Media Literacy in a Post 9/11 World


Although the facts of the tragedy that took place on September 11, 2001 (9/11) are indisputable, there exist many diverse points of view to explain why they happened and how to respond. The responses, from the "war" on terrorism to reaction to Islam, have created their own series of diverse views and perspectives. To look for the educational meaning, or the meaning of education, in this time of crisis, educators must help students develop the necessary skills to work through the abundant information and multiple perspectives they will encounter. To achieve an authentic literate discourse on the myriad of issues surrounding 9/11, we need to frame this crisis in the global context in which it exists. Through the educational sphere of media literacy, this lesson offers a process to foster the authentic discourse and an approach to framing a global context.

In today's information age, the media that has become the dominant force in shaping our view of reality and our understanding of the way the world works. As educators in this era, we have a professional responsibility to teach our students how best to access and evaluate the vast spectrum of information, in the variety of forms and structures, which they have available to them.

Media sources may intend to be objective in their reporting, but, today more than ever, we have come to understand that all media is constructed. Because of the nature of decisions that go into producing media, from the audience it is intended to serve, to the way the story is told, to the voices that are edited to be presented, all media embodies a point of view. If one voice can be heard as advocacy, many voices can be heard as education. The best of scholarship comes from studying more than one source (whether primary, secondary or reference). This process of learning also applies to becoming media literate. Developing media literacy skills can give students tools to identify and evaluate information about their world, from a local to global context.

About the Lesson

The aim of this lesson is to have students study the atrocities of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath while building media literacy skills. It offers educators a student-centered teaching model to explore the multiplicity of issues surrounding these tragic events and the way the world has changed as a result. Students will explore multiple sources of media and varying points of view- ranging from the local to the global and the global to the local.

This lesson is designed to be self-directed for the teacher and/or student. Both the topic related to September 11 and its aftermath and the sources of media to study the topic are open to the discretion of the educator and can be tailored to meet larger curricular objectives and student interests. The media should be selected both to demonstrate the diversity of information sources and varying points of view that exist on the topic of study.

By studying the topic through different media sources, students will develop a base of knowledge, identify and consider multiple perspectives, and develop their own voice to articulately express and critically discuss the topic at hand. Through this lesson, students can learn to address a situation of conflict and crisis and examine the lenses and layers of complexity involved. The process of study, discussion, and debate surrounding issues of conflict can be used to model how students can listen to other voices and make their voices heard. This then presents the opportunity to use the classroom to explore personal and collaborative pathways to reconcile conflicting points of view.

Because of the complexity of the issues and contention over 9/11 and its aftermath, this lesson can be facilitated as a process of inquiry: teachers can begin with essential questions, work through these questions, and conclude with questions for further inquiry.


· To provide educators and students a curricular vehicle to discuss the atrocities of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath.
· To have students learn about a topic or issue stemming from the atrocities of 9/11 and its aftermath while developing independent study skills.
· To help students develop media literacy skills, which allow them to use the media to gain knowledge, think critically, and make meaning of a topic or issue, and also to be scholarly and think critically about media sources.
· To teach students to seek multiple perspectives in making informed choices about a topic or issue.
· To encourage students to seek out possibilities for common ground in conflict resolution.
· To develop a more global context for analyzing and discussing the crisis stemming from 9/11 and its aftermath.

Curricular Themes
The tragedy of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath, Social Education, Learning in a Global Context, Conflict Resolution, Media Literacy

Applied Skills
Independent Research, Reading for Information, Evaluating Information, Summarizing, Synthesizing, Critical Thinking, Dialogue, Debate, Individual and Group Process of Inquiry

Suggested Grades: 7-14

Suggested Time Frame: 3 days-2 Weeks

Curricular Suggestions for this Lesson
Select a topic of study surrounding the atrocities of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. Then choose three or four different sources of media. The sources should be selected around one common topic, issue or event.

Suggestions for Source Material and Media Forms

· Primary
· Secondary
· Reference
· News Story (from any source)
· News Analysis
· Editorial Opinions
· Essays
· Photojournalism
· Documentary/ Film
· Newspapers (Paper & Virtual)
· Periodicals (Paper & Virtual)
· World Wide Web/ Internet
· Television/ Video
· Radio/ Audio

Suggestions for Combinations of Perspectives

· Local, Regional, National, International
· American, European, Arab, Asian
· United States, Great Britain, China, India
· Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India
· United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan
· Israeli, Iraqi, Saudi, Russian
· United States, Canada, Mexico
· Different media sources within a city, state, country, or region
· Come up with your own

Suggested Topics and Issues to Study

· Terrorism
· The "War" on Terrorism
· War and Peace in a Time of Crisis
· Violent vs. Non-Violent Conflict Resolution
· Al Qaeda and/or Taliban
· Afghanistan
· United States Government Reaction to the September 11 attacks
· Foreign Policy and Diplomacy in a post-9/11 World
· United States Homeland Security
· Personal Security in a post-9/11 World
· Civil Liberties
· Human Rights
· Culture and Cultural Identity
· The Islamic World
· Religion and Religious Identity
· National Identity and Patriotism
· Recognition of September 11 anniversary
· Media coverage of September 11, 2001
· Media coverage of September 11, 2002
· Media coverage in a post-9/11 World
· The Role of Education in a post-9/11 World
· Come up with your own

Think, Pair, Share

The lesson uses a think/ pair/ share methodology, which moves students through a process of inquiry in both independent and group study. Stage one and two put students in a "think" mode. Stages three through five takes them through the "pair" and "share" modes. The five stages of this lesson can be spread over three days or more, depending on the time teachers and students wish to give it.

Stage One
Start the lesson by asking students to discuss topic of study, the events surrounding September 11, 2001, and media literacy. Here are some suggested questions:

· How did the events of September 11, 2001, play a role in your life?
· What do you know about [the topic of study]?
· Do you have any preconceived ideas or opinions about [the topic of study]?
· What is the role that media plays in our lives?
· How has the media played a role in shaping our knowledge and understanding of the atrocities of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath?
· What does it mean to be media literate?
· What information do you need to learn about [the topic of study]?
· How much information do you need to feel informed about [the topic of study]?
· Additional questions you can add.

Stage Two
Option 1, For teachers who select the media sources for students to study:

Choose three or four sources of media, from varying points of view, around the topic of study. Divide the sources of media evenly among three or four groups of students, assigning one source per group to study. For more advanced students, assign each student all of the sources to study.

Option 2, For teachers who will have students find their own sources of media:

Determine the topic(s) of study to assign students. Identify the available outlets for your students to access media (classroom, library, home). Choose the form(s) of media you want students to use (or newspapers, periodicals, internet, etc.). Select the type of media source for students to study the topic (news story, news analysis, editorial, etc.). Determine criteria for the combination of perspectives. Assign students to find three or four sources of media about the topic of study.

Have students study and summarize their media source(s). The following questions can be used to as a guide for documenting the essential information in their source(s):

· Provide a full citation for the media source (title, author/producer, date of publication, publisher, location of publisher, etc.)
· What type of media source is it (news, opinion, scholarly, governmental, advocacy, popular, alternative, etc.)?
· What is the main topic(s) or issue(s) of the media source?
· When did it happen?
· Where did it happen?
· Who was involved?
· Whose voices are being presented?
· Is there a perspective(s) about the issue being presented? If so, please describe.

Stage Three

Depending on whether the students will be studying three or four sources of media, organize students into groups to discuss the topic of study and their sources of media.

For students who initially studied all sources of media:

Have each student choose one source of media to report to the group, making sure all sources of media will be discussed. You can have students share their responses to the questions in stage two as a guideline for what information students are responsible for reporting to the group.

For students who initially studied only one source of media:

Pull one student from each initial media source group into a new group of four with each student in the new group reporting on their source of media. You can have students share their responses to the questions in stage two as a guideline for what information students are responsible for reporting to the group.

Stage Four

Have the group discuss the similarities and differences among the sources of media. The following questions can be used to help them debrief their understanding of the topic or issue:

· What do the readings discuss about [the topic of study]?
· What information is given about [the topic of study]?
· What issue(s) are being raised and addressed?
· What position(s) or perspective(s) on [the topic of study] is being presented?
· Whose voices are being represented or not represented?
· What audience/population do you feel each media source was intended to serve?
· Is there a conflict being articulated in the sources of media?
· What and where is the truth among the varying sources?
· What have they learned about [the topic of study] from this exercise?
· What have they learned about the media from this exercise?
· Consider the following statement, "One voice is advocacy, many voices is education." How does this statement relate to this exercise?
· Additional questions you can add

Stage Five
Conclude the lesson with a class discussion, small group discussion, debate, writing assignment and/or plan of action. The following questions can be used to facilitate any concluding assignment(s) or activity(ies)

· Where does the information in the sources of media converge?
· Where does the information in the sources of media diverge?
· What other sources could you seek out to provide additional perspectives on [the topic of study]?
· What particular issues and themes thread through these sources of media?
· How has [the topic of study] affected the lives of people involved? In the world? In your life?
· If there is a conflict being presented in the topic of study, how is the conflict being resolved? Is there room for common ground between the positions of conflict?
· Where do you think [the topic of study] will be 1, 5, 10 years from now?
· Is there a connection between the point of view in the source of media and the audience it was intended to serve and/or those who published it?
· Can there be citizen participation related to [the topic of study]?
· What can be done about?
· What will you do about it?
· Additional questions you can add

Suggestions for Expanding the Lesson

· Have students do further research by finding additional sources of media about [the topic of study].
· Have students write someone involved with the topic of study, or the source of media, to find more information or to express their opinion.
· Have students research more about the media source and its publisher.
· Invite media professionals (journalist, editor, producer, publisher) to class to speak with students about their work and media literacy.
· Have students act as journalists to create their own source of media about the topic of study.
· Have students choose a different topic of study to research on their own and identity three or four diverse media sources.
· Integrate the lesson with a larger curricular theme or with other disciplines.

Additional Resources
On Media Literacy

· American Library Association:
· Media Awareness Network:
· Teen Futures Media Network:

On-line Media Sources and 9/11

· 911 Digital Archive:
· Re:Constructions:

Author: Jon Garfunkel, Director of Global Source Education, for The Beyond September 11 Project.

Copyright: Global Source Education