Monday, 17 November 2008

I’ve been reading a bit about (digital) media literacy and its impact in the promotion of a participatory society. I’m particularly interested in investigating what role of education (including e-learning) should play in this process. Some argue that youth become digitally literate just by interacting with popular culture. Others say pedagogical and policy interventions are needed so as to foster equal access to opportunities for expression using new media, a clear understanding of how media shape perceptions, and socialization that prepares them to act as a media makers and community participants.

I tend to go along with the second opinion not least because of a small survey I carried out with some teenagers (15-19 years-old) about their Internet uses. Among other findings, I discovered (was I really surprised?) that, despite their easy access to the Internet, the great majority of them spend 100% of their time online in one or all of these 3 activities: email/IM, chat and social networking sites. I’m talking here about middle-class Brazilian students whose parents have in their majority finished a university course.

Now, I’m not saying there is no gain in digital literacy in these activities, but I just wonder how much critical, reflective and creative thinking is required while updating one’s profile, or finding out about someone’s new date. I don’t want to sound prudish and I definitely don’t think young people should not do these things. What I’m questioning here, and as mentioned above, what interests me is to define the role of education in the process of developing young people’s media literacy skills. As apparently they’re not getting a lot of it from their main current internet activities, how can elearning help shape their future as active, participatory citizens? That’s not a rhetoric question; I’d really be interested in having other people’s opinions.