Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘literacy

The headlines highlighted in this tweet are why we need:

  • science and experts.
  • to be information and media literate.
  • to follow entities outside our bubbles.

Forbes and NASA have experts that are good at what they do. Both provided commentary on a shared observation. Only one was actually informative — NASA.

If we were information and media literate — collectively digitally literate — we would be skeptical of Forbes’ report and know how to investigate the issue. We would then find NASA’s version of the event and we would be able to evaluate what we find.

Operating outside our bubbles allows us to see what others see. Operate in the Forbes or entertainment bubble and we see only mystery or ignorance. Operate in the scientific bubble and we see more factual information.

That said, I follow You Had One Job on Twitter because it is funny. It is also provocative in that it helps me make critical connections. So while being digitally literate and sourcing expertise are important, it helps to first operate outside one’s bubble.

This excellent YouTube series on media literacy ends with the episode below.


Video source

The episode focuses on what lies ahead. As it does so, it builds on what was stable, remains stable now, and will be stable in the future.

The future of being media literate is being skeptical. This does not mean that we cannot enjoy watch we hear, read, or watch.

It does mean that we do not take the easy way out. Being skeptical means being aware of our own bias and identifying the bias in media. It means establishing context and being critical “going in” instead of just reacting when “going out”.

After watching this CNN video, I distilled some thoughts on what modern literacy — digital and media — might build on.

Some background: A news “anchor”, Laura Ingraham, used Twitter to attack a school shooting survivor and spokesperson, David Hogg. Ingraham mocked Hogg for not being rejected by four universities so far despite having a 4.2 GPA. Hogg went on the offensive on Twitter and several companies withdrew their advertisements from Ingraham’s show.


Video source

Some modern literacy foundations from this case might include:

  • Learning current skills and emergent practices from the learner.
  • Being “savvy” as defined by what you KNOW and DO, not just who you ARE or WHO you know.
  • Freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility.
  • We are entitled to your own opinions, but not our own facts.

I have no doubt that such foundations are part of some digital and media literacies programmes. But this case is a compelling one because it involves the two people that need it most — the student/child and the teacher/adult.

I wrote the title of today’s reflection in the spirit of Jack Neo’s “Money No Enough” movies.

There seemed to be a theme of sorts in my RSS feeds and tweet streams of late. It was about media literacy.

I highlighted a Crash Course series on media literacy a few weeks ago. The first episode is now out on YouTube.


Video source

Another recent resource is The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy by Data & Society.

Despite these (and other) resources on media literacy, I remained unconvinced on the local efforts to nurture media literate learners. I could not articulate exactly why until two resources distilled some wisdoms.

The first is the fact that media literacy programmes seem to focus on “fake news”. A shiny object might be a catalyst, but it does not make the entire system.

Superficially, such a focus tends to deal with sociopolitical information and misinformation. While important, doing this might not shine enough light on misinformation in the realms of schooling and education.

Diving deeper, the focus on fake news, even if it includes misinformation in educational resources, is an emphasis on the negative. Media literacy is also about what is positive online, e.g., active and meaningful collaboration, individual or collective expression, and open and generous sharing.

What follows is a resource that promotes critical thinking about media literacy.


Video source

danah boyd (yes, her name is spelt that way in lowercase letters) is an expert in this field. boyd admitted she had no concrete answer for an effective of media literacy programme. She did, however, suggest why current ones were not effective: People like to follow their gut more than they like to follow their mind. This statement cuts through ivory tower, top-down designs of standalone “media literacy” units in schools because it emphasises how value systems dictate behaviour.

Media literacy programmes are “no enough” if they focus on skills (e.g, how to create a livestream) or even social norms and expectations (e.g., do not say online what you would not say to someone in front of you). They need to be more broadly defined to include attitudes and belief systems. This is what makes media literacy so challenging.

Media literacy cannot be taught like an academic subject. It is not bound by a course or classroom walls. It is about participating over multiple platforms and a myriad of channels in each platform. The learning is in the actual doing, not in the practical theorising.

To leave a better planet for our kids, we need to leave better kids for our planet.

Singapore’s efforts in media literacy by schools seems to be one of protecting the learner-consumer instead of empowering the learner-producer.

Efforts to teach students how to check facts and sources that they consume are “no enough”. As students create, they also need to understand a big word — epistemology. They need to question the nature of knowledge, how it is constructed, and how their belief systems shape what gets constructed. In doing this, they need to learn to be better people.

The article and the video have helped me distill what I think is lacking in our media literacy efforts. The same kids were are trying to nurture as wise consumers will eventually need to be savvy producers of content. If we do not want them to be producers of fake news or other questionable content, we need to focus on empowering them to produce based on sound belief systems.

One local newspaper tweeted:

Here is an excerpt of the article:

…as recently as 2000, 45 per cent of the resident workforce had below secondary school education, and only 12 per cent had university education. Today, those with less than secondary school education has fallen below 30 per cent, and the proportion of university degree holders has more than doubled to nearly 30 per cent.

This is my reaction: Having a degree does not make you educated.

Another paper tweeted:

Here is an excerpt of the article:

The test, sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, evaluated pupils’ reading and comprehension skills, such as connecting pieces of information, and making inferences from texts. Pupils were given two reading passages – narrative fiction as well as information-based texts such as news articles – and had to answer multiple-choice and written-response questions.

This is my reaction: Being able to decipher or make inferences from text on any medium does not make you sufficiently literate.

There is much we can learn from newspapers. Perhaps not so much from the news but from the mistakes they make.

STonline tweeted these two videos of an interview with our Prime Minister. The tweets are a teachable moment on the need for digital skills, literacy, and fluency.

Poor optics.

Optics is everything in politics and policymaking. If you take a look at the original screenshot, our PM does not look his best in both thumbnails.

Had the ST folk(s) the skills to select a better thumbnail in the video? Did they know they could do this or upload a better image to represent the video? This is a basic digital skill that one must have to share embedded videos on behalf of an organisation.

Did the tweeter or social media team have the digital literacy to consider how the current screen grabs send a different message from the ones in text? Do they know the importance of optics? Do they possess the ability to recognise when and why to apply their digital skills?

Can the people behind the tweets strategise and apply their skills without being told? Have they practically forgotten that they possess these skills and apply sound strategies automatically? This is digital fluency.

I have shared a teachable moment. Is this a learnable moment for the ST team? How about teachers who are responsible for far more prosumers (producer-consumers)?

I read with interest this CNA article, Students taught to verify authenticity of online information.

One of our two education ministers responded to a timely question in parliament. The MP asked if “there were any programmes to teach students how to tell what’s fake news”.

Like any brief news article, there is information (which needs to be verified) and gaps (that need to be filled).

The MP who asked the question might be happy to get answers to two questions:

  • Is this form of information literacy taught? (Yes)
  • How it is taught? (by integration into subjects like English, History, Social Studies, and Character and Citizenship Education).

However, teaching something does not guarantee that it has been learnt. The urgency of the message might be apparent to the messenger, but it might not be meaningful to the receiver.

So there are at least two other questions that remain unanswered:

  • What is the evidence that such information literacy has been learnt?
  • How are students continuing to learn this given that “fake news” is a moving target?

In other words, what are we doing to move beyond basic competency to fluency?

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.


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