50 Activities To Promote Digital Media Literacy In Students

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Literacy is changing–not at its core necessarily, but certainly at its edges as it expands to include new kinds of “reading.”

Digital media is quickly replacing traditional media forms as those most accessible to most 21st century learners. The impact of this change is extraordinarily broad, but for now we’ll narrow it down to changes in how learners respond to the media they consume.

The most fundamental pattern of formal academia is to read something and then write about it. Sometimes this writing comes in the form of responding to questions, while other time it’s in the form of an essay. And sometimes the reading is watching, playing with, or otherwise interacting with a digital media. So I thought it might make sense to compile a list of “things” learners can do as the result of “consuming” a digital media.

Some of these tasks will look familiar, especially to English teachers. But it needn’t be only for them.The Common Core standards call for literacy efforts across content areas, and while much of the list below is indeed English Teacher oriented, it might help all educators see the fundamental ways media are changing.

Also, I know that medium is the singular form and media the plural, but to me the connotation of the word medium hints at the form (e.g., film, text, video), whereas the media seems more apt to refer to a specific example of a media form (Schindler’s List, The Odyssey, Charlie Bit Me). Hopefully this grammatical “error” isn’t too confusing.

You also might notice that many of them apply to both traditional and digital media. That is by design.

I’ll be updating this list, revising it to add better examples, alter clunky phrasing, and so on. So, below are 50 ways teachers across content areas–and homeschooled learners too–can promote digital media literacy. I may even categorize them roughly by Bloom’s Taxonomy. Overall, these are specific, practical, and rigorous tasks that will place a cognitive demand on the student, and can be used as a go-to list for teachers to bridge formal academic study with the new demands of digital media.

50 Activities To Promote Digital Media Literacy In Students

  1. Infer the author’s purpose.
  2. Distinguish between primary and secondary audiences.
  3. Summarize the media by identifying its 3-5 most important ideas or events.
  4. Identify and diagram the literary elements (e.g., setting, characters, conflict, etc.)
  5. Identify and analyze characters as major or minor; flat or round; static or dynamic; symbolic or non; protagonist, antagonist, or neither.
  6. Analyze the relationship between character and plot development.
  7. Identify obvious and non-obvious literary devices.
  8. Infer what an author’s position on issue X might be after consuming an otherwise unrelated media (Infer what Emily Dickinson’s position on social media might be given only a reading of her poetry—or the themes of a single poem).
  9. Revise and repackage a given media so that it is optimized for another platform (e.g., an essay to a YouTube video to a blog post to a Jux.com image to an infographic, etc.)
  10. Debate the author’s choice in publishing platform.
  11. Analyze the structure of the media, and determine its impact on its purpose.
  12. Evaluate the medium for relevant ideas that were left unsaid.
  13. Revise the media for a new audience.
  14. Create a graphical representation of the relationship between the text and subtext of the media, and include evidence from the text to support any response.
  15. Anticipate the cause-effect relationship between various self-selected media elements by altering them (e.g., revising the diction would impact the audience this way, revising the structure would impact the available publishing platforms this way, etc.)
  16. Evaluate the impact of the publishing platform (e.g., blog, storify, YouTube, etc.) on the purpose and tone.
  17. Experiment with new chronological styles of narrative or argument sequence, and analyze the effect of each.
  18. Recreate the media from another perspective (another character, a different narrator, etc.)
  19. Design a “modal antithesis,” where some or all of a medium’s given modalities are revised to their opposites (e.g., identify the basic structure and tone of “Southern Man” by Neil Young, and revise it to create their respective opposites).
  20. Estimate the stage of the writing process that was most crucial to the media’s success.
  21. Design or outline an app to supplement a given media’s purpose.
  22. Based on some important and self-selected element of this text, what does it make sense to consume next?
  23. Critique or defend the sequence of ideas (idea organization).
  24. Judge where supporting details are inadequate to support the thesis or theme.
  25. Identify the ways making a selected media social impacts its use of the writing process.
  26. Interpret the themes, tone, or other media component through a given critical position (e.g., Predict what John Locke would’ve said about the possibility of mobile learning given his stance on human consciousness).
  27. Experiment with various syntactical styles, and analyze the effect of any changes in a basic diagram.
  28. Analyze the ratio of pathos, ethos, and logos in the media.
  29. Evaluate only the credibility of a piece, and identify three ways it might be improved.
  30. Alter the ratio of pathos/ethos/logos in the media, and analyze the impact of any changes.
  31. Analyze the relationship between the sound, color, text features, and text.
  32. Critique or defend the author’s choice in diction.
  33. Prioritize the implicit and explicit ideas for their immediate relevance for a given context.
  34. Analyze the media to extract the theme.
  35. Criticize or defend a given media’s form (e.g., this book would’ve been better as an app for this reason)
  36. Criticize or defend the media’s balance of substance and whimsy.
  37. Separate the information the media offers that’s new and what’s been heard before.
  38. Concept-map the thesis and primary and secondary supporting details.
  39. Propose sources that would improve over stated sources cited (e.g., these three sources would’ve improved the overall credibility of the media).
  40. Identify the three modalities most critical to the media’s purpose.
  41. Question the media’s brevity, intensity, or duration.
  42. Analyze the tone, and identify the primary contributors to that tone.
  43. Identify the most visual, most useful, and most natural methods of sharing a given media, and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  44. Determine the most elegant, most useful, and most natural methods of curating a given media, and analyze the impact of each.
  45. Discuss the relationship between the media’s style, the author’s style, and the apparent audience.
  46. Describe the relationship between the tone and mood.
  47. Analyze the relationship and/or tension between implicit and explicit themes.
  48. Image the most logical follow-up media creation based on a self-selected and stated purpose or goal. (e.g., based on the author’s goal of increasing awareness of pancreatic cancer, a natural follow up to this blog post would be…)
  49. Design an innovative diagram that analyzes the media in concept map form.
  50. Collect and categorize convergent elements of divergent media (e.g., a tweet, poem, video game, and folk song with similar tone but clearly divergent structures).

Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad