Dolph Petris | October 2018

Navigating the Tangled Web of Media Literacy

Where does one even begin with Media Literacy and Arts/STEAM integration?!

In the not-too-distant past, media and its availability referenced a finite collection of tools and resources.  At the risk of adding to the number of times you have already heard ‘we live in a different time,’ I am going to say just that… we live in a different time. There, I wrote the phrase and even said it out loud.

I remember when the internet was beginning to boom. I felt like I walked into the largest library on the planet and all the print material was cascading down on me at once.  In my fantastical imagination, I wasn’t crushed by it all, I was swimming in it all.  It was new, it was wonderful, and ‘it’ has now become our norm.

Yes, we were kids in a candy store and had not yet realized it’s full potential. 

Our World

Computational technology doubles in an approximate span of every 18 months.  Scary? Well yes, but also no.  This is our world. Jumping onto a train traveling at an exponentially increasing rate offers unlimited flexibility in how and what we learn. And how and what we teach.

It seems as though tech companies are releasing new devices and new apps almost every day. This leaves teachers with a monster-sized shovel of here-you-go technology.  No hardcopy documentation, no rules, and little or no explanation of how to use it all. They leave us to fend for ourselves. To navigate a continually expanding universe with no compass.


What to do?

Media literacy straddles a complex set of variables that are relatively new to most of us. What does the world of education need to do to pinpoint relevant media sources? Sources that meet the needs of teachers and students in an effective way?

Unfortunately, there is NO simple answer. We as teachers need to saturate ourselves in digital information. I love to read hardcopy books and material. However, if I do not immerse my teaching and learning experience in digital content as well, I will be doing a disservice to my students and myself.

This does not mean that digital content is all, and only, media literacy. We still do have books, magazines, and periodicals from which we can all draw – and that is a good thing! But we must learn how to tie “old media literacy” with the new paradigm of what media literacy has become.


Media Literacy Relevance

Maybe my article this month is more of a commentary than that of actual Arts/STEAM integration. But it is important to address this topic in the reality of the modern day and its relevance to education. If I’m being completely honest, I love the ever-expanding window of options and resources we as teachers have today. But I too am a practicing teacher in 2018.

Available tools and resources are so available that we need to be vigilant in what we use in our classrooms. We become overwhelmed, thinking that we need to use more. So we find more and add it and the vicious cycle continues. The point I am conveying is that like anything else, we need to pick and choose what we can realistically manage.

We have adopted curriculum. Resources purchased by schools/districts, or individual teachers. Manipulatives to use for Math and/or ELA, Science and Social Studies. Maybe your district provides devices, complete with pre-loaded apps for classroom use. Combine this into the crock pot of education and close the lid. What works and what doesn’t work? I cannot answer this blanket question. It demands a customized answer, provided by you.

In conclusion, the tangled web of media literacy extends beyond technology. Our teaching and learning skills have begun to require a vetting process. A process that we can customize and modify for our own instruction and student use. If this sounds overwhelming, well it kind of is and it kind of is not. Learning is a process. So like everything else we have learned to do, just put one foot in front of the other. And soon you’ll be walking across the floor.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, check out some of our reviews on various edtech apps and see if any may work for you:


Piktochart in the Classroom 

Kahoot! in the Classroom

Technology Review: GameStar Mechanic

Technology Review: Quizizz

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.