Week #6: "Media Literacy is Critical"
The topic of media literacy seems to be the buzzword these days. The topic has been around for years (forever?). I remember teaching such literacy in regards to advertising way back when I started teaching in 1978. However, with modern digital media, there now seems to be more urgency to address this in schools. In the rush to teach digital or Internet literacy, we should also not forget other ‘texts’, as was pointed out in the presentation last night. Internet literacy does take in some other skills, such as search techniques, however, deconstructing the ‘text’, be it the written word, video, audio or some other form, is paramount. To me, this is one of the most important parts of the Manitoba Literacy with ICT continuum. Using ICT (educational technology) may be a means to an end – learning and critical & creative thinking, but media literacy is key to interpreting, consuming and creating media of any sort. Members of Manace & MB Ed created the video below to help get students/teachers thinking about Media Literacy. It was posted to YouTube and video responses were invited. The focus is on digital technology, but it is still a nice job (at least I think so):
The next item I want to touch on is the term “Digital Native”. When I first heard this several years ago, I thought it was a useful descriptor, a way to get teachers to embrace change. However, after doing some reflection, looking at my students and reading Prensky’s work, I came to realize how misleading, and incorrect, this term is. First off, anyone born before the eighties is considered a digital immigrant. I personally was taking computer science in high school (in the early seventies) when programs were punched onto computer cards, sent to the school division office, then returned with the results. I continued taking some computer science courses in University, used desktop computers (microcomputers, remember Commodore PETS and TRS-80s?) when they entered schools and I have used them ever since, keeping up pretty well with the newest ‘stuff’. I know many other people of all ages who are very comfortable and knowledgeable with computer technology. Yet many of us are considered digital immigrants because such technology was not around when we grew up. I guess I am an ‘automobile native’ and a ‘jet aircraft native’ by that reasoning. Paul expressed this nicely in his blog when he commented that just because a kid can use a cell phone – or facebook, or download music, etc – does not mean they understand the technology, their knowledge is often superficial at best. I do agree that many young adults and kids are very comfortable with technology, can use it for many purposes, and that it has an effect on the way they interact and learn. However, this does not mean they are using it to create and evaluate information, nor using it effectively and ethically. This means that teaching media literacy is, as Denis said, critical. Perhaps putting labels on generations and generalizing their characteristics is, as Heidegger put it “ordering’, it is what humans do to help understand the world. It does, however, also create problems. If we just assume all young kids love technology, are comfortable with it, can use it effectively, then we are both delusional and can miss those who are not as savvy with the technology. Some use the digital native construct to promote the need for change in education. I say it is precisely because this generalization is not universally true and that many kids are using the new technologies without a real understanding of them that is reason to change education. I have been conducting research with a colleague in this area (related to teacher education) and a paper I coauthored on the topic is in the MERN Journal (p 50), if you are interested. Whew – enough of a rant on that one!
Another area related to the topic of media literacy is ‘digital citizenship’ – the ethical and appropriate use of digital technology. Part of this is copyright and plagiarism. These ideas are becoming real problems when it is so easy to copy and paste information; download images, video and music. Denis pointed out nicely some of the problems with plagiarism, it seems that borrowing content is nothing new, who knew that “twinkle, twinkle, little star” was so popular! A similar thing can happen now with regards to intellectual property. The digital age is changing faster than lawmakers can keep up. A recent movement is the ‘open’ content movement which calls for sharing content openly, allowing use and re-use. Many people license their work under a creative commons license. with the right to remix with attribution and share alike clauses. So, if I use someone’s photo, tweak it a bit, add some text then re-post to share (attributing the original, of course), then someone else takes that and further changes it, giving me attribution, then again … when does the work become not that of the person who took the photo in the first place? Plagiarism has been a concern in academia for years, the problem is only getting worse and is another part of the media literacy puzzle, and is confusing for students and teachers alike.
(late addition: someone put this related article up on twitter)
Well, three topics, albeit related, in this blog, I think that is quite enough! Until next week…