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Critical Media Literacy


Course: EDCP 333 Contemporary Issues in Social Studies

Prof. E. Wayne Ross

Authors: Ada, Raj, Colin, Phaidra, Jacee

Introduction: What is Critical Media Literacy?

Critical media literacy is an integrated approach to media literacy that combines critical analysis of various types of media with media production. Its aim is to empower individuals to be active participants in society, the underlying idea being that literacy allows one to fully participate in, as well as shape and transform, one's society and culture, thus enhancing democratic participation. CML expands literacy beyond traditional print media to include different forms of media culture, information and communication technologies, and new media. And it goes beyond content analysis to investigate relationships between media and audiences, information and power. There are various approaches to media literacy, but the model that we are concerned with is the one posited by Kellner and Share (2007)[1].

According to this model, knowledge is socially constructed. CML involves exploring the languages, genres, codes, and conventions of a text so that students can understand how these function, as well as audiences' role in actively negotiating meanings. Furthermore, it involves uncovering & engaging issues of gender, race, class, sexuality, ideology, power, and pleasure, as well as examining the production and institutions that motivate and structure media industries as corporate profit-seeking businesses.

Kellner and Share's model places emphasis on action, as students not only critically analyze but also engage with the subject matter and act upon it to produce their own alternative media expressing their point of view. As a result, children/young people are seen as capable critics and revisers of culture, not as passive recipients or naive, agent-less individuals who need to be protected from popular culture and media.

The rationale behind CML is that we live in an age of unprecedented technological innovation and globalization. Media is more pervasive than ever before and the power in controlling information is not readily apparent. In this climate, young people are increasingly vulnerable to corporate maneuvering to the extent that democracy itself is at risk of being reduced to consumerism. CML prevents the complacent acceptance of commercial media in truth-telling, and provides a way to find alternative viewpoints within a historical and sociological context.

In terms of school, Kellner and Share (2007) insist that media literacy programs include critically analyzing how mainstream media reproduce racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudices, as well as encouraging students to find their own voices through alternative/counter-hegemonic media. They also recommend that critical media literacy run across curricular areas. Stack and Kelley (2006)[2] have argued that educators who refuse to consider popular culture as a curricular resource miss opportunities to connect with young people's lives and enhance critical literacy.

Unit Plan: History 12: Turmoil and Tragedy- 1933 to 1945

Unit Plan: Turmoil and Tragedy, 1933-1945 History 12

Unit goals:

1. Teach students to consider how media can shape our understanding of the past.

2. To look at concepts of the Great Depression and the Second World War through a lens of critical media literacy.

3. Students should be able to compare primary and secondary sources and recognize bias, and reliability of the sources.

4. To help students establish and understand historical empathy through the study of WWII.

The following links provide educators with samples of lessons that can help to teach students about how to engage with media and to help provide additional plans to introduce critical media literacy into the classroom.

Unit Plan from Read Write Think

Unit Plan from Bishop's University

Lesson Plans: History 12: Turmoil and Tragedy- 1933 to 1945

Introduction to the Holocaust through Propaganda

In this lesson students will look at anti-Semitic propaganda use in Nazi Germany and compare it to anti-Japanese propaganda used in Canada and the USA. The purpose of this lesson is to show how racist dehumanizing propaganda was a tool commonly used by the bad guys and the good guys during WW2. The students will also look at some examples of what I believe is modern racist propaganda, and compare it to similar items from the past.

Colin Bailey How and when can media create an atmosphere of hatred and what are the consequences

Nazi Germany 1933-1939

There are many opportunities in the Nazi Germany unit to cover critical media literacy and propaganda. For this lesson plan, the focus is on Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and what students can learn about media and propaganda in the 1930's. The purpose of this lesson is to show students the various levels of messages a film can have. Triumph of the Will which documents the Nazi Party's Nuremberg rallies in 1934 is known as one of the best propaganda films of all time. In this lesson, students will learn about the types of messages that the filmmaker was trying to portray in the film and the techniques that she used to do so successfully. Furthermore, students will investigate Adolf Hitler's methods of propaganda in the rallies. There are many layers of techniques that the students must critically analyze the understand the effects of this piece of propaganda and be able to connect it to how media might be portrayed today. For the assessment at the end of the lesson, students will be required to write two letters that display their historical empathy and their understanding of the effects of the media. One letter will be from the perspective of a person attending one of the rallies and the other will be from the perspective of a German attending a viewing of the film in 1935 in a movie theatre in Nazi Germany.

Lesson Plan on Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will

The Great Depression in Global Perspectives

In this lesson, students will view a counter-narrative of the causes of Great Depression and Second World War as deliberately planned and executed by elite bankers for the sake of profit. By viewing a alternative and sensationalized version of this history, students may begin to understand the practice of identifying subtext in social studies, and in critical media analysis, in evaluating the arguments and evidence as presented in Zeitgeist: Part III: Don't Mind the Men Behind the Curtain. In addition, students may broaden their awareness of who produces media such as this film, why, and the impact when online public access turns viral.

A "Cinematic Codes" film viewing worksheet is included as a guideline for active consideration, which includes Peter Seixes' "Big Six" tenets of historical thinking. This worksheet may be adapted by teachers to included detailed questions from any film.

Jump to Lesson[3]

Japanese Imperialism in the Asia Pacific Region

In this lesson, students will learn about Western perceptions and portrayals of the Japanese and their expansionist policies. They will analyze and decode anti-Japanese cartoons and posters to enhance their understanding of bias and point of view, and how media can be used to dehumanize, antagonize, and create fear of a particular group of people. Finally, they will apply their understanding of these concepts to produce their own alternative cartoons from the Japanese perspective. This lesson plan was created by Rajpreet Dhillon

Lesson Plan on Japanese Imperialism in the 20th Century

The Atomic Bomb and Hiroshima

This lesson is designed to ask students to think critically about why the atomic bomb was dropped. They will be asked to consider aspects such as total war, technology, and racism. Also, students will be asked to consider the role that media has played in the past in terms of understanding how people could justify the dropping of the bomb. In order to do this, this lesson will focus on guiding students on how to look critically at different sources of media such as comics, images of newspaper articles. More specifically, students will be asked to consider the role of text, images and the combination of text and image when trying to think critically about media.

Lesson Plan on the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb This lesson plan was created by Jacee Ismay

Multiple Ability Tasks [4]

Media involves sensory perception. We see and hear media most frequently, but can also touch media as physical objects. Objects too may represent signs and signifiers as Ferdinand de Saussure's semiotic studies of communication, which continue to play a role in the study of language arts and media today.

It may be useful to begin to imagine MAT which can be useful venues for CML by the traditional Multiple Intelligence Theory framework as developed by Dr. Howard Gardner (1983).

CML may be approached using Gardner's Theory using any of the below ideas.

Image du jour [5]

Street art can be excellent hooks for opening conversations and practicing critical media literacy.

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Comparisons between popular icons and street art critiques can bridge history between the past and present, such as in this "I love NY" image comparison.

NY compare & contrast.jpg

Sample Clips

More sample clips can be located in the discussion "draft" pages of this wiki.

Network 1976[6]

Seminal meta-work on the crisis of critical media illiteracy. NOTE: autoplay may be disabled (see discussion).

House Hippo Commercial (Jacee Ismay)

This commercial is a simple way to introduce students to the idea that not everything they see is real and that they can learn to become critical of what is out there.


These videos are a selection of thought-provoking films which lend themselves to student practice in studying subtext. So as to avoid imposing unnecessary bias on you as a teacher, we invite you to follow the links and discover these films, and links to others, to suit the needs of your class.

Manufacturing Consent

Love, Hate and Propaganda(CBC documentary) [8]

Exit Through the Gift Shop[9]

My kid could paint that

The Revolution will not be televised

The Take


The Price of Sugar

Capitalism: A Love Story

The Corporation

Fight Club

Mongol: the Rise of Ghengis Khan

The Hours

Blood Diamond

The Usual Suspects

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Easy Rider

Beauty & the Beast


“Critical media literacy, democracy and the reconstruction of education” (Kellner & Share)

“Educating in the era of Orwellian spin: Media literacy in the classroom” (Orlowski)

“Popular media, education, and resistance” (Stack & Kelly)

“Bob Dylan was right — it is a political world: The case for critical media literacy” (Orlowski)


Toward Critical Media Literacy: Core concepts, debates, organizations, and policy, Douglas Kellner* and Jeff Share(University of California, Los Angeles, US).

Critical Media Literacy: Educator's Resource (University of Minnesota)[10]

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media by Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy[11]

Media Literacy through Critical Thinking - Teacher Resources by Chris M. Worsnop

Marshal McLuhan: the Medium is the Message.pdf[12]

CANADÆ Jeramy Dodds[13]


Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for the Digital Age. Douglas Rushkoff.

This 120 page book acts as a guide to navigating your way through the digtial world. Rushkoff also compares programed digital landscape to programed physical landscapes such as parks and shopping malls. Program or be programed.

Toxic Sludge is Good for You. Lies damn lies and the public relations industry.John Clyde Stauber, Sheldon Rampton

No Logo. Naomi Klein.[14]

Making Sense of the Media: A Handbook of Popular Education Techniques. Eleonora C. Ferreira[15]

Media Effects and Society. Elizabeth M. Perse

The Media and Body Image: If Looks Could Kill By Maggie Wykes, Barrie Gunter[16][17]

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. Naomi Wolf[18][19]

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick[20]

We Yevgeny Zamyatin[21]

Website Resources

Access to Media Education Society.[22]


Appalachian Media Institute.[25]

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives[26][27]

CBC Archives[28]

On This Day: Canada and world news items linked by the day. For Teachers: Educational material for grades 6-12. Topic Index CBC Days to Remember: Links through the decades.

Columbia Journalism Review. Who owns what? [29]

Educational Video Center. [30]


Curriculum Connections with Media Literacy Week</ref>

Media Smarts: Canada's Centre for Digital and Media Literacy

FreeChild Project, Youth Media Organizations. [32]

Global Action Project.[33]

Gulf Islands Film and Television School.[34][35]

" will find out what thinks of you, your friends or anything!" [36]

Just Think: Igniting Young Minds to Media Education.[37][38]

The owners[39][40]

Media Lens

"Since 2001, we have been describing how mainstream newspapers and broadcasters operate as a propaganda system for the elite interests that dominate modern society....We check the media’s version of events against credible facts and opinion provided by journalists, academics and specialist researchers. We then publish both versions, together with our commentary, in free Media Alerts and invite readers to deliver their verdict both to us and to mainstream journalists through the email addresses provided in our ’Suggested Action’ at the end of each alert." [41][42][43]

"Because newer is not always better"[44]
"Find old or censored webpages"[45]

Reporters Without Borders: For Freedom of Information[46]

The Stanford Prison Experiment [47][48]

Storifying History (Amy Burvall)[49]

Storifying History (Amy Burvall) looks closely at the use of media in the classroom, highlights key theories that discuss a desire by youth to re-create media, and discusses interpretive and personal aspects of history which reflect the self-identity of contemporary youth culture.

Subterranean Britainnica[50]

The Advertising Slogan Generator[51][52]

American Literacy Corporation.[53] Youth Media Channel. [54]

UNESCO, Magic briefing.[55]


Wikiversity:Media Literacy in K-12 Settings[58][59]

A Criticism of the Curriculum and Teaching Practices

IRP Critiques

Below you can find attachments to summaries and critiques of all the general Social Studies secondary school courses which are covered in the British Columbia curriculum. Each summary and critique focuses on critical media literacy and how it is approached in each Integrated Resource Package. The critiques include what is missing from the IRPs and suggestions on how Critical Media Literacy can be approached in the IRPs

Critique of the History 12 IRP for the British Columbia Curriculum with focus on critical media literacy

Critique of the Social Studies 8-10 IRP for the British Columbia Curriculum with focus on critical media literacy

Critique of the Social Studies 11 IRP for the British Columbia Curriculum with focus on critical media literacy

British Columbia Commonly Used Textbooks: Critiques

Grade Nine Crossroads: A Meeting of Nations This file looks closely at how the commonly used grade nine social studies textbook engages with different forms of media and introduces them to students. It also aims to critique the textbook in terms of some of the key factors it is missing when it comes to teaching critical media literacy.

Crossroads Critique Completed by Jacee and Raj

Grade 10 Horizons: Canada Moves West This file contains a summary of the textbook as well as a critique and some suggestions for teaching the content more effectively. This critique has been taken from a critical media literacy approach and therefore focuses on improving how teachers can more effectively use the primary sources and photographs in the book to teach critical media literacy skills.

Horizons Critique

Grade 11 Counterpoints: Exploring Canadian Issues by Michael Cranny and Garvin Moles This file includes a synopsis and critique of the textbook focusing on both content and skills. It discusses the various strengths of the text, the extent to which it incorporates critical media education, and how teachers can use supplemental materials to use the textbook more effectively with their students.

Counterpoints Critique

Grade 12 "Global Forces of the Twentieth Century" by E. Alyn Mitchner and R. Joanne Tuffs This file contains a brief summary of the textbook and aims to critique many aspects of the book in terms of providing students, in their final years of their secondary education, with the tools to critically read different forms of media. The critique looks closely at what the text provides in terms of different forms of media, and what it may be lacking in terms of educating students.

Global Forces Critique Completed by Jacee Ismay


  1. Kellner, D., & Share, J. (2007). Critical media literacy, democracy, and the reconstruction of education. In D. Macedo & S.R. Steinberg (Eds.), Media literacy: A reader (pp. 3-23). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
  2. Stack, M., & Kelly, D. M. (2006). Popular media, education, and resistance. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(1), 5-26.
  3. Darthphaidra
  4. Darthphaidra except where indicated otherwise in this section
  5. Darthphaidra
  6. Darthphaidra
  7. Darthphaidra
  8. Love, Hate and Propaganda (CBC documentary)
  9. Exit Through the Gift Shop
  10. Darthphaidra
  11. Darthphaidra
  12. Darthphaidra
  13. Darthphaidra
  14. Darthphaidra
  15. Making Sense of the Media: A Handbook of Popular Education Techniques. Eleonora C. Ferreira
  16. [The Media and Body Image: If Looks Could Kill By Maggie Wykes, Barrie Gunter
  17. Darthphaidra
  18. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. Naomi Wolf
  19. Darthphaidra
  20. Darthphaidra
  21. Darthphaidra
  22. Access to Media Education Society. Available:
  23. Adbusters.
  24. Darthphaidra
  25. Appalachian Media Institute Available:
  27. Darthphaidra
  28. Darthphaidra
  29. Columbia Journalism Review. Who owns what? Available:
  30. Educational Video Center. Available:
  31. Darthphaidra
  32. FreeChild Project, Youth Media Organizations. Available:
  33. Global Action Project. Available:
  34. Gulf Islands Film and Television School. Available:
  36. Darthphaidra
  37. Just Think: Igniting Young Minds to Media Education. Available:
  38. Darthphaidra
  39. The owners
  40. Darthphaidra
  41. Media Lens
  42. Darthphaidra
  43. Darthphaidra
  46. Darthphaidra
  47. The Stanford Prison Experiment
  48. Darthphaidra
  49. Storifying History (Amy Burvall)
  50. Darthphaidra
  51. The Advertising Slogan Generator
  52. Darthphaidra
  53. American Literacy Corporation. Available:
  54. Youth Media Channel. Available:
  55. UNESCO, Magic briefing. Available:
  56. WikiLeaks
  57. Darthphaidra
  59. Darthphaidra