Media literacy

Ten Steps to Better Media Literacy Skills

Media literacy skills are used for more than just research papers.

As policymakers strive to increase the number of American homes with broadband access, many are realizing that it is not enough for people to be able to access information online and through various media; they must also be able to analyze the information they find to verify its accuracy and credibility—a 21stskill of the century that not every child or adult has.

A new white paper, “Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action,” by Renee Hobbs, founder of Temple University’s Media Education Lab, now offers policymakers and education leaders a blueprint for building media literacy skills in their communities.

“Existing paradigms in technology education need to be shifted toward a focus on critical thinking and communication skills and away from the gaping ‘gee-whiz’ on new technology tools,” Hobbs said. “An effective community education movement needs a shared vision. This report offers recommendations that involve many stakeholders, each participating in a way that supports the whole community.

The need for action stems from other recent reports, such as a 2006 survey by Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that 75% of Internet users “don’t pay attention to the quality of information they find, and 25% said they were frustrated, confused or overwhelmed by what they found.

Another report, released in 2009 by the Knight Commission on Community Information Needs in a Democracy, assessed media literacy in communities and made 15 recommendations to better meet community information needs.

Following the release of the Knight Commission’s report, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age,” the Communications and Society Program of the Aspen Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are associated to explore ways to implement its recommendations.

The Aspen Institute has commissioned a series of white papers to help turn these recommendations into action – and the Hobbs Media Literacy Report is one such white paper (others include Universal Broadband, civic engagement, online hubs, etc.).

According to Hobbs, knowing how to research, analyze and interpret information is a skill that will be used for more than just writing a good research paper: people use media literacy skills to apply for jobs online, get relevant health information and sifting through online educational opportunities, eg.

People also need media literacy skills to read or watch the news, write a letter to an editor, comment on an online story, share ideas online, participate in an opinion poll, research information about topics or carry out a community action.

Perhaps most importantly, media literacy skills are key to understanding and maintaining online safety, Hobbs said.

“We need to consider the balance between protection and empowerment and respond seriously to the real risks associated with media and digital technology,” she explained.

Hobbs’ 10 Recommendations for Better Media Literacy

Support digital and media literacy initiatives at the community level.

1. Map existing community resources and offer small grants to promote community partnerships to integrate digital and media literacy skills into existing programs.

Meris Stansbury
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