Thursday, 30 April 2009

Report of the Digital Britain Media Literacy Working Group

Digital Britain- the interim report was published in late January 2009 and aimed to show how this country would be at the forefront of the digital ecomomy. They recognised that
"if we are to maximise the digital opportunity, we will need to ensure a population that is confident and empowered to access, use and create digital media," and " we will ask Ofcom to make an assessment of its current responsibilities in relation to media literacy and, working with the BBC and others, to recommend a new definition and ambition for a National Media Literacy Plan. "
Ofcom therefore formed a Working Group (government depts., BBC, industry, education and Third Sector) and they have produced this Report (27 March 2009).

Why am I posting about this report? After all it's not my usual sort of post (most are short!)

First because my attention was drawn to it by Ruth Stubbings at University of Loughborough, second because it highlights the connection between media and information literacy and third because librarians will be involved in the process outlined in the report- but how best?

Government investment in digital infrastructures and broadband must be mirrored by media literacy provision. The report is useful for its definitions of media literacy :

"There is no single, agreed definition of media literacy. Media literacy is an umbrella term covering a set of personal skills, knowledge and understanding of media and communications. It is a specialist term, not part of everyday language." (Sounds a bit like th eproblems we have with IL!)
They go on to acknowledge that there are two other non-traditional literacies which appear in public policy (digital literacy and information literacy which "offer related visions of the technical and critical thinking skills required for modern living and woirking").
"Information literacy and digital literacy include within their definitions some of the competencies related to skills, knowledge and understanding included in media literacy. Some authors suggest that media literacy is simply literacy in the context of the digital world. Others refer to it as 21st Century literacy."
There is much common ground between IL and media literacy.

Ofcom then propose to define media literacy as "the ability to use, understand and create (digital) media and communications". In the context of this report which focuses on digital matters they add 'digital' (see above).
They understand that no single organisation in isolation can promote media literacy and many organisations have a key role. I would say the same is true of IL.
The key elements fostering digital engagment are :
1.Digital inclusion
2.Digital life skills
3.Digital media literacy
These will be encountered by individuals in a continuum and can be seen as as different stages in each person's development. Various organisations could be involved in these stages and libraries/museums& archives are seen as part of 3. digital media literacy.
The advantages of developing digital life skills include being able to find and access information more quickly. Digital life skills should be tackled in formal education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
They acknowledge the importance of eight key areas where action is needed to promote what they call digital engagement. These include critical evaluation ; provision in education and ethical use of media.
How are libraries mentioned?

To improve skills : free and low cost taster sessions in libraries especially in deprived areas.

"Promote a culture within schools, libraries and support organisations that will empower teachers and group leaders to encourage young people to get involved as digital participants and creators to develop their creative and critical thinking skills."

"Promote a culture within schools that empowers teachers to encourage young people to get involved as digital participants and creators to develop their creative and critical thinking skills."

"Promote a culture within schools that empowers teachers to guide young people to develop their creative skills while remaining on the right side of the law."

In the implementation section
"the BBC recognises that, with an estimated 17 million adults not using computers and the internet, there is more to be done to motivate and inspire them to acquire IT skills and go online.The BBC believes it can and should make a substantial contribution to achieving a higher ambition in this area, and will seek to make significant new investment to implement a reinvigorated BBC media literacy strategy." It goes on to suggest a new strategy to reinvigorate BBC media literacy. This involves a Consortium to work with Government to build a framework for creating a real digitally engaged society (to include BBC,ITC,CH4 BSkyB, Broadband stakeholder group, a group of social media portals, UK Online centres, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. )

Would there be merit in libraries getting involved with this Consortium? CILIP?
Could the initiatives also help to get across the importance of IL ? Surely there is enough common ground (critical awareness ; ethical issues, for example) to consider this?

Thank you for reading this! Let's have some comments - please - if only to tell me about my typos!


Lesley said...

Thanks for alerting us to this. I found a previous OfCom Media Literacy report very useful in getting attention paid to the need for information literacy in the school where I work so I shall be interested to see what further ammunition I can get from this one!

KathR said...

Interesting, and there's a debate going on in the OU Library at present about what we mean by digital literacy and where it overlaps with media and information literacy.

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