Media Literacy, Sorely Needed (Don’t blame the Digital Natives!)

Is Tool Literacy overshadowing the need for Media literacy?

I’ve registered for one of those so-called MOOCs, and the topic of Media Literacy* is the subtext of a lot that is being discussed when it comes to technology in education.

In one of the forums, the question on ‘digital natives’ (a.k.a. students) comes up, and many educators are wondering how to best engage these tool-literate natives.

Because I teach a computer and technology class I see a large cross-section of tool literacy alongside media illiteracy. This is in no way meant to blame the digital natives as much as put the ball back into the court of educators. There are no Media classes in a typical elementary school because we always thought that Media was something people opted in to learn later.

Today the very concept of what Media constitutes has been muddied. We create lower-case ‘media’ (content) that happens to hitch a ride on upper-case Media (channels), but this gets complicated when we begin to also own some of these media channels.

No wonder the kids are confused.

Educators, too. When did someone update teachers with the new ‘rules’ of creation, curation, fair use etc? This cannot be done in a one-off professional Development seminar, but has to be something done on an ongoing basis.

If our students have mixed (or rigid, or even outdated) ideas of what they could do online, if our students think that all the information in an article on The Economist could be gleaned by a 140-character summary…we have ourselves to blame.

Before we address technology in Education, we need to take a deep breath, back up, and address media literacy. (Like we have time for all this – considering our super-busy lives that involve non-stop status updates.)

* The ‘Massive Open Online Course’ for Educators is held by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University’s College of Education in collaboration with Project 24 –the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Will tablets and smart phones kill conversations?

A few weeks back, I passed a sad tableau of an Asian family: a dad and two sons waiting for Mum outside a Chinese grocery store. All three of them were silently thumbing away on their iPhones. In cars, in waiting rooms, the tablet and the smart phone has become the new baby sitter.

Over the past five years, having reported social media’s many benefits I often have to step back and wonder about what it means to be too much digital.

We have become so used to being ignored while having a conversation with someone with a Blackberry that we sometimes take it for granted.

It’s not just an etiquette problem as some have alerted us to in the past few years. It’s a social problem that will have deeper ramifications –too much ‘media’ perhaps – as we marvel at how connected we are.

It generates caricatures such as this and this.

  • Smart phones don’t automatically make us smarter. (Perfectly captured in that Geico commercial that poses that rhetorical question.)
  • Likewise one more screen in the home won’t make us better informed. While we do see attempts to engage students better using tablets, social media and other digital platforms, parents and educators need to add some caveats. Teaching children media literacy would be a start.

There is a connection between learning to have ‘conversations’ and learning how to learn by deconstructing information presented –a.k.a. discourse analysis. I am planning to connect my Robotics class with a class in Thailand, soon, and have given much thought to the balance of a traditional class with a digital experience where students will talk to each other with and without digital devices. More on this later.

I will leave you with two great pieces :

Enjoy! And do send me your thoughts, comments.