“Media literacy is a constellation of life skills that are necessary for full participation in our media-saturated, information-rich society.” Renee Hobbs, Center for Media Literacy
In the eight years I have been co-directing my district’s digital citizenship program, new challenges and new resources have called for regular updates to our Digital Citizenship website, which is organized around four main themes: cyberbullying, digital footprint, intellectual property, online privacy.
This school year, in recognition that we are living and teaching in a “post-truth” era, my co-director Kathleen Watt and I been gathering and curating resources to prepare students – and teachers – to deal with the escalating onslaught of fake news and disinformation. It was definitely time to integrate “media literacy” into our digital citizenship program and workshops.
So we were rather surprised – and disturbed – by social media scholar danah boyd’s recent SXSWEDU talk: What Hath We Wrought? We were not expecting her negative views on the value of teaching media literacy, even though she begins with a warning that the content may be provocative.
It has been validating to learn that other educators who are passionate about the need to teach media literacy have also found boyd’s message a bit off and are speaking out on where boyd is mistaken. A shout out to the three educators listed below for stepping up to a global microphone. I’ve included a snippet from each of their posts, along with the link, so you can read each post in its entirety, which I highly recommend doing. Each posts succinctly counters boyd’s points.
Jonathan Rogers – Teaching Media Literacy With A Cape After SXSWEdu
“boyd’s speech has unsettled me, but it has also made me believe more in the ways I have found to teach media literacy. Now back in my classroom, I see students grappling with bias, publishing important stories, reading the news on their phones through a variety of sources, and taking pride in the rising power of student voices. The complexity of the screen world doesn’t look so complex to me when I see real students working in a journalism classroom.”
“Oddly, boyd reduces media literacy to a superficial version of fact-checking and describes it as “fundamentally, a form of critical thinking that asks people to doubt what they see.” That makes her “nervous.” It would make me nervous, too – if that was what we actually did. It’s not.
Media literacy education doesn’t teach students to “doubt” what they see; it teaches students to interrogate what they see, and to do it routinely. We call it “inquiry.” That isn’t the same as doubting. And it’s not just a matter of semantics.”
Renee Hobbs (always my first and foremost go-to mentor for media literacy questions!) – Freedom to Choose: An Existential Crisis – A Response to boyd’s “What Hath We Wrought?”
“Media literacy education is a pedagogical approach that aims to be continually responsive to the ever-changing media, technology and cultural environment. A visit to the annual National Council of Teachers of English conference would enable boyd to recognize the amazing work of middle school and high school English teachers who explore media literacy through film analysis, analysis of social media, making media with a smartphone, digital storytelling, the study of memes, fandom, reality TV, celebrity culture and more. Media literacy competencies are embedded in the Common Core Standards and they promote academic achievement….
…Whether students are analyzing and creating hip-hop, examining propaganda, creating public service announcements, composing Scratch animation, or studying the patterns of representation in Disney films, they’re engaged in a learning process that creates opportunities for dialogue and reflection on the choices we make as creators and consumers.”
Eight years later, the four themes still remain at the heart of our digital citizenship program. In thinking through a program update, we realized that media literacy was not a separate 5th focus, but rather the overarching framework for digital/global citizenship. Media literacy is the key to unlocking the critical thinking skills needed to confront online bullying, to build and maintain a positive digital footprint, to respect and create/remix intellectual property, and to protect online privacy.
If you have media literacy resources you recommend we add, please leave a comment.