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Media Literacy in the Digital Age

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

A new report out from the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy makes the case for emphasis on media literacy in the digital age. Entitled Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, the report by Renee Hobbs focuses on media literacy in the U.S., but some of its points struck me as potentially applicable in other parts of the world as well. Hobbs isolates several digital and media literacy skills that are necessary to take part in civic life in an information-saturated society (all of these are taken directly from her report):

  • Make responsible choices and access information by locating and sharing materials and comprehending information and ideas
  • Analyze messages in a variety of forms by identifying the author, purpose and point of view, and evaluating the quality and credibility of the content
  • Create content in a variety of forms, making use of language, images, sound, and new digital tools and technologies
  • Reflect on one’s own conduct and communication behavior by applying social responsibility and ethical principles
  • Take social action by working individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and by participating as a member of a community.

According to Hobbs, these all constitute "core competencies of citizenship" in the digital age. My (open) question is, do these also constitute core competencies of citizenship in less developed countries where access to technology is not a given? Are there other, equally crucial media literacy competencies in the developing world that are not included here? With the exception perhaps of using "new digital tools and technologies," they do seem fairly applicable to me, but no doubt there are other particular considerations that need to come into play in areas where certain types of technology are plentiful (mobile phones) while others are not (computers with broadband). I do think the phrase "make responsible choices" takes on a different meaning in the context of authoritarian countries, for instance, so not all language easily translates across borders. Still, it's an interesting starting point for discussion.


Photo Credit: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank

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Submitted by Associate Professor Martin Hadlow on
As a member of the international expert group which met at UNESCO HQ to design a "Teacher-Training Curricula for Media and Information Literacy", I thought you might be interested in this project. Further details (and a copy of the report of the group) can be found here:

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