Empowering ākonga in a digital age with inaugural Media Literacy Week

Issue: Volume 103, Number 5

Posted: 24 April 2024
Reference #: 1HAgFP

A first for schools and kura in Aotearoa New Zealand, Media Literacy Week from 13–17 May aims to equip secondary students with vital skills to navigate the complexities of the digital age, fostering critical thinking and resilience in the online realm.

Media Week

"We think of media literacy as the ability to access, understand and create communications successfully in a variety of contexts,” says Jerome Cargill, head of media studies at Macleans College in Auckland and a key driver of New Zealand’s first Media Literacy Week for secondary students. He also serves as the regional coordinator for the National Association of Media Educators (NAME).

The week plans to support media literacy outside classrooms and aims to help students better navigate online spaces.

Planned activities focus on five themes: Use, Understand, Engage, Access, and Verify. These cover topics like critical thinking, cyberbullying, communication, ethics, and misinformation.

“Essentially, we’re trying to make the subject matter as generic as possible, so that it can naturally arise in whatever context the school wants,” reflects Jerome.

“Whether it’s a social studies-themed week where they really focus on media literacy, or activities in English, technology or art, the resources are designed to fit with what schools are covering right now.”

Resources include reading activities, online games, videos, tutorials, websites, and online platforms.

Critical thinking

He Uru Kahikatea: Building young people’s resilience through media and information literacy and digital citizenship skills, reflects a need for students and their teachers to understand both how content is selected and distributed, along with the activities that social media and technology companies may be involved with offline.

The authors also recommend making sure media and information literacy are culturally and contextually relevant.

“I think the larger landscape for youth currently, is one where it’s becoming increasingly important for students to develop media literacy skills because of how over-saturated their worlds are with media,” says Jerome.

Jerome describes the critical thinking skills that sit within the fabric of media literacy as essential.

“We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘Who wrote this? Why did they write this? What’s the purpose of that? And who is the intended audience?’ Those questions allow us to be more critical about the things we’re encountering.”

Leanne Ross, chief customer officer at Netsafe, says much of their work centres around harm prevention education as well as the remediation of harm once it has happened.

“Media Literacy Week brings a great focus to some of that critical thinking harm prevention education and showcases how it can be taught across many subjects, preparing our young people for a future of disaggregated media and AI information tools.”

The organisation has provided a collection of micro-learning modules as part of Media Literacy Week resources.

Topics cover a broad spectrum of catchphrases relevant to the landscape of media for New Zealand youth: Own your info, Be your Selfie, News or Views, What’s real online?

Balance is key

Patrick Usmar, a full-time lecturer at the School of Communications, AUT, with 14 years’ experience in the media industry, believes that children should be learning about media literacy as soon as they’re old enough to pick up a screen.

“Many educators believe that young people are good at navigating media purely because they’re on their screens so often. We shouldn’t work under the assumption that because they’re using media so often, they’ll have good media literacy.”

Patrick asserts that much of the world is mediated – meaning anything we don’t experience first-hand is ‘mediated’ or re-presented via a secondary source.

“Even a maths book at school has been written and designed by someone. I’m not saying we should sit with primary school teachers or students and go through every nuance of that process, but I do believe that media literacy needs to be integrated into everything we do.”

Patrick believes ‘balance’ is a key word for educators.

“We talk about protecting young people from media, stopping them from looking at certain types of media. But we should also protect them in a way that means they have the skills to decode media representations to better understand the media they’re consuming and how it’s produced.

“Empowerment comes from that process. We should also encourage young people to produce media linked to their lived experience, to help them make sense of those protectionist-type conversations and explore what that means to them.”

Media Literacy Week will take place in term 2, from 13–17 May. Jerome explains that the vision for the week is to initially have media studies teachers lead the initiative as they see fit in their schools and kura, but he also believes there is potential for the resources to be used in many other ways.

“The aspirational goal is for every single secondary student to develop a new skill or understanding about media literacy that helps them to navigate media more successfully.

“That’s the dream. If we could do that every year, then that’d be absolutely fantastic.”

Find out more and get involved at: 

name.org.nz(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 2:00 pm, 24 April 2024

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts