Promoting media literacy education

Center Goals

The NW Center for Excellence in Media Literacy, located in the College of Education at the University of Washington, Seattle,WA, has the following goals:

  • Develop and provide media literacy curriculum resources to professionals and paraprofessionals working with youth.

  • Conduct research examining the impact of media literacy education.

  • Provide training in media literacy education to educators, health professionals and other adults working and living with youth.

  • Train teens to present media literacy-based curriculum materials to their peers and younger audiences.

  • Promote media literacy education as a strategy for health education.

  • Build community awareness about the importance of media literacy education and promote networking among media literacy educators.


Media Literacy Skill Building Workshops
Through its needs assessments involving individuals working with children and youth, the Center has identified strong community interest in workshops addressing media literacy education. The workshops the NW Center offers range in focus from media literacy basics to a series of skill building workshops.

Peer Education Workshops
Using media as a hook, Teen Futures Media Network, one of the Center's three main divisions, conducts numerous workshops for teens seeking to become presenters. These media literacy-based workshops designed to address specific teen health issues have been held throughout Washington State. . Teens attending the workshops receive training to become presenters of media literacy-based curriculum materials for their peers and younger audiences.

Multimedia Production Workshops
Teen Futures has presented multimedia product development workshops focused on a range of health topics including youth suicide prevention, school violence prevention and substance abuse prevention. NW Center workshops are designed to accommodate a wide variety of learning styles, encourage critical thinking and promote reflection on the targeted health issue.

Distance Learning
The NW Center has a long history in providing consultation and training via distance learning dating back to the mid-90s when Director, Marilyn Cohen, moderated Washington State's first online media literacy distance learning program for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The project reached elementary and secondary teachers who had learned about media literacy as a strategy and were attempting to integrate media literacy education into their classrooms.


Conferences/Institutes for Adults
The NW Center for Excellence in Media Literacy offers conferences and institutes to accommodate an interdisciplinary audience including educators, health professionals, and other adults serving children and youth. These conferences which it began organizing in 1996 have been designed to introduce and reinforce strategies for teaching youth to become critical media consumers and savvy media producers. As an example the series of Images of Youth conferences it held in Washington State (2000-2006) focused on teen health issues (e.g. sexual and reproductive health, nutrition and physical activity, body image, , substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, etc.) from a media literacy perspective.

Funding for this conference series was provided by Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.


Conferences/Retreats for Teens
The Center's Teen Futures Media Network coordinates events for teens that range from teen-driven one-day meetings to state conferences for teens. Retreats focusing on media production skill building, media literacy and media advocacy as well as specific health topics such teen pregnancy prevention are just a few examples here.

Youth-Driven Media

Youth Generated Website:
The NW Center for Excellence working in collaboration with youth representing the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County (BGCKC) launched their new Media Clubhouse website in 2011. This virtual clubhouse with direction from its teen board encourages BGCKC members of all ages to produce their own media and showcase their work on this site.

The Media Clubhouse site was launched with a focus on the subjects of nutrition, physical activity and media. This site was made possible with funding from Public Health-Seattle & King County and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

O2 magazine : An Anti-Tobacco Youth-Driven Magazine
From 2002 to 2006, through its Teen Futures Media Network division, the NW Center worked with a statewide board of teens, launching Washington's first teen-driven tobacco prevention magazine as a part of the Washington State Department of Health's broader tobacco prevention efforts. O2 magazine featured a wide variety of youth entries from poetry, essays, and stories to anti-ads, posters, cartoons, graphics and other forms of creative expression.

O2 engaged youth across the state in both community groups as well as classrooms encouraging them to use the print medium of their choice to express their views about tobacco prevention. The magazine attracted considerable attention both within and outside the state.
Media Contests/Media Products
Teen Futures has wide ranging experience in supporting and promoting teen-generated media products dating back to 1995-1997 when it was first selected to develop the media campaign component for Washington State Department of Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. This multifaceted campaign included a contest promoting pregnancy prevention that encouraged youth to produce multimedia messages in 15 different categories.

Teen Futures has also worked with Washington's Youth Suicide Prevention Project, conducting teen media production workshops statewide for the purpose of creating a series of media products to foster awareness about the warning signs for youth suicide. In addition it has coordinated media contests for teens focused on health issues and has also partnered from 2006-2011 with Action for Media Education , a Seattle-based non-profit, to sponsor the Images of Youth Video Festivals

Curriculum Development

The NW Center has created a variety of developmentally appropriate curriculum materials. These include the following:

Take It Seriously; Sex, Abstinence & Media (TISSAM)
Take It Seriously; Sex, Abstinence & Media (TISSAM) is a media literacy- based curriculum presented by teens to teens. TISSAM's goal is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers.

The curriculum made possible with funding from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) requires active inquiry, critical thinking and problem-solving skills of both its teen audience as well as its teen presenters. Through its lessons, teens become engaged in questioning and reexamining their own knowledge, attitudes and choices regarding sexual and reproductive health issues.

Development and field testing of this curriculum continued from 2004 -2009. For a complete history of the stages in TISSAM's developmental process which involved extensive collaboration with teens across Washington State all along the way, we encourage you to visit:

TISSAM consists of five lessons, each one approximately 40 minutes in length. Lessons include a wide array of imagery as well as videos and activities to engage a teen audience in the issues being presented. It is important to note that all lesson material is based on the work of teens at pilot sites across Washington State. Every image, statistic, video and activity has been included because teens determined that these were the materials that would have the most impact on their audience. The lessons are designed for presentation by high school age teens to a middle school audience. For more information about TISSAM, visit:

Teens, Tobacco & Media
Sponsored by the Washington State Department of Health and made possible through a grant of the American Legacy Foundation, Teen Futures developed a tobacco prevention curriculum Teens, Tobacco & Media in 2001 in collaboration with high school age teens representing four regions in Washington. Following its development, teams of high school students presented this curriculum unit to their peers throughout the state. The unit was a part of wide scale field testing effort from 2002-2006 when it was used throughout Washington State in schools as well as in community settings.

Teens, Tobacco & Media consists of five lessons, each one approximately 40 minutes in length. Lessons are designed for presentation by high school age teens to their peers as well as younger audiences. It is important to note that all lesson material is based on images, videos and activities selected by teens at pilot sites across Washington State. For more information about Teens, Tobacco & Media, see:


Powerful Choices
Powerful Choices is a media literacy-based curriculum unit focused on the subjects of nutrition and physical activity. The Powerful Choices unit complete with tool kit was originally developed in collaboration 4th and 5th grade teachers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho with funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and support from the Center for Public Health Nutrition, UW. The program was later adapted for use with youth members 5-18 enrolled in the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County with the support from Public Health-Seattle & King County and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Boys and Girls Club staff and teen members were trained to serve as presenters of this unit using training materials the NW Center developed for the Clubs. The accompanying tool kit contains all the major materials required for presenting this curriculum unit. Powerful Choices is not available for distribution at this time.

Teen Aware: Sex, Media and You
Created in 1995, with funding from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Teen Aware Sex, Media & You is a video-based media literacy curriculum resource guide focusing on teen pregnancy prevention. This resource was created for use by Washington's teachers who received Teen Aware Project grants through the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to engage their students in creating abstinence-based media campaigns from 1994- 2002. In 2003, Teen Futures received support from OSPI and funding from the CDC to place this curriculum resource online. Material in this guide is now integrated into the website:

Violence & Media
Teen Futures began working in 1999 to develop the Violence & Media curriculum unit with support from the State Juvenile Violence Prevention Grant Program. This curriculum unit was developed and refined over a four-year period in collaboration with Seattle School District teachers; the unit was piloted in middle and high schools in Seattle. Violence & Media features carefully selected activities and videos designed to encourage discussion and reflection. One of the goals of the unit is to encourage students to consider actions that could be taken both collectively and as individuals to prevent violence in their own school. Following the completion of the unit, many of the students implemented some of their ideas. For more information about Violence & Media see:


Teen Futures Media Network is committed to research. Not only does it use its research capabilities to examine the effectiveness of its own media literacy education projects, it also provides consultation regarding research questions to groups across the United States.

Marilyn Cohen, Ph.D., Director of Teen Futures Media Network, University of Washington, has considerable experience conducting both qualitative and quantitative research with NW Center staff members. She has also worked in collaboration with Erica Austin, Ph.D., Professor of Communication and Director of Center for Media and Health Promotion at Washington State University (WSU) and Bruce Pinkleton, Ph.D., Professor of Communication at WSU to conduct research regarding the effectiveness of media literacy education as it relates to the curricula: Teens, Tobacco & Media and Take It Seriously: Abstinence & Media (TISSAM). In addition she has worked in collaboration with Joanne Lisosky, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication, Pacific Lutheran University to evaluate the Violence and Media Project. See the Research section for information regarding publications describing these projects and their results.


Online Resources

The Northwest Center for Excellence in Media Literacy continues its work to raise awareness about the importance of media literacy education and the need for making it a priority in this media-driven world in which we all now live. The Center shares many resources online for those visiting its websites. For this reason, website development has become a major project at the Center to facilitate its broad outreach efforts. See the Website Development section of this site for more information about the websites the NW Center makes available.