What does Media Literacy look like in Non-School Settings

Theory and Practice of Media Literacy

A resource for scholars and others interested in media literacy. This document was originally developed by graduate students enrolled in BTMM 589, "Theory and Practice of Media Literacy Education" which was taught by Professor Renee Hobbs in the Fall of 2006 at Temple University's School of Communication and Theater. Students enrolled in the course in the Fall of 2007 continue to develop, modify and expand the site, contributing their own understanding of the course readings and critical analysis.

Linked Pages of Interest
1. Media literacy
2. Why is Media Literacy Important
3. Intellectual Traditions in Media Literacy
4. Media Literacy in K-12 Settings
5. Great Debates in Media Literacy
6. What does Media Literacy look like in Non-School Settings
7. Research on Media Literacy

What does Media Literacy Look Like in Non-School Settings?


After School Programs


After school programs first developed out of community improvement projects to develop jobs, housing, and health care. Today programs have diversified to include before or after school programs, drop in or full time, in a variety of institutional settings (Goodman, 2003). After school programs can be conducive to media literacy for a variety of reasons, including flexibility,...

Different Skill Levels

Goodman (2003) points out that in order to “effectively teach students across the field of their experiences, educators must sometimes follow, sometimes lead, and sometimes work with them side by side” (p. 54). This places a special importance on the teacher who must recognize opportunities to teach individuals whenever the moment arises, and it may arise at different times for different students. This is something that a set curriculum cannot address.

In order for media literacy to be successful in an after school setting with various levels of student aptitudes, the teacher must be able to recognize and adapt to each student’s skill level. The best way to do this is to make sure student with a lower aptitude does a task with the instructor that they otherwise would not be able to do without the instructor. Gradually, the student will be able to take over the task on his or her own (Goodman, 2003).


The flexibility of after school programs can be more accommodating to media literacy education and activities than traditional school settings. While it can be more difficult to implement media literacy in K-12 classrooms due to restrictions such as the "factory model" bureaucracy, time limitations, and lack of administrative support, after school programs have certain characteristics that can make them more receptive to media literacy. Goodman (2003) notes that some of these characteristics are "a more holistic approach that addresses the social, emotional, creative, and cognitive needs of teenagers; youth voices in decision-making; a commitment to engaging youth in service to their local community; a flexibility in both scheduling and content of youth activities; and a relative freedom from the requirements of standardized academic testing" (p. 102).

Media Literacy and its Impact in a Second Chance School


Goodman discusses both in-school and after school media literacy programs. But what if there outside factors that inhibit both of these programs? In a school such as Fairhill Community School, day to day activities are contingent upon so many other factors. With this being a "second chance" school, many students have children, have been in prison, have one or no parental influence, and have a feeling of isolation. However, even with all these factors, it is still possible to construct an effective media literacy curriculum.

Using Goodman's EVC Workshop model, but altering it slightly )so there is not as much after school work) is a way to motivate students who already have hectic lifestyles. Giving them one another to rely on for the project is a way to not only promote media literacy (including production), but also basic trust. It gives these students a true second chance...

Media Literacy through Media Production


It is important to acknowledge that production, in itself, does not constitute media education. "In particular, the commonly-expressed belief that, through practical work, students will automatically acquire critical abilities and begin to de-mystify the media needs to be challenged. The link needs to be consciously forged by the teacher… practical work is not an end in itself, but a means to developing an autonomous critical understanding of the media." If this focus on criticism is not foregrounded, practical work exercises can lapse into "‘ busy work’ and, in its more advanced manifestations, a form of cultural reproduction in which dominant practices become naturalized." It is important for media educators to always position criticism at the forefront of our practice, when integrating production into the learning environment. (Masterman, 1985)

Documentary Production

Critical Analysis

By producing documentaries about the important issues in their lives, students can explore the world around them, which will lead them to create a distance from what they are familiar with and to have a critical lens through their exploration of the world. It helps students to develop their critical literacy skills. According to Goodman (2003), critical literacy means “the ability to analyze, evaluate, and produce print, aural, and visual forms of communication (p. 3).” Through critical literacy, students can understand how media convey certain message and how they can make their voices heard and possibly implement change about important issues in their lives through electronic and print technologies. (Goodman, 2003)

Participatory Democracy

“Student producers begin to distance themselves from their documentary subjects. The people they see and the problems they live with everyday become visible to them as things outside their lives that can be held up to a critical light. They compare the story they have recorded to their own experiences and begin to question its truthfulness and form hypotheses of their own. They reach a verifiable conclusion to their own debate, they find that anecdotal experience is not enough. They begin to shift their social position from being a participant in the community to a participant-observer of the community (Goodman, 2003, p. 42).”

Additional Settings for Media Education


Buckingham (2003) states that media education can take place in various settings outside the "formal education system" including within community workshops; in churches and other religious organizations; in independent activist groups; and within the home with the family (pp. 99-101). In addition, there are many other "informal" opportunities for media education beyond the traditional classroom structure.

Online Resources for Learning More

  • PODCASTS: Learn about Reel Vision[1], the Boston filmmaking group that works with young people (Episode 15)
  • ORGANIZATIONS: European Centre for Media Literacy [2] Alliance for a Media Literate America [3]


  • Alliance for a Media Literate America. (2005). Operational policy: Corporate funding. Retrieved October 1, 2006, from http://www.amlainfo.org/home/about-amla/policies/operational-policy/operational-policy#8
  • Alvarado, M. (1981). Television Studies and Pedagogy. Screen Education, 38, 191-206.
  • Buckingham, D. (2003). Media education: Literacy, learning and contemporary culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Christ, W. G., & Potter, J. W. (1998). Media literacy, media education, and the academy. Journal of Communication, 48, 5-15.
  • Goodman, S. (2003). Teaching youth media: A critical guide to literacy, video production, and social change. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Heins, M., & Cho, C. (2003). Media literacy: An alternative to censorship. (2nd ed.). Free Expression Policy Project. Retrieved October 1, 2006, from http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/medialiteracy.pdf
  • Hobbs, R. (2007). Reading the media: Media literacy in high school English. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Hobbs, R., & Frost, R. (1999). Instructional practices in media literacy education and their impact on students' learning. New Jersey Journal of Communication, 6(2), 123-148.
  • Kist, W. (2005). New literacy’s in action: Teaching and learning in multiple media. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Masterman, L. (1980). Teaching about Television. London: Macmillon.
  • Thoman, E., & Jolls, T. (2005). Media literacy education: Lessons from the center for media literacy. In G. Schwartz & P. U. Brown (Eds.), Media literacy: Transforming curriculum and teaching (Vol. 104, 2005, pp. 180 -205). Malden, MA: National Society for the Study of Education