empowering learners with digital and media literacy

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  • empowering learners

    with digital and media

    literacy

    FeATuRe

    12 Knowledge Quest | Turning the Page in Minneapolis

  • Renee Hobbsrenee.hobbs@temple.edu

    Eversincemychildhood,Iveneverbeenabletodistinguishbetweenschoollibrariansandteachers.WhenIwasgrowingup,thetermsweresynonymous.Thatsbecausemymother,RosemarieShilcusky,wasasixth-gradeEnglishandsocialstudiesteacherwhoalsobecamethefoundingschoollibrarianatOurLadyofGoodCounselSchoolinPlymouth,Michigan.Intheprocessofgettinghergraduatedegreein1966,shecametorealizethatherstudentsandcolleaguesneededaschoollibrary,soshelobbiedhardforone,petitioningthepriestsinthedioceseandsweet-talkingtheschoolprincipal.Inthegrandlow-budgetRomanCatholictradition,sheeventuallyearnedtherighttobuildthelibraryherself,rightthereinthebasementoftheschool,applyingherownspecialbrandofsweatequitytotheprocessoflearninglibrarianshipwiththehelpoflocalvolunteersandmembersoftheMichiganchapteroftheCatholicLibraryAssociation.

    Iremembermanysummersspentprocessingandshelvingandreadingbooks,delightingintheopportunitytobethefirstonetocrackopenthemanytreasuresofchildrensliteraturethatmymotherwasacquiringfortheschool.Therewerescadsofmagazinesandaudiocassettes,ofcourse.AndwhenVHStapeswereinvented,theybecamepartofthelibrarycollection,too;later,thereweredesktopcomputerswithsoftwareongiantfloppydisks.

    13Volume 39, No. 5 | May/June 2011

    mailto:renee.hobbs@temple.edu

  • Today,schoollibrariansandteachersareworkingtogetherinanationalmovementtobringdigitalandmedialiteracytoallcitizens.Whenpeoplethinkofthetermliteracy,whatgenerallyspringstomindisreadingandwriting,speakingandlistening.Theseareindeedfoundationalelementsofliteracy.Butbecausepeopleusesomanydifferenttypesofexpressionandcommunicationindailylife,theconceptofliteracyisbeginningtobedefinedastheabilitytosharemeaningthroughsymbolsystemstofullyparticipateinsociety.

    Similarly,thetermtextisbeginningtobeunderstoodasanyformofexpressionorcommunicationinfixedandtangibleformthatusessymbolsystems,includinglanguage,stillandmovingimages,graphicdesign,sound,music,andinteractivity.

    Newtypesoftextsandnewtypesofliteracieshavebeenemergingoveraperiodofmorethanfiftyyears,andschoollibrariansandteachershavebeencontinuallymovingforwardwiththeseculturalshifts.Weveusedmanycloselyinterrelatedtermstodescribethenewsetofcompetenciesrequiredforsuccessincontemporarysociety.

    Inthe1960s,whenarteducatorsandothersstartedtoexplorehowtousephotographytopromote

    newwaysofseeing,theycalleditvisualliteracy.Whenlibrarydatabaseswerefirstestablished,andpeopleneedednewskillstousekeywordstofindandevaluatesources,wecalleditinformationliteracy.Inthe1980s,whencabletelevisionbroughtafive-hundred-channeluniverseintoourhomes,werecognizedtheneedtoteachcriticalanalysisofpopularcultureandmassmedia,callingitmedialiteracy.Whencomputersfirstbecamecommonplace,weunderstoodcomputerliteracyas

    learningtodistinguishbetweenhardwareandsoftware.Todaythetermdigitalcitizenshipmaybeusedtorefertothenewsocialcompetenciesneededtoaddresscyberbullying,privacypreservation,identityprotection,andrespectforauthorship.Thesemanydifferenttermsref lectavarietyofdisciplinaryperspectivesaswellasthetrulywidescopeoftheknowledgeandskillsdemandedbyourincreasinglymediatedsociety.

    WhenIusethephrasedigitalandmedialiteracy,Iseektocapturetheessentialfeaturesofallthesenewliteracies.Idefinedigitalandmedialiteracycompetenciesthatinclude(1)theuseoftexts,tools,andtechnologiestoaccessbothinformationandentertainment;(2)theskillsofcriticalthinking,analysis,andevaluation;(3)thepracticeofmessagecompositionandcreativity;(4)theabilitytoengageinref lectionandethicalthinking;aswellas(5)activeparticipationinsocialactionthroughindividualandcollaborativeefforts(seefigure1).

    Digital and Media literacy as elements of CitizenshipEasyaccesstosomanyinformationandentertainmentchoicesnowrequiresthatpeopleacquirenewknowledgeandskillstomakewiseandresponsibledecisions.Forpeopletoachievethepersonal,professional,andsocialbenefitsofthrivinginadigitalage,theseskillsarenotjustoptionalordesirabletheyaretheessentialelementsofdigitalcitizenship.

    TheKnightCommissionsreportInformingCommunities:SustainingDemocracyintheDigitalAgerecognizedthatpeopleneednewsandinformationtotakeadvantageoflifesopportunitiesforthemselvesandtheirfamilies.Tobeeffectiveparticipantsincontemporarysociety,peopleneedtobeengagedinthepubliclifeofthecommunity,thenation,andtheworld.Theyneedaccesstorelevantandcredibleinformationthathelpsthemmakedecisions.Asaresult,itwillbenecessarytostrengthenthecapacityofindividualstoparticipateasbothproducersandconsumersinpublicconversationsabouteventsandissuesthatmatter.Mediaand

    Act Access

    creAte

    reflectAnAlyze & evAluAte

    Figure1

    Digitalandmedialiteracycompetencies.

    14 Knowledge Quest | Turning the Page in Minneapolis

  • digitalliteracyeducationisnowfundamentallyimplicatedinthepracticeofcitizenship.ThatswhytheKnightCommissionmadethreerecommendationsthatdirectlyaddresstheissueofdigitalandmedialiteracyeducationinthecontextofformalandinformalpubliceducationsectors:

    recommendation 6:Integratedigitalandmedialiteracyascriticalelementsforeducationatalllevelsthroughcollaborationamongfederal,state,andlocaleducationofficials.

    recommendation 7: Fundandsupportpubliclibrariesandothercommunityinstitutionsascentersofdigitalandmediatraining,especiallyforadults.

    recommendation 12: Engageyoungpeopleindevelopingthedigitalinformationandcommunicationcapacitiesoflocalcommunities(2009,XVIIXVIII).

    Toturntheserecommendationsintoconcreteactionsteps,IwasdelightedtobeinvitedtoauthorDigitalandMediaLiteracy:APlanofAction,apolicypaperreleasedbyTheAspenInstituteCommunicationsandSocietyProgram,andtheJohnS.andJamesL.KnightFoundation.

    Teachersandschoollibrarianseverywherearerecognizingtheseskillsasfundamental.AstheCommonCoreStateStandardsInitiativepointsout,Tobereadyforcollege,workforcetraining,andlifeinatechnologicalsociety,studentsneedtheabilitytogather,comprehend,evaluate,synthesize,reporton,andcreateahighvolumeandextensiverangeofprintandnonprinttextsinmediaformsoldandnew.Theneedtoresearchandtoconsumeandproducemedia

    isembeddedintoeveryelementoftodayscurriculum(2010).

    Buttransformationalchangedoesnotcomeaboutsimplybygeneratingdocumentsordevelopingwrittenstandards.IndevelopingaplanofactiontobringdigitalandmedialiteracytoallAmericans,Ifirstidentifysomechallengesthateducatorsandlibrariansmustaddresswhenimplementingprogramsandservices.Thesechallengesincludethosepresentedbelow.

    Moving Beyond a Tool-Focused orientationAlthoughinvestmentsintechnologyhaveincreasedsignificantlyinrecentyears,simplypurchasingthelatestdigitaltechnologiesdoesnotnecessarilyleadtotheacquisitionofdigitalandmedialiteracycompetencies.Unfortunately,manyschoolleadersmistakenlybelievethatsimplyprovidingchildrenandyoungpeoplewithaccesstodigitaltechnologywillautomaticallyenhancelearning.Schoollibrarians,teachers,andeducationaltechnologyleaderscanhelpshiftthefocustoemphasizehowdigitaltoolsareusedtopromotecriticalthinking,creativity,andcommunicationandcollaborationskills.

    addressing Digital risksDigitalandmedialiteracycompetenciesarenotonlyneededtostrengthenpeoplescapacityforengagingwithinformationbutalsoforaddressingthemanypotentialrisksassociatedwithexposuretomassmedia,popularculture,anddigitalmedia.Forexample,theFederalTradeCommissionreportsthattenmillionAmericanswerevictimizedin2009bywillinglygivingpersonalinformationtorobbers,oftenbecausevictimscouldntdistinguishane-mail

    fromtheirbanksfromane-mailfromapredator(Rothkopf2009).Asignificantnumberofchildrenandyoungpeoplehavebeenvictimsofpornographyandelectronicaggression.Sextingandcyberbullyingareexamplesofhowhumanneedsforpower,intimacy,trust,andrespectintersectwiththeethicalchallengesembeddedinsocialparticipationinadigitalenvironment.Thatiswhybothempowermentandprotectionarebothneededtoaddresstherealitiesofthecurrentmultimedialandscape.

    strengthening Peoples Capacity to access Message Credibility and QualityLibrariansandresearcherstellusthat,when

    Although investments in technology have increased significantly in recent years, simply purchasing the latest digital technologies does not necessarily lead to the acquisition of digital and media literacy competencies. unfor tunately, many school leaders mistakenly believe that simply providing children and young people with access to digital technology will automatically enhance learning.

    15Volume 39, No. 5 | May/June 2011

    http://www.knightcomm.org/recommendation6http://www.knightcomm.org/recommendation7http://www.knightcomm.org/recommendation12

  • lookingforinformationonline,manypeoplegiveupbeforetheyfindwhattheyneed.Peopleuseasmallnumberofsearchstrategiesinarepetitivewayevenwhensearchersdonotgettheinformationtheyareseeking.Theydonottakethetimetodigestandevaluatewhattheyencounter.Inmanycases,studentstypicallyuseinformationthatfindsthem,ratherthandecidingwhatinformationtheyneed(Cheney2010,1).Fewpeopleverifytheinformationtheyfindonlinebothadultsandchildrentendtouncriticallytrustinformationtheyfind,fromwhateversource.

    Tojudgethecredibilityofinformation,itisimportanttobeginbyansweringthesethreebasicquestions:Whostheauthor?Whatsthepurposeofthismessage?Howwasthismessageconstructed?Thesesimplebutpowerfulquestionsenablepeopletoassesstherelativecredibilityofamediamessage.Infact,forthesavvyuser,skillfuluseofdigitalinformationcansubstantiallyenhancetheprocessoffactcheckingandsourcecomparison.

    Bringing news and Current events into K12 educationForoverfiftyyearscivics-orientededucation,withitsuseofeverydaynewsandjournalismresources,hasbeendecliningasacomponentoftheAmericaneducationsystem.Manyteachersareuncomfortablebringingnewsintotheclassroom.RememberwhenPresidentObamastelevisedback-to-schoolspeechtothenationsschoolchildrenwasblastedbyconservativecriticswhoaccusedthepresidentoftryingtospreadpropaganda?Inaneraofcompetitionforandfragmentationofthenewsaudience,nosimplisticassumptionscanbemadeaboutthenatureofwhatinformationsourcescountastrustworthyandauthoritative.

    Today,youngpeopletellusthatthenewsisasignificantsourceof

    stressbecauseitremindsthemoftheperiltheworldisin,andmakesthemfeelunsafeandthreatened.Althoughteensreadthenewsonlyincidentally,whentheydo,theyprefernewsaboutmusic,entertainment,celebrities,andsports(Vahlberg,Peer,andNesbit2008).Still,effortsareunderwaytoexplorethedevelopmentofcurriculumandresourcestoengagestudentsasactiveparticipantsintheprocessofcreatingjournalism.Whiletheseeffortsaremoredevelopedattheuniversitylevel,programsarespringingupatthehighschoollevelandevenatlowerlevels.

    Butmuchlessisknownabouthowreading,viewing,anddiscussionofnewsandcurrenteventsaffectthedevelopmentofstudentsknowledgeandskills.Regularengagementwithnewsandcurrenteventsmaysupportthedevelopmentoflearnersbackgroundknowledge.Thisengagementmayhelpbuildconnectionsbetweentheclassroomandtheculture.Thisengagementmayalsohelplearnersseehownewsandcurrenteventsareconstructed

    bythosewitheconomic,political,andculturalinterestsatstake.Thisengagementmayalsohelppeopleappreciatehowaudiencesunderstandandinterpretmessagesdifferentlybasedontheirlifeexperiences,priorknowledge,andattitudes.

    Building a Community education MovementTosupportthedevelopmentofdigitalandmedialiteracycompetenciesforallAmericans,weneedacomprehensivecommunityeducationmovement.Local,regional,state,andnationalinitiativesareessential.Itwilltaketimetobuildtheinfrastructurecapacityandhumanresourcesnecessarytobringdigitalandmedialiteracyeducationtoallcitizens.

    Schoollibrarianssupportdigitalandmedialiteracycompetenciesbyservingasleadersintheirschoolsandcommunities,workingasinstructionalpartnerstosupportcolleagues,providingtheservicesofaninformationspecialistandprogramadministratortomanageprograms,aswellasoffering

    J u d g e t h e C r e d i b i lt i y o f a M e d i a M e s s a g e b y a n s w e r i n g 3 b a s i C Q u e s t i o n s :

    1 . w h o i s t h e a u t h o r ?

    2 . w h at ' s t h e p u r p o s e o f t h i s M e s s a g e ?

    3 . h o w w a s t h i s M e s s a g e C o n s t r u C t e d ?

    16 Knowledge Quest | Turning the Page in Minneapolis

  • directinstructiontolearners.Toachievethebuy-innecessaryforsuccess,initiativesmustcapitalizeonexistinglocalprogramsandresources,andenrollnewstakeholders,includingeducationalleaders,membersofthebusinesscommunity,andmembersofprofessionalassociationswhoaremotivatedtodevelopandsustainprograms.Toaccomplishthis,Ispecificallycallfortheactionstepsdescribedbelow.

    Community level initiativesWemustgarnersupportforcommunity-leveldigitalandmedialiteracyinitiatives,includingpromotingcommunitypartnershipsandcreatingaDigitalandMediaLiteracy(DML)YouthCorpstobringdigitalandmedialiteracytounderservedcommunitiesandspecialpopulationsviapubliclibraries,museums,andothercommunitycenters.

    Partnerships for Teacher educationWemustencouragethedevelopmentofuniversity-communitypartnershipsforteacher

    educationsoteacherscanbebetterpreparedtoactivatedigitalandmedialiteracycompetenciesinavarietyofeducationalcontexts.

    research and assessmentWemustassesslearningprogressionthroughonlineassessmenttoolsandcarefulvideodocumentationofbestpracticesfordigitalandmedialiteracyinstructionalstrategies.

    stakeholder engagement and VisibilityWemustincreasevisibilityfordigitalandmedialiteracyeducationthroughpublicserviceannouncements,entertainment-educationinitiatives,andanannualeducatorconference.

    Allacrossthenationandtheworld,schoollibrariansandteachersaretakingstepstoensurethatdigitalandmedialiteracyeducationoffersthepotentialtomaximizewhatwevaluemostaboutthetrulyempoweringcharacteristicsofmediaandtechnology,whileminimizingitsnegativedimensions.AstheKnightCommissionreportInforming

    Communities:SustainingDemocracyintheDigitalAgeexplains,informedandengagedcommunitiesneedcitizenswhoappreciatethevaluesoftransparency,inclusion,participation,empowerment,andthecommonpursuitofthepublicinterest.

    Works Cited:

    Cheney,Debora.2010.WhyStudentsNeedNewsandInformationLiteracySkills.YouthMediaReporter(June24).(accessedFebruary26,2011).

    CommonCoreStateStandardsInitiative.2010.EnglishLanguageArtsStandards.(accessedFebruary26,2011).

    Hobbs,Renee.2010.DigitalandMediaLiteracy:APlanofAction.Washington,DC:AspenInstitute.

    KnightCommissionontheInformationNeedsofCommunitiesinaDemocracy.2009.InformingCommunities:SustainingDemocracyintheDigitalAge.Washington,DC:AspenInstitute.

    renee hobbs

    isaprofessorof

    communication

    atTemple

    UniversitysSchool

    ofCommunicationsandTheater,where

    shefoundedtheMediaEducationLab

    .Sheisthe

    authorofDigitalandMediaLiteracy

    inGrades712:Connecting

    CultureandClassroom(Corwin

    2011),CopyrightClarity:HowFair

    UseSupportsDigitalLearning

    (Corwin2010),andReadingthe

    Media:MediaLiteracyinHigh

    SchoolEnglish(TeachersCollegePress,

    ColumbiaUniversity2007).

    Rothkopf,Arthur.2009.KeynoteAddress.NationalForumonInformationLiteracyEmpoweringFutureGenerations:InformationLiteracy.October1516.Washington,DC.

    Vahlberg,Vivian,LimorPeer,andMaryNesbit.2008.IfItCatchesMyEye:AnExplorationofOnlineNewsExperiencesofTeenagers.Evanston,IL:MediaManagementCenter,NorthwesternUniversity.(accessedFebruary26,2011).

    all aCross the nation and the world, sChool librarians and teaChers are taki...