Module 1: Introduction to Media & Information Literacy and Key Concepts (2024)

The intersection of news media and information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the attendant convergence of content and systems means that people are increasingly living in a mediated world. This is a world where person to person communication and the transmission of content occurs increasingly via technological platforms. This reality brings with it many opportunities as well as challenges making media and information literacy (MIL) vital to empower people. The opportunities include more access to information and avenues for self-expression, lifelong learning, participation, creativity, dialogue, cultural exchange and transparency, which when put together contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The challenges include privacy and data infringement concerns, rising misinformation, surveillance, mounting online hatespeech and violent extremist content, frequent attacks on women and further exclusion of marginalized groups.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the changes in flows of information, digital technology, mediating institutional providers and media development. On one hand, many of the prospects and efforts to tackle the virus exist in the overall ecology. Yet, the efforts are also hindered by the ‘disinfodemic’, which is the confusing content mix, often overshadowing information with misinformation – and enabled by digital communications.

MIL as an umbrella term that encompasses various competencies that enable individuals and groups to navigate the turbulent seas of today’s information and communications environment. It covers a large spectrum of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. MIL enables citizens, including youth, to acquire competencies to understand their information needs, better search, find, critically evaluate, use, and contribute to information and media content wisely. Thereby, MIL enables the purposeful and creative use of digital technology and empowers all users through enhancing their knowledge of their online and digital rights, as well of the ethical issues surrounding access to and use of information. Media and information literate citizens are equipped to engage more effectively in dialogue, freedom of expression, access to information, gender equality, diversity, peace, and sustainable development.

MIL is an important prerequisite for balancing citizens’ power against that of content providers, and for harnessing ICTs for education and fostering equitable access to information and freedom of expression. For people to effectively participate and succeed throughout all stages of life, it is urgent that MIL is integrated at all levels of society and in formal, non- formal and in-formal education.

According to the recent statistics of the ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database, 2019, 1.3 billion (3/4) of the world’s 1.7 billion households, representing 4.9 billion people, have a television; and 0.6 billion (1/3) of all households, representing 1.9 billion people, have access to a computer; As of January 2021, 59.6 percent of the world’s population or 4.66 billion people are using the Internet30; inthe middle of 2020, there were an estimated 105 mobile- cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Added to this there are over 2.5 billion radio receivers. The World Association of Newspapers reports 640 million users worldwide paid for print and digital news each day in 2018. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that close to 1 million new books are published annually in the world. At the end of 2019, over 69 per cent of the world youth population (aged 15-24 years) was using the Internet. According to a UNICEF- ITU joint report in 2020, 1.1 billion - or 1 in 3 children and young people aged 25 years or less - have Internet access at home. The number of businesses adopting artificial intelligence grew by 270% in four years, between 2015 and 2019 (Gartner, 2019).

When put together, the number of television and radio stations, newspapers, cell phones, access to and use of the Internet, books, libraries, billboards, and video games determine much of what we learn about ourselves, our country, our cultures and the world around us. In this connected world, being media and information literate means that we can rethink what is called citizenship and lifelong learning, and consider concepts such as global citizenship education, education for sustainable development, and digital citizenship.

Content providers such as libraries, archives, museums, media, digital communications companies are central to sustainable development, democracy and good governance, both as a platform for democratic discourse and enablers of digital creativity and entrepreneurship. If the content providers and digital tools are going to support democracy and sustainable development, citizens need to understand how to use them critically, know how to interpret the messages they receive, create and share. Equally, if the ecosystem is to reinforce digital creativity and entrepreneurship, in addition to the competencies mentioned above, people should also understand how to identify opportunities for entrepreneurship in this arena, and grasp the benefits of the intersection of critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration for social change.

While the importance of fundamental numeracy and literacy skills cannot be underestimated, the inclusion of MIL in curricula and development programmes means that young people must also understand the functions of content providers and have the skills to seek, evaluate, use and create content to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. They must also possess basic skills for critical thinking, to analyse and use them for self-expression, for becoming independent learners, producers, informed citizens, professionals, and participants in the governance and democratic and economic processes of their societies (cf. Report of National Forum on Information Literacy, 2005).

This module is built on four pillars: critical thinking, self- expression, participation, and creativity. It will consider MIL as relevant to and overlapping with a variety of disciplines/ fields, and will explore such questions as:

  • What is information within the wider mix of content?
  • What are the media and the digital communication companies?
  • What are digital technologies?
  • Why teach about all of these?
  • Why are they important?
  • What is media literacy?
  • What is information literacy?
  • What is digital literacy?
  • Why media and information literacy?

The module will present MIL as teaching/learning and social and economic engagement processes rather than solely as a discipline. Therefore, it will broadly introduce learners to key issues and concepts of the field which will be dealt with in more detail in other modules, offering them the opportunity to develop an understanding of the difference between ‘teaching about,’ ‘teaching through’, and engaging in society with MIL as a tool.

The aim is for educators, learners, community leaders, and peer educators themselves to become media and information literate, and to develop the competencies necessary for integrating MIL at all levels and for all types of education.

Module 1: Introduction to Media & Information Literacy and Key Concepts (2024)
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