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The "Franken-Foods" Debate

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Since the late 1990’s, heated debate has swirled around the introduction of genetically engineered strains of staple food crops such as rice, corn and soybeans.  Proponents argue that these strains are resistant to cold and drought, can reduce pesticide use, and that some strains, like “golden” rice, can stave off malnutrition among human populations largely dependent on a single crop.  Critics argue that the safety of these foods for human consumption has not been completely established, and that unintended interbreeding with adjacent indigenous crops could threaten the biodiversity of our food supply.  While genetically engineered foods are now an industry standard, controversy has continued apace.  In 1997 and 2003, the European Union passed legislation requiring labeling of genetically modified (or GM) foods, and calls for labeling to continue in the United States.

Many anti-GM foods activists dubbed them “Frankenfoods,” and some newspapers, such as Britain’s Daily Mail, conducted entire campaigns against them.  The editorial cartoon included here is from the pages of the Daily Mail.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will discover the power of visual humor to deliver a political message.      

Ask students to identify the point of view represented by a political cartoon.

AHA!:  This cartoon isn’t just funny, it’s asking me to take sides in a political argument!

Key Question #4:  What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in or omitted from this message? 

Core Concept #4:  Media have embedded values and points of view

Grade Level:  10+

Materials:  Political cartoon  --  to access click here for PDF of Science newsletter (page 12).

Note: Questions for Discussion and Further Questions for Discussion are partially adapted from material in Developing Scientific Literacy:  Using News Media in the Classroom, reviewed elsewhere in this issue. 

Questions for Discussion:  What issue is this cartoon about?  Do you think the cartoon is in favor of GM food or against GM food?  Why do you think this?  Is the cartoon fact or opinion?  What opinion or viewpoint is the cartoon communicating? 

Further Questions for Discussion: 

Key Question #5:  Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5:  Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power


Tell students that this cartoon was part of a newspaper campaign against GM foods, then ask students: why would a news source create a campaign for or against an issue?  Do you think it’s possible for an editorial cartoon to show readers different sides of an argument?   

Extended Activity for Science Teachers   (from Exemplar in Scientific Literacy, pps. 130-134) Students are reminded that in both the article and editorial cartoon, the newspaper provided us with information that supported only or predominantly one side of the argument in the GM debate.  However, if we are to make up our own minds we need to seek out and consider all sides of the argument.  How might we find out the arguments both in favor of and against growing GM crops and selling GM food?Working in groups, students explore one or two information sources relating to GM food (interesting examples may be drawn from scientific societies, environmental groups, the BBC, etc.) and compile a list of advantages and disadvantages of growing GM crops for food or other purposes.  As a class, they collate the results of their research.  Finally, in whole-class discussion, students evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the diverse resources they consulted as sources of information.   

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,

Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:16 )

Image Builders

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In the 1930’s, Franklin Roosevelt used the new medium of radio in an attempt to win voter support for his New Deal policies.  And seventy years later, Barack Obama is using a variety of web tools to attract support for his policies.  On the website, you’ll find transcripts of press briefings, blogs, and photos, all of which can be exported to a variety of social media applications.  The site also includes videos of our President at various town halls and events, and frequent video addresses in which Obama makes his case directly to voters. The material on this site is selected by someone in the White House and is posted to create a positive image of our country’s leadership. More and more, politicians are understanding how the use of media can positively impact public image and help gain support among voters.  Take a look at  this image of President Obama at the recent Summit of the Americas:

The social environment conveyed in this photo is casual, yet Obama is clearly a leader who has ideas to discuss with the Congressional delegation in the photo.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will take a stand on issues they care about, and also learn how to create an image of themselves as leaders taking action on those issues.       

Have your students create a “photo opportunity” at school which projects an image of leadership

AHA!:  A picture showing me “in action” can inspire other people to support my cause!            

Key Question #5 for Producers:  Have I communicated my purpose effectively? 

Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Grade Level:  8+

Materials:  any camera, whether personal, disposable, or digital

Ask your students to think about an issue they feel deserves attention.  It could be the school’s lunch policy or the need for a gymnasium or theater program. Or students could identify an individual or group whom they believe deserve praise for their contributions to the campus community.    

Next, ask your students to think of a photo opportunity for themselves which could also help draw popular support for the issue or person they’ve chosen.  They could be presenting an award.  They could be having a serious discussion with the principal.  They could be “caught” in an act of service.  You may wish to use photos from to discuss the kinds of scenarios which are typically used to project images of leadership. 

Students should also produce some writing for this activity which helps to establish the purpose of the photo-op.  At a minimum, students should write a caption which helps to frame the importance of the scene which has been captured in the photograph.  With more time allotted to this activity, students could write a blog, a position statement, or a plea for support. 

If at all possible, give your students the opportunity to use the photo as a presentation tool as they discuss their issue before the class.  Doing so should help ensure that students choose an issue which is of genuine concern to them. 

The way in which photo opportunities are created and displayed depends on your students’ technical sophistication, the sophistication of the equipment you have available, and the imagination of you and your students.  


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,  




Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 July 2009 08:58 )

To Be or Not to Be? That is the Social Networking Question

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According to a recent MacArthur Foundation study, teens typically use social networking sites to “hang out” with friends.  Teens also put together personal pages as an expression of their style, creating something to make an impression on other teens who “hit” their site out of curiosity. In this MediaLit Moment, your students will explore the difference between personal pages they use primarily to communicate with friends and pages they design primarily to make an impression on people they don’t know.  In the process, your students are likely to discover that they create different personas for themselves from page to page.      

Have your students create a personal home page designed to impress someone they would like to meet. 

AHA!: The “me” I show to my friends is different from the “me” I show to somebody I don’t know!

Key Question #1 for Producers:  What am I authoring?

Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.

Grade:  9+

Materials:  Computer, data projector, screen, high speed internet connection.  OR printed screen shots of students’ home pages and the new pages they’ve created.

HOMEWORK: Ask your students to start a home page which they would use to introduce themselves to someone they would like to meet.  See the suggestions below for possible scenarios. 

If they wish, students can create this as a subsection of their home page.  If students do not yet have an account with a social networking site provider, this may be an opportunity for them to get started, though they could draw a plan of their new site as well. 

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS/TOPICS: You’ve been asked to host a foreign exchange student in your home.  Put together a page which tells the student about the US, the city you live in, and about yourself.  Or, let’s say you would like to be a foreign exchange student in another country. Create a page in which you introduce yourself to a potential host family.       

What’s your dream job?  What would your dream company be like?  Now imagine that this company is looking for entry-level employees.  Put together a page that might impress the people at this company. 

Create a page or profile to send to a group (offline or online) that you might like to join.

Is there a college or school you hope to attend in the future?  Work on a page that you would like to send to that school.

Create a page for someone who’s an expert at something you would like to learn more about (examples -- a comic/graphic novel illustrator, a fashion designer, a local musician).

IN CLASS: When students return to class, ask them to compare old and new pages.  Ask them to complete the following fill-in-the-blank response:  The _________ (student’s name) I see in my new page is _______________  (personal qualities--for example, organized, scary, serious, laid-back, knowledgeable, etc. )

In small groups, or as a class, discuss the differences between students’ pages, (especially the different kind of people they appear to be from page to page).

Extended Discussion: 

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2:  Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

In small groups, students talk about their design process as well.  What kinds/categories of items did they place in the new page that they did not have “up” on their old page?  Why?  


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,  



Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 07:43 )

Making of a Model

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The beauty and fashion industries spare no expense in transforming models into goddess-like figureheads for company advertising.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will take an inside look at some of the techniques used to make this transformation happen.    

Ask students to identify the techniques used to turn a woman into a billboard model

AHA!  A lot of people have to do a lot of work to create the image I see on a billboard or in a magazine ad!   

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2:  Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules

Grade Level:  9+  

Materials:  Computer with internet access, data projector and screen 

The goal of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (  is to “widen definitions of beauty” in an attempt to free women from constrictive beauty stereotypes.  The website features a number of videos, including its “Evolution” video:[cp-documentid=7049560]/ This video begins with an initial photo shoot of a woman, then lurches into fast motion as its depicts the application of make-up, hairstyling, and digital enhancements used to turn her into a fashion photo image.  The video is just over a minute in length.   

Questions for Discussion:   What techniques were used to make this woman look so flawless?  What changes had to be made to her appearance?  Is this type of beauty attainable for the advertiser's audience?

Further Discussion: The video ends with the message:  “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.  Every girl deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is.” As you prepare to lead this discussion, consider Core Concept  #4:  Media have embedded values and points of view.

You may also want to lead students in a discussion of the Campaign for Real Beauty.  As you prepare, consider: Key Question #5:  Why is this message being sent? and Core Concept #5:  Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Questions for discussion:  Why did Dove put together this video?  Why would this company, which is also involved in the beauty industry, start a campaign for “real beauty”?    

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 07:45 )

Going for Gold: Ads from the Olympic Games

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Advertisers often create different ads to sell the same product to different (niche) audiences. They spend large amounts of research time and money to determine what appeals to certain audiences. Television advertisers for the Beijing Summer Olympics used a number of strategies to market their brands, and creating a sense of heightened emotional participation in the lives of athletes was one of the most common--and popular--approaches advertisers used.  With this Media Lit Moment, you can help students identify some of the responses advertisers hoped to elicit from viewers of the summer games. 

Have students investigate their responses to an advertisement about a famous Olympic defeat (Visa). 

AHA!  This advertiser knows I’m a fan of the Olympic games and has targeted this ad to me to stir my emotions. They want me to like their brand because I like the Olympics! 

Key Question #3: How might different people understand this message differently? 

Core Concept #3:  Different people experience the same media message differently.

Grade Level:  middle school + 

Materials:  Still frame from or entire advertisement by Visa for Beijing Olympics which narrates the injury and defeat of Derek Redmond in a 1992 summer games track event.  Computer with internet access and projection screen; OR overhead projector and transparency for still shot. 

Resources:  Article on Olympic advertisements from August 18th Wall Street Journal online, which includes a free video link to the advertisement.   And/or sample still shot from:

Activity:  The camera and the narration for this ad devote significant attention to the athlete’s pained expressions and Redmond’s father helping him walk to the finish line. Have the students talk about the image(s) and the emotions they evoke.   What is their response to the close-ups of Redmond in his moment of defeat?   What do they think/feel about the presence of Redmond’s father in the scene?  What does this ad make them think or feel about the Olympic Games in general?What kind of response do they think the advertiser hoped they would have?  Why would Visa create this ad?  (Visa is not only promoting its product, but its sponsorship of the 2008 summer games).   

Encourage Further Discussion:  Use the Wall Street Journal article to discuss television advertisements for the Olympics in a broader context.  The article discusses the pricing of ads, Nielsen rankings for most popular ads, and the different types of ads which tended to be the most popular.  The online article also includes free links to about fifteen of the most popular ads, including a few ads for Chinese audiences.       

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   


Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 07:46 )

Page 18 of 19
Previous Issues:

 21st century skills
 a day in the life of a media literacy educator
 a year in review 2014
 a year in review december 2012
 advertising consumer debt and media literacy
 anytime anywhere learning
 big data
 body image and media literacy
 building a strong foundation
 call to action
 cell phones as learning tools
 change management in schools
 children and media literacy part 2
 children and media literacy
 citizen journalism
 citizenship in the digital age part 2
 citizenship in the digital age
 cml media literacy trilogy
 comics and media literacy
 community media
 confirmation bias and media literacy
 criteria for media literacy instruction
 crowdfunding and media literacy
 digital britain
 documentary film and media literacy
 education and creative economy
 education creative economy australia
 esl and media literacy
 fair use for media literacy
 faith and media literacy
 frameworks for inquiry
 gender representation media
 global citizenship media literacy
 global education
 heuristics nudge theory and the internet of things
 history of media literacy
 leadership elizabeth thoman
 len masterman and the big ideas of media literacy
 libraries museums and informal learning
 maps and media literacy
 media and body image
 media and information literacy
 media and information literacy part 2
 media deconstruction as essential learning skill
 media literacy computational thinking
 media literacy risk assessment
 media literacy and 21st century skills
 media literacy and arts education
 media literacy and common core
 media literacy and human rights
 media literacy and masculinity
 media literacy and media construction
 media literacy and nutrition
 media literacy and personal data management
 media literacy and pharmaceutical advertising
 media literacy and science
 media literacy and student empowerment
 media literacy and the environment
 media literacy and video games
 media literacy early childhood education
 media literacy for grown ups
 media literacy in the community
 media literacy pioneers
 media literacy policy and legislation
 media morals and empowerment
 media violence and media relationships
 media violence
 monsters and media literacy
 new curriculum and media literacy
 online privacy and media literacy
 online safety
 parents and media literacy
 participation in what
 professional development for media literacy
 propaganda and media literacy
 reality tv and media literacy
 research media literacy
 responding to racism and stereotypes in media
 sexism in media
 social networking
 sports and media literacy
 systems thinking and media literacy
 teaching healthy skepticism
 television and media literacy
 the mediated city and the public
 the role of journalism in society
 trust through technology
 us department of education
 voices of media literacy
 what media literacy is and is not
 whats in a name
 where are we now institutionalizing media literacy