Ewan McIntosh on New Media Literacy
"For years now, parents (and by default most educators and decision-makers) underestimate what young people do online. While most adults think youngsters spend somewhere in the region of 18.8 hours per month online, the reality is that UK kids are averaging 43.5 hours a month. Only four of those hours are spent using the net in schools, the rest is mostly unaccounted for on mobile phones and at home in those bedroom prisons. What's going on in those remaining 24.7 hours each month is unknown. The people with the media literacy challenge are not just young people - it's adults, too, who lack the basic alphabet of understanding that's needed to bottom out responsible, creative, enjoyable and engaging use of the web by us all.
Gen-Y doesn't exist We know from research, anecdote and a cursory glance across Bebo or Facebook profiles (I've probably viewed close to 15,000 in my previous work with Learning and Teaching Scotland) that we are wrong to annoint youngsters with some sort of technological superiority through lables such as the "Google Generation", "Gen Y" or, my pet armageddon, "Digital Natives".
Firstly, we know that while young people are taught how to swim in the safe goldfish bowl of school and private intranets, often by educators who themselves have a filmsy idea of how to operate in that arena, they are completely incapable of operating safely and responsibly in the oceans of the web. If young people are to learn how to upload and download information responsibly then they must be allowed to play with their technologies with the lifeguard of the educator to drag them back to safety when they start to falter. Filtering these technologies serves only to compound the ability of the educator to work with the youngster on media literacy, and harms us all in a wider sense.
Secondly, we romanticise the technological creativity of our youngsters online. While large numbers now upload material online (close to 78% of teens according to most recent research) most of this material is photographic - i.e. mobile snaps from nights out. Creating and publishing original narrative, original code or Facebook apps or even mashed up video or code is not currently a regular pass-time of you average British kid, though we are beginning to see valiant efforts to make this process of creation-publication the norm in our schooling.
However, most don't come close to the kind of creativity illustrated by a young Mark Zuckerberg, pictured, who avoided his near flunk at Harvard art class with some online creativity, a story recounted by Jeff in WWGD. With a few days to go until his final exam, for which he hadn't done any work (well, he was creating his $15b company), he created a site with copies of the artwork that was likely to appear in the final exam, put in some comment boxes under each one, and let his fellow students know that he had created a collaborative study guide. All they had to do was fill in the blanks. Not only did a cheeky Zuckerberg pass with flying colours, but his classmates also did better than normal thanks to their formative assessment that Zuckerberg offered them.
But here's the tough question Jarvis doesn't ask: how many youngsters actually do that, or even think of it as a possibility? Today's literacy benchmark is copy and paste. A media literacy strategy, instead of talking about how we block copying and pasting, and enforce filtering, rating, copyright and IPR restrictions, could begin the hard work of illustrating how copy, paste, open sourcing and creative commons-ing can lead to much better content and information for all." (http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2009/03/how-to-help-people-better-use-the-net-go-to-them-let-them-copy-open-up.html)