Media literacy

Media education in a post-pandemic world

All it took was one international pandemic to finally help integrate media education into the education system. If only we had had a better head start years ago.

Those of us in the world of media literacy education and research have been talking and writing for some time now about the importance of media and information literacy for all in society. Indeed, some of the foundational work on the subject dates back to the mid-1920s.e century.

Many media education researchers have focused on meeting this need by integrating media literacy programs into the K-12 education system. Others, like me, have also argued for the inclusion of media training in post-secondary higher education as well.

To a very limited extent this has started to happen. Undoubtedly, the media have become a more important part of the learning experience at all levels of the education system, in line with the growth of technology in all aspects of life. If one walked into an elementary, high school or college classroom in the late 2010s, it would certainly have included a lot more media integration than one might have imagined a few years ago.

But, for all the media technologies that have come to be used as tools in education, there has continued to be surprisingly little time devoted to media education. Such educational experiences, related to both media production and analysis, are particularly important in higher education. Young adults during their college years are particularly in need of training to help them develop the skill set that will enable them to navigate the adult world with a proper understanding of media institutions, impacts, benefits and benefits. risks.

There are several ways to do this. More directly, specific media education courses can be offered. In practice, however, these media courses are mainly composed of communication or media specialists and are unlikely to be taken by the majority of students. This is a consequence of the fact that most fields of study are increasingly filled with highly regulated course progressions that offer little possibility of deviation and little time for elective courses. Alternatively, media literacy skills could also be addressed by integrating media related lessons into existing classrooms. Yet again, this has proven difficult, given that professors typically fear they will lack the time or training to tackle topics beyond their specific disciplinary expertise.

And then the global COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

In an instant, almost everything in the education world has moved online. Instructors who rarely used technology suddenly had to learn how to capture video, take online lessons, create digital resources, and adapt printed materials for an online environment. The list of new multimedia applications integrated into the virtual classroom space grew endlessly.

Almost overnight, it also became apparent that many of those students who were described as ‘digital natives’, in fact, didn’t have many practical digital media skills at all. Could they create an Instagram post or share a trending video on TikTok? Sure. But could they figure out how to perform even the basic multimedia functions necessary for online learning? Unfortunately, the answer has often been no. In short, the pandemic has revealed how limited everyone’s media skills really are.

Now educators at all levels, including those in post-secondary institutions, are realizing that they will likely have no choice but to devote time from their busy semesters, filled with discipline-specific material, to teach the use of technology in an educational setting. . Suddenly instructors in all disciplines realize that they might need to incorporate media lessons into their lessons. And, furthermore, educators from all disciplinary backgrounds are realizing that they might also need to educate themselves about the media themselves.

Despite the pressure this has placed on faculty and students, this awareness is good. As a media educator who has researched and written about media literacy since I started working on my PhD, this is something I have been advocating for a long time. This was perhaps the last little push we all needed to finally move towards integrated and comprehensive media literacy training across the education system.

Still, I fear it has arrived too late. An entire generation of individuals has grown up in the internet age and completed their formal educational journey with little or no media training. It was a missed opportunity, and the results are nothing short of depressing. We have a proliferation of fake news and pseudo-news sites, the sharing of disinformation and disinformation, and the manipulation of media platforms by those in positions of cultural, political and business power. All of this is happening in full view.

For someone who has been trained to think about the constructed nature of the media, it would be easy to recognize the way in which powerful elites manipulate society through its media. But, instead of seeing it for what it is, widespread media illiteracy has helped spread lies that are destroying our culture, our democracy and, in light of the pandemic, our health and our lives.

We may have learned from the pandemic how important media literacy is. No, we cannot fix problems created in the recent past; we cannot go back and ensure that the generations that have come of age without full media literacy develop these skills now. But, there are steps we can take to move forward. Let us learn from this situation and use the momentum we have built up over a year of online and distance learning to permanently integrate media literacy courses into our study programs in the world. whole education system.


Hans C. Schmidt (PhD, Temple University) is Associate Professor of Communication at Penn State University, Brandywine. His research focuses on media education and journalism education.


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