What is Media Literacy?

What are ‘media’?

For much of the history of media literacy education, media have been seen as representations of concrete, real-life experiences. Legacy media include newspapers, radio, TV, which most often represent real experiences. The objects these media present have been termed ‘texts.’ But because new media create wholly virtual environments and experiences that may have little or no correlatives in the real world, yet are fully valid life experiences, ‘media text’ is no longer sufficient. Therefore, we use the terms ‘media experience,’ ‘media environment’, ‘media forms’, as well as ‘media’: these can include a video documentary but also a computer game, video conference or virtual environment. Media environments also include any real or virtual sites or situations that construct a message, such as streetscapes, schools, or rock concerts.

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and use the codes and conventions of a wide variety of media forms and genres appropriately, healthily, effectively and ethically. Media literacy also aims to provide people with the ability to create and distribute their own media products.

Is there a difference between media and digital literacy?

All media forms, genres and environments – analogue or digital – are “media”. Digital, like paper, is a method of containing and distributing media experiences. Like paper, digital’s effects are not neutral, but influence the speed, scope and changeability of media experiences.

Media literacy skills, therefore, include critical thinking about digital media (“digital literacy”, or “digital media literacy”). So although “digital literacy” refers specifically to the critical use and consumption of digitally-created and distributed media (e.g., internet, smartphones, social media and videogames), it falls under the umbrella of media literacy, and media literacy helps to understand and appreciate it.

What are AML’s activities & services?

AML aims to support educators, parents and caregivers – all community members – in their understanding and appreciation of how media work, how they are organized, and how they produce meaning. We are the official Subject Association for Media Literacy under Ontario’s Ministry of Education. Founded in 1978, we wrote the province’s Media Literacy curriculum, making Ontario the first educational jurisdiction in the world to mandate media studies in every core English/Language course.

We fulfill our mission through speakers, workshops, and support material. In addition, we offer Additional Qualifications courses for teachers in Media Studies. We also publish an online newsletter for subscribed members, and produce Mediacy, a regular podcast on VoicEd Radio.

Other activity includes liaising with government, school boards, teachers, subject associations, and the media industry about mutual concerns; providing a world-wide network for media literacy educators; and consulting with the Ontario Ministry of Education on curriculum development and revision for the elementary and secondary panels.


Board of Directors

  • Neil Andersen – President
  • Carol Arcus
  • Wayne Arcus – Treasurer
  • Chelsea Attwell – Vice President
  • Sarah Bayne (on leave)
  • Irene Faiz
  • June Lee (on leave)
  • Diana Maliszewski – Vice President
  • Michilin ni Threasaigh
  • Nina Silver
  • Michelle Solomon

Past Presidents

  • 1978-91 – Barry Duncan (founder)
  • 1991-97 – Rick Shepherd
  • 1997-2011 – Carolyn Wilson
  • 2011-present – Neil Andersen

What are some of the AML’s awards and accomplishments?

  • 1978    AML founded by Barry Duncan, Linda Schuyler, Arlene Moscovitch, Jerry McNabb. First media literacy conference: The Media: How To Talk Back (Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, Toronto)
  • 1986    Media education becomes part of the Ontario curriculum
  • 1989   Media Literacy Resource Guide (Ontario Ministry of Education)
  • 1989 – 2024   The Jesse McCanse Award from the National Telemedia Council to Barry Duncan, John Pungente, Chris Worsnop, Neil Andersen, Carolyn Wilson, and Carol Arcus
  • 1994    AML originates the concept and purpose of the Media Awareness Network, now MediaSmarts 
  • 1998   Ontario becomes the first jurisdiction in the world to embed media literacy into core English
  • Award: “The Most Influential Media Education Organization in North America” from the World Council for Media Education (1998)
  • 2000    Summit 2000: Children, Youth and the Media: Beyond the Millennium  – the world’s largest media education conference, with over 1500 participants from 54 countries
  • 2010   AML launches its own YouTube channel
  • 2012 – 2014   Inside My Classroom Pre-Service Conferences (York University)
  • 2014    Understanding Media Now Conference (Ryerson University)
  • 2016    End User License Agreement Posters
  • 2017    Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL)
  • 2017 – 2019   Media Studies Additional Qualifications Course (Toronto DSB)
  • 2017    Journal of Media Literacy Agency Issue
  • 2019    Founders & Board (McLuhan Foundation)
  • 2019 – present   Mediacy podcasts (Voice Ed Radio)
  • 2019    Online EMS3O course (TVOntario)
  • 2021    Online Media Additional Qualifications course

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