A New Climate for Professional Development in Media Literacy

There are many reasons why there has not been a widespread availability of professional development opportunities for either new or veteran teachers interested in media literacy.

The challenges to the dissemination of media literacy as an educational process in U.S. schools are formidable — a decentralized education system consisting of 16,000 autonomous school districts, little funding, a long tradition of content-based learning methods using printed texts, and a lack of knowledgeable and professional trainers and the infrastructure organizations to support them. In addition, U.S. educational systems are notorious for deep-seated resistance to technological innovations which enable student inquiry and independent learning -- the cornerstones of effective media literacy pedagogy.

The U.S. has had to depend upon educational materials developed in other countries — primarily Canada — and on the passions of a few dedicated professionals determined to advance media literacy to levels enjoyed elsewhere in the world.

But the climate for U.S.-based professional development in media literacy is changing.

Although few U.S. colleges or universities have formal degree programs for teachers to learn the core concepts of media literacy at the pre-service level, summer institutes and other workshops are blossoming. Other promising developments include:

  • Media literacy connections to all curricular areas have been identified for state educational standards, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative recognizes the importance of multi-media in classroom teaching.  McREL added standards for "viewing" and "media" to the traditional language arts strands for reading / writing and speaking / listening. Standards in social studies, health, the arts and even math and science, are increasingly common. The door is now open for widespread professional development efforts to connect media literacy to what teachers are already mandated to teach in all areas of the curriculum.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its first-ever call for information on media literacy, and media literacy has been recognized in other federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, which recently launched a major initiative in advertising literacy.  The U.S. Dept. of Education held its first department-wide information session on media literacy in 2008, and internationally, media literacy is increasingly recognized, with a media literacy unit now established with OfCom, a regulatory agency of the UK.
  • The first federal grants for demonstration projects linking media literacy, the arts and violence prevention were awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000/2001. CML's Project SmartArt received one of the 17 grants provided by this first federal authorization.

A New Climate for Professional Development in Media Literacy
Preparing to Teach with a Media Literacy Focus
Media Literacy, Professional Development and Change Management