reader's workshop. Portsmouth, NH: HeinemannCamps, V.

Lacina, J. (2005). Media literacy and learning. Childhood Education, 82(2), 118-120.

Pereira, S., Pinto, M., & Pereira, L. (2012). Resources for media literacy: Mediating the research on children and media / Recursos para la alfabetizacion mediatica: Investigacion y propuestas para ninos. Comunicar, 39(20), 91-99.

Quijada , A. (2013, February 19). Creating critical thinkers through media literacy [video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHAApvHZ6XE

Schwarz, G. (2004). Media literacy prepares teachers for diversity. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 8(1), 224-228.

Ziegler, S. G. (2006). Media literacy: (Mis) shaping women's sports. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 10(3), 90-94.