Welcome to the fourth article of the Global Digital Citizenship in 15 Minutes series. In this article we talk about Media Fluency instruction. Each part in the series provides resources for exploring the 21st Century Fluencies and Global Digital Citizenship with your students in 15 minutes or less each day. If you missed them, here are the links to our three previous instalments on Solution FluencyInformation Fluency, and Creativity Fluency.

Let’s begin by taking a look at Media Fluency and discovering a little about it. You can also download the Media Fluency QuickStart Guide for a more in-depth exploration of the essential skills that are a part of this fluency.

An Interactive World of Media

Media Fluency refers to the ability to unconsciously interpret the messages contained within media of all sorts. It includes the ability to both understand and communicate messages in multiple multimedia formats. It also shows us how both these mediums and messages are considered. Media Fluency has 2Ls—Listen and Leverage.


In our digital world, consumable media is everywhere. We are a visual society that has moved far beyond text-based ways of communicating. Our digital students have interacted with television, videos, and computer games since early childhood. These various mediums deliver colorful, high-quality, powerfully expressive images and multisensory experiences with little to no text.

There will always be a need for words. That said, images and video alone are powerful enough to communicate our intended messages. Our words now simply complement them.

Here are some interesting stats to consider as we talk about the importance of Media Fluency as a modern learning skill:

  • The average Internet user spends roughly 6 hours online every day. Mobile Web usage through smartphone and tablet is at an average of 2 hours a day for most users.
  • According to Pew Internet Research, over half of teens (56%) go online several times in one day, with roughly 24% online “almost constantly.”
  • YouTube has over a billion users, nearly one-third of all people on the Internet, watching hundreds of millions of hours of video and generating billions of views. YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S


As we mentioned in our book Literacy is Not Enough, we are living in an interactive visual world. Our students must be able to communicate as effectively in graphical formats as we were taught to communicate with text.

Introducing Media Fluency to Students

Our students need no urging to dive into media usage. What’s important about Media Fluency is to ensure they have a deeper understanding of its power and influence. Once they understand not just how it works but also why it works, they have taken a bold step towards accomplishing true media mastery.

Use visuals: You can download our Fluency Posters here, and print off a copy of the Media Fluency mini-poster to hand out to each student. These posters showcase the fundamental meaning of each Fluency and the skills each one intuitively develops.

Real-World Compare/Contrast: This is a great way to get students thinking about things like media spin and bias. You could compare examples of TV’s fictional depictions of the Gulf War or Vietnam War with various historically-based accounts. You could also try carefully viewing situations of stylized violence on a television series compared to how it actually looks in the real world, and discuss why we tend to sensationalize it for entertainment purposes.

Finally, you can explore and discuss videos like these. It depicts how models are transformed post-shoot for public viewing. What do these videos say about the reasons why we manipulate media to alter our perception of what is considered “beautiful?”

Approaching Media Fluency as Daily Lessons

Each phase of Media Fluency can be studied as a mini-lesson to help students develop an understanding of its process. You can do this over a few days. Devote a bit of time to letting students explore each part of each phase. Explore the resources chosen for each one below.


The Message

Listening involves looking critically at a piece of content and decoding the real message within it. This includes how we look at things like websites, videos, blogs,TV shows, podcasts, news programs, or video games. When we view/listen to these things, what is the real message we’re intended to receive?

Truly listening isn’t about passive consumption. It’s about actively listening, and really hearing what’s being said.

This means being able to both verbalize and verify the message. With verbalization we state the message clearly and concisely. With verification, we use Information Fluency skills to separate fact from opinion and bias, and hone in on the true essence of the intended message.

Our goal with listening is to understand how our media is used to shape our thinking. It’s also about evaluating the effect to which a certain medium is used to communicate. In some instances, would another choice of medium be better than another?


The Medium

This is all about the physical delivery of the message, and the medium used to do it. It involves analyzing the form, the flow, and the alignment of the medium to decide if it is the most appropriate one to use.

Form refers to the design and overall look and appearance of what you’re looking at. Flow is the same thing as thinking about the flow of a good story. Is it logical and sensible? Does it draw you in or confuse you and turn you off? Finally, alignment refers to the wether or not the right medium is being used for the target audience.


  • This Forbes article from John Hall talks all about choosing the right medium for your message.
  • Check out this article on 99U that talks about how telling a story with your message is a surefire way to get it to stick.
  • Vibe think also discusses the importance of telling a story with advertising in this article and video.


The Message

In the Leverage stage, we start again with our intended message. We select and apply the most appropriate media for the message considering three things: audience, content, and outcome. We also account for our own individual abilities, and for any predetermined criteria.

When creating your message, consider first your audience. Who are they, and why are you trying to reach them? What do they need?

What do they prefer and what truly motivates them to act or make certain decisions?

Next up, what’s your content all about? You must have a clear idea of what your message will be and why you want to send it. This time, it’s about your motivations and goals. Last but not least, consider your intended outcome. Often what we say is far less important than how we choose to say it. What’s your desired effect—what do you want people to walk away thinking and feeling?


The Medium

Now that you understand the audience and what you want to convey, your next job is to choose the appropriate medium for your message. This depends on how you deliver and review the chosen medium.

In order to deliver your message properly, you’ve got to choose a medium that aligns with your intended outcome and your audience. For example, you wouldn’t choose to do a standard basic Keynote or PowerPoint slideshow if you wanted to teach your students about using new online media to produce eye-popping presentations. Instead you’d talk about design and “capture step” techniques, and use a unique and creative presentation tool to drive home your point.

Next, after you’ve delivered your message, you review your process by measuring it against predetermined success criteria. This is how you find out if you achieve your goals, and if the medium you chose was the most appropriate one for your audience.


Additional Resources to Enjoy

mf quickstart guide

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