media literacy in the curriculum

Media literacy is one of the integrating principles in Austrian education. It is specifically named in the media education policy decree of the Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture. As a part of media pedagogy, media education has been an educational principle since 1973. The goal of the current decree (2001) is to generate measures that critically and analytically integrate both the traditional mass media and the new media, particularly the Internet, into education.





Media rule our private sphere as much as our working life. The technical facilities for multiplication, transfer and networking are gaining ever greater influence on the “natural” environment of pupils and students; they are part of their reality, their world. Education should accompany and encourage the children and adolescents in their relations to the world/reality.

The share that the media have in our experience of the world/reality is constantly growing – a new dimension of reality has been created by the emergence of highly developed technologies. Considering that a reflective encounter and discourse with realities is a fundamental part of the science of education, the conclusion is that media pedagogy should become a much more integrated part of pedagogy. Pedagogy must double as media pedagogy.
Media experience by way of language, images, drawings, books, theatre plays, etc. has indeed long contributed to shaping human reality. The sheer extent to which these media helped to form our reality/view of the world has, however, been virtually ignored in the teacher training system. The fact that and the means how “language” as a basic medium is instrumental in the establishment of reality, is only now entering subject-specific didactics. Similar considerations apply to the audio-visual media.

The process of mass communication through mass media has made it possible to transmit the same message to an infinite number of recipients over a geographical and/or temporal distance. With this, the media open up opportunities for global communication, a cosmopolitan outlook and the ongoing development of democracy, yet they also harbour the danger of greater manipulation. The reality changed by and changing through the media is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. Within the meaning of media policy knowledge, media education is a discourse not only on the causes, effects and types of media communication, but also on the various interests which determine the choice and content of information and the method of its communication.

In view of the challenge posed by the electronic media, school needs even more to face up to the need to contribute to educating human beings who are able to communicate and to arrive at a judgment of their own, to enkindle creativity and pleasure in own creations, and – within the scope of the “media education” educational principle – to encourage individuals in finding their focus in society and a constructive-critical approach to experiences to which they are exposed.

In order to clearly identify these objectives of media education, it is necessary to define all terms used for media in a school environment as well as customary names for subjects linked with media work.


2.1. Media pedagogy includes all issues concerning the pedagogical importance of media in education, leisure and work. It looks into the contents and functions of media, their forms of utilisation in these areas and their individual as well as social impact. In view of the complexity of the term, it is useful to subdivide the complex of media pedagogy as follows:

2.1.1. Media didactics: covers the functions and effects of media in teaching and learning processes. The use of audio-visual media in their role as teaching materials should be decided with due account given to the educational and teaching task, the curriculum, and the didactic principles of the respective subject.
Media are tools to achieve subject-specific objectives (education by media).

2.1.2. Media education: a type of pedagogical utilisation of the media intended to teach the critical-reflective use of all media. Where media become important for human socialisation as a means of information, entertainment, education and day-to-day organisation, they become the subject of media education – the media are the subject and object of education (education on media).

Media education concerns all communication media and their combinations made possible by the so-called New Media. These communication media are constituent parts of all texts, regardless of the technology:
the word, printed/spoken, graphics, sound, stills and moving pictures. The so-called New Media (including the Internet), being developments and combinations of the above modules, are essentially technologies that serve their distribution and have an effect on several social dimensions. Critical reflection on the possible effects is also included in media education.

The potential to combine data of all kinds into gigantic information networks and to make use of these both in a working and a domestic environment, i.e. to obtain, access and process them, causes the boundaries to be blurred between individual and mass communication, between the book and newspaper markets, between entertainment and business communication. It is especially in the New Media segment that media education is confronted with new issues concerning its autonomous critical use.


Before launching into a discussion of some fields of media education, it seems necessary to define the term “media competence” within the meaning of this Ordinance:
Media competence as an objective of media-pedagogical work includes not just the skills to handle the technical side but, even more, skills such as the ability to select, differentiate, structurise and recognise own needs, etc. It is in particular when using the so-called New Media that issues of individual and social relevance emerge in a media-education context which range beyond the mere use of the media for a specific field.
Examples: What does the sheer volume of information mean for the human capacity to process information? What processes of selection, structurisation and professionalisation need to be put in place? How can the credibility and reliability of information be safeguarded? What are the implications of media convergence? How does content convergence, i.e. the mixture of games and movies, objective information and emotive elements, etc. mean for processing? What is the reference frame that we use for computer simulation? What are the consequences of mixing borderlines and blurring the contents of the terms “real–virtual–fictional”?

3.1. Media use: By offering critical insights into the phenomena of communication, media education should guide pupils/students to media activities that are both conscious and participatory to the extent possible within the relevant life situation. Media activities require that people are active in any communication situation involving media. This means that they negotiate their own importance in a given interaction during their media use. Accordingly, media education, starting out from the pupil’s/student’s personal disposition and with due regard to his/her linguistic abilities, should include not only the cognitive but also the affective field. It should help the pupil/student to rethink his/her own role expectations and recognise his/her own communication needs and deficits.

Pupils/students should also realise and experience that the mass media intentionally arouse the need for consumer-oriented behaviour. They should realise that new types of individual and mass communication extend their options for active participation in economic, political and cultural life. And they should realise and experience that the electronic media have a substantial contributive impact on the personal leisure time organisation and behaviour. In this respect, reference should be made to the close links between the leisure-time and entertainment industry and the mass media with a view to the development of typical behavioural patterns.

3.2. Communication
with and through the media: Media education should enable pupils/students to manage in a world about which they are mostly informed by the media. They should be made to realise that the media contribute significantly to their political judgement. They should realise that the expansion of communication technologies provides more opportunities for humans to express themselves and participate in political life by “direct” democracy through the pressing of a button, and provides better political information, better information from government authorities, while at the same time they should find out that the communication media, through encouraging passivity, keep people from direct participation in political life, distract them from political conflicts and expose them to political manipulation from well-financed interest groups. They should learn how to use media to arrive at a critical judgement and thus strengthen their own competence for action. They should experience that the media create their own reality, not just as a mediator of fictitious worlds, but also in projecting an image of reality. Yet the pupils/students should realise that this managed reality cannot be neutral in its values. They should recognise the structure, design and effect of the various types of media, such as movies, transparencies, etc., and they should understand which content is chiefly transported by which media. They should be made aware that identical contents are presented differently and thus have different effects.
Media education should raise awareness for the frequently biased and cliché-ridden presentation of social and gender roles by the media. Pupils/students should become sensitised to the issue of the extent to which the media are realistic in their presentation of every-day life situations (e.g. relations between women and men, between employees and bosses, between young and old, etc.). They should realise that social- and gender-specific roles are subject to stereotyping.
Even though the media cannot on their own effect a change in the understanding of the role distribution prevailing in our society, they are still important in influencing and enlightening the public. By reflecting certain values, they contribute to maintaining mainstream value conceptions and may either strengthen or weaken ideas, models and views.
3.3. Media as an economic factor or mass media as an institution:
The pupils/students should realise that economic, technical, social and ideological prerequisites as well as different organisational structures (under public law or as private enterprises) necessitate certain types of production or distribution, as well as certain criteria for the selection and representation of the contents disseminated. In this context, reference can be made to the types of procurement of news items, to the financing by user fees and advertising, and to the tension between imported and local media products. Similarly, treatment should also be accorded to the role of advanced public relations activities as a partner and supplier of information to the media. Modern public relations activities provide, i.a., an open and long-term dialogue between fractions in society (business, politics, science, social affairs, sports, etc.) and the media. In this context, concepts such as independence, objectivity, credibility, plurality of opinions, manipulation, etc. should be critically analysed.
3.4. Own media creations:
Within the context of learning to act and to experience, the pupils/students should be encouraged to work on their own media products within the scope of media education. Yet regardless of the merits of own productions for a variety of learning objectives, they do not yet constitute media education. It is only when practical work is combined with critical reflection on the production process that we can talk about media-pedagogical work. Such reflection may, i.a., refer to the experience collected in social matters, the creation of a momentousness that underlies media work, etc. This is to ensure that media work will lead to the conscious gain of insights.


4.1. General
Considering that the topics discussed in the media touch upon all fields of understanding and action, media education is not limited to individual subjects or age groups. Rather, each teacher is obliged to consider them as an educational principle in all subjects with due regard to the relevant subject, as is provided for in the curricula.
For this, project-oriented teaching methods are recommended.
In doing so, integrating the mass media in teaching must not be seen as simply using the media as an impulse for teaching a specific subject or as an illustration of the presentation of a subject. Rather, in using and examining the media, awareness should be raised on how they influence our view of the world and how this impacts on social and political decision-making.
It is especially because the media appear to depict the world so spontaneously and naturally that the following should always be included in our thoughts:
Media are never neutral vessels of information. The images, which we think are depictions of reality, are actually shaped, professionally constructed – and this is why their decoding requires a high potential of media competence. Similarly in the natural sciences – which are assigned a high degree of objectiveness in the traditional discourse – the key questions (who informs whom of what, and with what intention?), which we use to dissect media texts, are of eminent importance – and they should be applied just the same as in media texts which are clearly and obviously “made”.
Critical media analysis does not obstruct – as is often feared by practitioners of didactics – the subject-specific information content of the media. Quite on the contrary: dealing with the interfaces between the subject-specific contents and the mediation share contributed by the medium adds significantly to the degree of media competence as well as to the subject-specific knowledge yield. The insight that even those audio-visual media that are specially designed for teaching cannot be objective, shakes the belief in the rightness and truth of other media (such as e.g. school textbooks). Thinking of concepts such as truth or rightness will lead to the questioning of the seemingly naturalness and obviousness of many images which suggest an authentic truth.
Similarly, the use of audio-visual teaching aids, which is absolutely necessary to ensure modern and effective teaching, cannot be accounted for as media education, unless their media-specific properties are discussed beyond the technical side of their use. Thus, next and in addition to the technical content of the medium, consideration should be given to whether and to what extent interests pursued by the media producers will affect the content and arrangement of what is offered.
Media education shall, as a rule, be offered to all age groups, in line with the intellectual development of the pupils/students.

4.2. Examples of implementation
4.2.1. Combination with the curriculum

The 99 curriculum (for the Hauptschule or general secondary school) considers the importance of the media in today’s world already in its preamble: “Innovative technologies of information and communication and the mass media increasingly penetrate all spheres of life.”
In addition, the division into education sectors, emphasis on cross-linked and cross-disciplinary teaching and the importance of references to the “lifeworlds” offer a number of approaches to implementing media education:
“Pursuant to Section 17 of the School Teaching Act, teaching shall be based on scientific insights as well as on the experience and capabilities that the pupils/students provide from their own life.” and
“Considering that all subjects are intended to have a common educational effect, teaching shall take into account the subject-specific of individual subjects and cross-disciplinary and cross-linked aspects networked with them. This corresponds to the networking and mutual complementing of disciplines and aims to help pupils/students in handling the challenges of day-to-day life.”
With regard to the educational subjects, explicit reference should be made to the fields of “language and communication” and “creativity and creation”:
“In each subject, the pupils/students shall be enabled to use and extend their cognitive, emotional, social and creative capacities by and through the language – including, without limitation, image language.” and “Expressing, verbally and nonverbally, ideas and emotions is an essential life form of human beings. Pupils/students shall be given opportunities to gather creative experience themselves and to associate it with cognitive insights through approaches that make use of the senses.”

4.2.2. Exemplary proposals Pre-school education, primary school (1st to 4th forms)
In addition to the core areas of the subjects “German”, “Art Education” and “Technical Education”, the entire curriculum is suitable for integrating the educational principle. Discussing and comparing the children’s own observations and experience with secondary experience obtained from the media leads to greater awareness of the specific properties of individual media and the resulting effects. Subject areas to be considered will be both media products that specifically address children of primary school age (e.g. kid programmes on TV, magazines for kids, “kid pages” in magazines, comic strips, Internet pages for kids, computer games and educational software) and media products which, while not produced specifically for children of that age group, are actually consumed by them. Through encouraging self-action and insights into the characteristic properties of the media, the pupils/students should be enabled to acquire experience of their own in producing media. Special school for the handicapped (1st to 9th forms)
Media education is of particular importance in the special schools: on the one hand, disabilities frequently restrict the children in collecting direct experience, which should be at least partly compensated by the use of media. On the other hand, for many types of disabilities, the media have an important role in bridging communication barriers (e.g. in physically or mentally impaired children). Media education in this wider sense of the word thus links special-needs-related tasks and objectives with those concerns of media education which are addressed to disabled pupils/students in their role as media consumers.
The curricula of special schools include numerous concrete approaches to considering both aspects. These range from subfields of subjects (e.g. photography and film/video in Art Education) to a detailed syllabus (e.g. newspaper, film and TV in History and Sociology). General secondary school, academic secondary school (5th to 8th forms)
The syllabus for German and Art Education (general secondary school, academic secondary school) explicitly makes reference to media education. Additional ways to approach the field are observations on the expressive values of linguistic and non-linguistic forms of expression, training in the ability to obtain information on facts for oneself and provide it to others, and role playing.
At this occasion it should be pointed out again that media education should start out, especially and particularly in this age group, from personal media experience, observations and habits of the pupils/students, and should lead to self-reflection. Medium- and higher-level schools, pre-vocational school and vocational school (9th to 12th/13th forms)
Pre-vocational schools include media education in their syllabuses for the subjects of Vocational Information and Life Guidance, German, Project Work and in subjects chosen from a compulsory group. The syllabuses in the curriculum of medium- and higher-level schools contain numerous mentions of key subjects of media education. The role and value of the media may be discussed in the various subjects, chiefly in (cross-disciplinary) project work (e.g. media as an economic factor, advertising as an economic factor, the aesthetics of advertising, the language of advertising, public relations activities as a tool for dialogue, economic and social policy functions and the role of p.r. activities, opportunities and risks of strategic p.r. activities for shaping the published and public opinion, concepts and tools of p.r. activities) for the subjects of German, Art Education and Economics. In the teaching of German, a comparative discussion of literary works and the movies made of them may indicate the possibilities and limits of the two art categories. In the teaching of History, Sociology and Contemporary History, audio-visual media may be considered in terms of their role as source material, but also in their development and impact on society. In the teaching of Psychology and Philosophy, issues of journalistic ethics, the psychology of mass communication, perception-psychological issues, or opinion-forming and manipulating processes may be discussed. In the teaching of Physics and Chemistry, the technical basis of phonography and photography, of radio and TV broadcasting and problems of communications engineering may be dealt with.

4.3. Media knowledge in the stricter sense of the word covers that part of media education which informs about media, their development, organisation and structures. In terms of the school, it is the name given to a non-mandatory practical course held, e.g., at academic secondary schools. For more details on its contents see the relevant curricula as amended.

4.4. Media didactics is a term also used, within the meaning of the plans of studies for the teacher training colleges, technical and vocational teacher training colleges and colleges to train religious instructors, to name a subject that unites the objectives of media didactics (cf. 2.1.1.) and media education (cf. 2.1.2.).

4.5. Teaching technology is applied, according to the plan of studies at the teacher training colleges, to teaching the skills and basic technical know-how to handle audio-visual equipment and systems, combined with information on the proper use of media hard- and software in teaching. The skills thus taught are a prerequisite for creative work with the media.

4.6. The custodian entrusted with managing the audio-visual teaching materials should, in addition to bearing responsibility for, taking the initiative on and making proposals for the collection and expansion of the materials under his/her custody (Section 52 of the School Teaching Act SchUG), provide technical support to media education projects.

4.7. Within the meaning of Section 62 of the SchUG (close co-operation between teachers and parents in all issues of education and school), the parents should be invited to participate in the educational work, especially with regard to media education. Media consumption, habits and effects should be discussed at parents’ evenings; further activities (school events, etc.) may be proposed at the school community committee.

4.8. Outside school, guiding pupils/students toward responsible media consumption is a critical task in the collaboration between educators and pupils/students.

4.9. School events may be organised, also with the participation of non-school organisations, in accordance with the Ordinance governing school events. The costs accruing to the pupils/students from such school events (e.g. entrance tickets, travel costs) must be both economical and reasonable. Financial considerations must always take second place to pedagogical considerations: thus, financial considerations must not lead to showing movies suitable for certain age groups also to other (usually younger) pupils/students for cost reasons.

4.10. Within the scope of continuous teacher training, the responsible school authority shall make provision for workshops and lectures (shows) both on the use of audio-visual teaching materials and on the problems of media education to be offered to the teachers of all subjects and types of schools. In order to achieve the most intense training of teachers, it is recommended to establish a focus on media education at the teacher training colleges.


This Ordinance shall become effective on 20 November 2001. Upon this Ordinance entering into force, the Ordinance ZL 33.223/14-V/13b/94 of 20 April 1994 shall become neffective.

Vienna, 20 November 2001
The Federal Minister: Gehrer
Ordinance of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture
GZ 48.223/14-Präs. 10/01, Circular no. 64/01
Responsible for the content: Susanne Krucsay