Media, ICT, and Information Literacy

Article excerpt

A person would have to be locked in a box not to know that technology has transformed our worlds of knowledge and entertainment. When the pundits are saying that the handheld device will soon be the primary medium for accessing the internet, we can see that the electronic environment is not just part of our life, it is our life.

With relative independence, three movements have arisen from our involvement with technology--media literacy, ICT (information and communication technology), and information literacy. All three have evolved over time, and they are now moving toward convergence (isn't everything?), resulting in some confusion as to how they relate to one another and whether or not all three are speaking of the same reality.

MEDIA LITERACY

Media literacy arose out of a real concern (which started with television and movies and then expanded into the internet) that students need to be able to assess the role of media in their lives. From understanding the messages embodied in advertising to handling excesses of sex and violence to preventing propagandization, media literacy focuses on evaluation and analysis. Knowing how to acquire media is not the issue, nor is the mechanics of using media tools. The emphasis is on using media wisely. More recently, media literacy has entered the realm of media creation. From Facebook to YouTube, people are developing their own media and sharing it profusely. This has created new issues related to safe and ethical creation, intellectual property, and authenticity.

Media literacy is a constantly moving target because of the growing variety of media that is available. Safe texting, knowing which images of oneself are unwise to share publicly, and understanding the risks of spreading gossip to the world are all grist for the increasingly diverse media literacy mill. One example of a national initiative is The News Literacy Program (www.thenewsliteracyproject .org), which is intended for middle school and high school students who need to be wise consumers and creators of news. The Media Education Foundation has numerous articles, posters, and teaching aids to help educators and students understand media literacy (www.mediaed.org/wp/handouts-articles).

While paying little attention to information literacy's issues of identifying a problem and acquiring information, media literacy's strong emphasis on evaluation is akin to that portion of information literacy that focuses on evaluating information for reliability and usefulness.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICT)

ICT is a bit more elusive in its definition. It arises from a concern that all people need access to information technology (overcoming the digital divide) and must have the ability to optimize the use of the technology they possess. This narrow definition, however, has more recently been pushed in the direction of information literacy. It's not enough to know how to operate the technology of information. It's also necessary to assess the worth, reliability, and ultimate functionality of the information that is found. ICT has become a type of information literacy, although its concerns arise from the use of information technology.

There are several significant groups working on ICT. Each group has developed a growing association with information literacy. An umbrella website--the ICT Digital Literacy Portal (www.ictliteracy.info/index.htm)--links to any number of information literacy initiatives around the world, from U.S. universities to UNESCO. Interestingly, the link called What is ICT Literacy? leads to Stanford University's What is Information Literacy? page, showing how much ICT has moved in the direction of info lit. Similarly, the Educational Technology Standards for Students, formulated by the International Society for Technology in Education, includes a section called Research and Information Fluency (www .iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForStudents/2007 Standards/NETS_for_Students_2007. …