Like digital citizenship, media and information literacy has been explained by a range of definitions and different terminologies. Whether we use digital media literacy, information literacy, internet literacy or any of the other different expressions, the main idea is that literacy encompasses the ability to engage meaningfully with media and information channels.
Media, information channels and the ubiquity of the internet may leave the impression that the digital age has turned everyone into media users and that the digital can be found everywhere, including in schools. This impression is false and, moreover, schools are the notable exception. School is the one place where it is absolutely crucial to train future citizens to understand, to criticise and to create information. It is in schools that the digital citizen must begin and maintain constant critical thinking in order to attain meaningful participation in his or her community.
Media and information literacy is an ambitious goal in the 21st century because of the challenge of teaching users to critically judge, reflect and use the extremely broad range of available media. Not only must users become media literate with respect to traditional media and the representation of image, users now must become media literate with respect to the wealth of new technology available and the development of applications allowing entirely new ways of transmitting information.
Without media and information literacy, across the varied types of media now available, our children cannot act as responsible citizens, digital or otherwise, and the question of who will teach this to our children has not yet been established.
Generally speaking, if schools are the training grounds for critical thinking, analysis and judgment making, is it not logical that media and information literacy become cornerstones of the educational curricula?
What are some of the dimensions of media and information literacy?
Media and information literacy (MIL) is an umbrella concept that covers three often clearly distinguished dimensions: information literacy, media literacy and ICT/ digital literacy. As UNESCO highlights, MIL brings together stakeholders including individuals, communities and nations to contribute to the information society. Not only does MIL act as an umbrella, it also encompasses a full range of competences that must be used effectively in order to critically evaluate the different facets of MIL.
What will media and information literacy mean to our children?
Children and young people today are particularly savvy when it comes to finding and using media for entertainment and recreation. But how many of those children can use those same devices to find meaningful answers, conduct evidence-based research, spark a debate or follow the news?
Children and young people are confronted with all types of content and they should, indeed they must, be able to discern what is of value and what is not; what is real and what is not. Discernment goes beyond fake news and relates to their ability to process and interpret information.
Research is under way to investigate the learning potential of existing and emerging communicative technologies for children aged 0-8 years old. The DigiLitEY project specifically rests on the premise that “the early years provide crucial foundations for lifelong literacy learning, therefore it is important to ensure early education policy and practice across (all) countries are developed in order to equip our youngest citizens with the skills and knowledge needed in a digitally-mediated era”. Initiatives such as DigiLitEY and the Joint Research Commission project on 0-8-year-old children and digital technology should provide interesting conclusions and guidelines on media and information literacy in the near future.
Whether children are playing online games or watching endless videos, the ability to understand the stakes within the medium and potential implications beyond would serve our children well. They need to be able to process, analyse and make good decisions on their own, and media and information literacy can help children develop those skills.
Confusion between media and information literacy and digital citizenship
Often digital citizenship is confused with media and information literacy in that one of the nuances of digital citizenship is the ability to critically evaluate media and online technology, tools and information. While media and information literacy (MIL) is how we think (critical thinking) about all of the media around us, digital citizenship refers to how we live and how we engage with all of the technology around us. Media, like technology, can come in many different forms and can blend into a single form.
Rather than simply using cognitive, emotional and social competences as the basis of MIL, it is useful to apply some of the other media-related competences from the Council of Europe’s “butterfly” competence framework to the concept of media and information literacy (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Four steps underpinning the process of inclusion
Media and technology have an ever increasing role in how we as humans communicate with one another as well as help impact our culture. The printed word, once able to be mass produced helped usher in an era where where people could seek the education and reading skills they desired, brought print and knowledge to the masses. Now with the more common use of digital communication and media outlets, our options for information and communication are almost entirely unimpeded. Technology allows us to live through multiple Renaissance type periods filled with ever growing pools of information from which to share, and culture changing happenings coming from every corner of our connected world. Media and technology have had profound impacts on all…show more content…