New media literacies have taken over the literacy world!
The time has come for teachers and parents to stop marveling at how adept the younger generation has become with self-taught technology and start incorporating their skills into a global learning experience.
Instead of deploring the way that computers are destroying traditional classical teaching, new media literacy should be incorporated into the new curricula. The relevance in the twenty first century of media literacy should be embraced as essential preparation for young people in a professional world where new media literacies are taken for granted.
Current changes in digital world and literacy
The conversation is now shifting from questions about digital access to expanding opportunities for all students in a diverse population to take full advantage of involvement in the online community.
Young people today seem to acquire their skills on their own by engaging in popular culture and informal learning communities within their peer groups or after school programs. But inevitably populations are excluded and schools have been slow to recognize that the new participatory culture offers cultural competencies and social skills that all young people need to succeed in the world of tomorrow.
Benefits of new media literacies
The benefits of new media literacies include opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace and a more empowered concept of citizenship.
Instead of media literacy functioning as a form of hidden curriculum, educators can work towards ensuring that every young person can become a full participant as the focus shifts from individual competence to the expression of a community culture.
Collaboration and communication
The new media literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. These skills are based on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills and critical analysis. An invaluable resource for educators needing to be updated is the literacy ebook, Teaching Literacy: Keeping Up with the Times, by Dr. Patricia Fioriello.
The new skills include the ability to experiment, problem solve and improvise and to simulate and construct models of processes and real-world discoveries. Multi-tasking enables students to sample and remix media content, to scan the environment and be selective about salient details. The ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others fosters negotiation skills and networking in the search for information, its evaluation, synthesis and dissemination.
Online cultural awareness
Fostering these social skills and cultural competencies needs a more systemic approach from today’s educators. Cyberspace is a democratic jungle right now with low barriers of entry into the communication landscape. Young people need guidance about ethical standards of behavior online and the choices they make in a community where rules are still being written.
Educators need to acknowledge their own role in guiding this culture where according to a Pew study in 2005, more than one-half of all teenagers are producing media content and at least one-third are sharing it online. It is safe to assume that this statistic is growing exponentially as more young people join and use online communities such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, message boards or game clans. Blogging, videomaking, alternative reality gaming, podcasting and producing new creative forms such as zines and fan fiction writing are fertile ground for educators to incorporate into the curriculum the teachable moments these activities present.
Wake up call for schools
Schools as institutions have been slow to react to the significance of the emergence of this new participatory culture. They need to address the problem of unequal access to these opportunities and recognize the need for a shift from traditional professional training to a more fluid and inclusive curriculum which includes critical thinking about the role of media in this new world.
In her literacy ebook, Teaching Literacy: Keeping Up with the Times, Dr. Patricia Fioriello offers guidance to teachers and administrators who need to update their reaction to a paperless world, and to expand their brief to incorporate new media literacies for twenty first century students.