Media Literacy

13 09 2007

Two of the complaints that I constantly hear from my fellow oldsters is that “kids just don’t read anymore,” and “They just aren’t literate.”

Well, it depends what you mean by literacy.

We swim in a world of multimedia. We thrive in a world of visual and aural stimuli, delivered through digital processes as well as the traditional analog sensory ones. As Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the School of Cinema at USC, has said:

No longer can students be considered truly educated by mastering reading and writing alone. The ability to negotiate through life by combining words with pictures with audio with video to express thoughts will be the mark of the educated student.

In an interview in the LA Times she further explains:

We’re not attacking the text. We really like texts. It’s just that with multimedia, you’re penetrating things at so many layers and levels that you can’t with just text.

This means that not only will the educated student in any discipline need to be able to create media (whether it is uploading a video, writing a blog, or creating a film/Powerpoint for their non-media work), but they must be able to understand when they are being manipulated by someone else’s media, and how.

These thoughts come up because I am in Albuquerque for a few days where I am a “Key Mentor” for a conference entitled “Cinematic Arts and Literacy: Solutions for a Changing World” (how come all academic books and conferences need to have a phrase, after the colon, explaining what the title was before the colon??). One interesting thing that comes up in any debate on media literacy is how much it overlaps with the acquisition of information. Years ago that meant “book learning” or, in broader terms, the acquisition of information using printed and aural input. Today, that is increasingly an outmoded way of looking at things. Yet the goals are still the same. Here is a quote from the organization ETS, about their iSkills Assessment Tool:

In today’s information-driven academic environment, students need to know how to find, use, manage, evaluate, and convey information efficiently and effectively. As a comprehensive test of Information and Communication Technology proficiency, [the iSkills test] presents real-time, scenario-based tasks to assess the cognitive and technical skills required of today’s higher education students. The assessment provides support for institutional ICT literacy initiatives, guides curricula innovations, informs articulation and progress standings, and assesses individual student proficiency.

Perhaps a bit self-serving, and definitely full of jargon. But it is (I think) a great indicator of what is interesting about working in film education today. It’s no longer just about teaching filmmakers. It has grown into a position which is about teaching everyone how film and other moving media influences everything they do.

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3 responses

18 09 2007
Frank Baker

Love the quote from Dean Daley. Unfortunately most of our schools are still in print-centric mode. How can we help teachers appreciate the media/culture of youth? Media education is one way.

18 09 2007
Frank Baker

Point me to the URL: that article in the LA Times where the quote from the USC Dean came from..I cannot locate it. Thanks.

18 09 2007

Try this link. It points to a cached article from the Chronicle of Higher Education which you might not have access to.,+like+texts&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us&client=firefox-a

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