Friday, July 06, 2007

PBS: New Media Literacy as Important for Educators as Students

New Media Literacy as Important for Educators as Students
PBS and Media Channel

For so long, the focus of media literacy education has been on helping students understand the media they consume. What are the biases? Who owns what outlet? How are news reports produced? But with the rise of new media, perhaps the focus of media literacy education should shift to educating the educators — and other adults — about blogs, podcasts, social networking, mobile content and virtual worlds. That way, adults could relate better to students and help them understand the world in which they are digital natives.

That’s one of my biggest takeaways from the recent Media: Overseas Conversations IV conference I attended in New York last week. About 50 to 100 people went to the conference, and that audience was incredibly attuned to media literacy issues and came from around the world. The panel I moderated on new media and social networking included one professor from the University of Toronto, one from the University of Algarve, Portugal, and one from an academy in Beijing.

Vitor Reia-Baptista, the professor from Portugal, noted on my panel that he was trying hard to educate the educators more about new technologies, so that they could then pass on that knowledge to students — or at least keep up with them. That set off the idea for me that perhaps new media literacy has to begin with the teachers before the pupils.

Jordi Torrent is a filmmaker, media literacy educator, and activist who organized the gathering. In between panels, he told me about his experience working in New York public schools, helping to push more critical thinking of media. He was disappointed that more local teachers didn’t show up at the conference, even though it was in New York for free on a Saturday.

“Because I work in the school system, I see how overtaxed the teachers are,” he said. “When you go to the schools, you see so many people doing incredible work in the classrooms. But they are scared of the new technology; it’s overwhelming them. We would like to teach them with professional development workshops, and the technology is actually getting simpler and easier to use. If they run into questions when teaching [new media], their students would probably have the answers for them.”

One hot-button issue for educators that came up repeatedly at the conference was around the use of copyrighted material and fair use, the exception to the law that allows comment or satire on copyrighted works. Many entertainment companies have been restricting fair use for academics in school, and that makes it very difficult to teach media literacy when you can’t show media examples due to copyright constraints. Documentary filmmakers have been pushing media companies to allow them to use copyrighted material under fair use, so they don’t have to spend countless days getting permission.

The Center for Social Media at American University has an amazing online resource related to fair use, with a report on fair use in online video platforms, as well as a “Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use” by documentary filmmakers. Probably the most entertaining take on copyright law is a video called A Fair(y) Use Tale, put together by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University. The clip takes snippets of animated dialogue from Disney films to explain how copyright law works. These efforts are paramount in supporting educators so they feel more comfortable teaching new-media literacy without fear of being sued.

To Read the Rest of this Hyperlinked Report

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