What is media literacy
The Pestalozzi Programme puts media literacy in the context of Human Rights and describes it as the critical, responsible and beneficial use of the media environment. As such it is one of the key competences for sustainable democratic societies, part of a set of basic “transversal attitudes, skills and knowledge of a democratic citizen” as central elements of formal, non-formal and informal education:
- Critical observation from different perspectives
- Actions based on the respect for human rights and dignity
- Ability to act democratically and to cooperate
- Understanding of diversity and the ability to live in diversity
- Understanding of the past and the present and the ability to project into the future
- Ability to communicate across all kinds and types of borders
- Critical, responsible and beneficial/profitable use of the media environment
- Ability and readiness to continue learning throughout one’s life
Why is it important to deal with media literacy
A critical attitude towards the media has always been necessary: media accompany and influence our lives, they tell stories, they entertain, media transport news and above all media create and shape opinions, and much more. Media education in the last decades of the 20th century has addressed this with a varying degree of success.
However, the media environment has changed substantially over the past two decades and has moved from mass communication on to “mass-to-mass” communication. Media users have moved from consumers of media, recipients of messages to actors, to producers of content of a much wider range than previously imagined.
This change and its potential of easy access to all types of content, easy access to spreading all kinds of messages, easy ways of making contact in this virtual space which surrounds us daily, the omnipresence of information technology in our private and professional life as well as in the interaction of the citizen with society in its various aspects (citizenship, social security and health, insurances, banking, etc), the ever present processing and availability and the potential misuse of sensitive data may inspire a feeling of danger and worry.
The virtual space has become a real-life extension of the concrete social space, both surround us and we live and act increasingly in both of them. The virtual social space has the similar purposes and uses as the concrete social space (Identity building and personal development, communication, information retrieval, social interaction and participation, education and learning, work, entertainment, construction of reality, …). As such it has to be guided by and be subject to the same values and principles as the concrete social space: human rights, democratic citizenship and mutual understanding and respect in a diverse world.
It becomes clear that the old policies and practices towards the media cannot help us face up to the challenges posed through these changes. New policies and new practices must be designed and they must go beyond quick fixes, which only try to allay fears by focusing on risk and protection issues, or try to ensure that people have equal access to and learn how to use these means of communication on a mere technical level. These policies and practices must equally if not more so focus on medium and long-term strategies of empowerment through formal, non-formal and informal education so that citizens can make full use of the potential provided by the current and future media environment.
What does the Pestalozzi Programme do to develop media literacy
In 2007 the Pestalozzi Programme organised a ThinkTank on the issue of media literacy and human rights in cooperation with the Media and Information Society Division. The aim was to identify how media literacy development and human rights can be linked in education. A trainer training course on the same theme spanned the years 2008/2009 in which a group of 30 teacher trainers across Europe developed and piloted training material with a focus on education for media literacy based on human rights. In 2010 and 2011 further teacher training in this domain was offered with a particular emphasis on the actual practices of young people in the media environment of Web 2.0.
In December 2011 a ThinkTank with education professionals, researchers and representatives of INGOs discussed the vision and reasoned argumentation for a digital space which respects human rights and dignity and the necessity of guidance for educational practice regarding the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be developed in users as well as an identification of the necessary contributions from all stakeholders (the users, the trainers, the institutions, international organisations, the public authorities and editors of content). This work is intended to lead to a declaration in the future.
In 2012 the training resources on media literacy development based on human rights are being reviewed and will be made available later. The Pestalozzi Programme also prepares a practical handbook for education practitioners in diverse educational settings which will also contain activities which promote and develop the necessary values, attitudes and skills for a responsible and beneficial use of the virtual social space.