Helga Keller – The Mother of Media Literacy in Israel

Jonathan Friesem
University of Rhode Island

Helga Keller (1921-2013) initiated the studies and the national curriculum of media literacy in Israel. She reconceptualized the BFI key questions for the Israeli context. She immigrated to Israel in 1958 after a successful career in film editing in the UK. Her work in the 1960’s with the Tel-Aviv University, School of Education, and a teacher development program, helped her gain national recognition. She used this academic recognition to open and take a position of the head of the national Cinema and Communication Department at the Ministry of Education.

In her new position between 1985 and 1992 she created many new departments of film and communication in high schools around the country. She assembled scholars and practitioners to create the Israeli media literacy national curriculum in 1991. Nowadays, Israel has more than 500 departments of media literacy in high schools thanks to Keller’s initiative and work.

As a pedagogical scholar, in 1994 Keller published her famous book Understanding Viewing, which is the most used textbook of media literacy in Israel. In her book she reviewed the media literacy movement in the UK and applied it for the local context. She created lesson plans and short theory background for each chapter that was devoted to another media literacy subject. Her main contribution to the field of media literacy was the Flower, an analysis method for media messages.

Keller used Bazalgette’s (1992) key questions of media messages analysis. However, she added emotional aspect and divided the questions into five sections with sub questions. In her Flower method she put the same emphasis on emotional reaction as on critical analysis. Working in schools for thirty years with her professional experience as film editor, Keller understood that analyzing media messages critically is not only about your cognitive ability but also about your emotional literacy.

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