UNESCO has entered the digital literacy fray by publishing what they call five laws of media and information literacy. While they don’t use the phrase “digital literacy”, it’s clear that they’re addressing that field’s concerns.
I’d like to summarize their offerings, then reflect on their strengths and challenges. tldr: it’s impressive.
This literacy (they call it “MIL”) draws on and synthesizes multiple literacies, including, but also going beyond, information and media literacy:
Note that it breaks “news literacy” out from “media literacy”. Also be sure to catch the importance of freedom of expression, turned into “freedom of information literacy”. That’s a brave move for a global organization, since not every nation or other political actor shares that latter value.
The centerpiece is what they call the “five laws of media and information literacy”, summarized in this helpful infographic:
Law 1 is about multiple information platforms and venues, seeing them as “equal in stature” to each other. People should use those channels for “critical civic engagement and sustainable development.”
Law 2 identifies users – all users – as creators, not just consumers, and emphasizes gender equality.
Law 3 reminds us that information can be biased.
Law 4 sees every person as a potential learner and information consumer – even if not everyone thinks they are.
Law 5 argues that digital – sorry, media and information literacy – is a major curriculum, and even offers a definition: “access, evaluation/assessment, use, production and communication of information, media and technology content,” with associated “knowledge, skills, and attitudes”.
They have a curriculum for teachers (pdf), which goes into some detail about topics ranging from “Representation in Media and Information” to “Digital Editing and Computer Retouching”. I’m impressed that they include this key pedagogy: “Learning how to Learn”.
Beyond curriculum and pedagogy, this UNESCO team is very ambitious, offering:
a comprehensive strategy which include preparation of model Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers, the facilitation of international cooperation, development of Guidelines for preparing national MIL Policies and Strategies, articulation of a Global Framework on MIL Indicators, setting up a MIL University Network, articulation of and establishment of an International Clearinghouse on MIL in cooperation with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and provision of Guidelines for Broadcasters on Promoting User-Generated Content and MIL.
So, some thoughts.
The emphasis on respecting all people as holders of knowledge with the capacity to express it is bold, and welcome. A nice echo of #HortonFreire.
The inclusion of users as producers is also welcome. It matches my understanding.
Emphasizing freedom of expression is another bold move, given the increasing unpopularity of that right worldwide. I wonder if UNESCO will get pushback.
This is the most global digital literacy initiative I’ve seen. Check the pages linked above for examples, like the translation of many documents into multiple languages, or the non-US/non-Anglophonic-centric nature of the universities in UNESCO/UNAOC-MILID Network. (Which might explain why I’ve heard so little about it in the States)
Law 4 fascinates me, almost like a koan. What does it mean to recognize that people are information consumers, producers, and learners, when they might not know that they are? Is this an argument for compulsory schooling, or for a kind of Socratic/Freudian pedagogy, or…?
I don’t know where this initiative is going, frankly. It’s an official UNESCO initiative, but it’s hard for an outsider to know what that means in practice. Their list of face-to-face events ends in 2016, so perhaps MIL is digital only now. Will the university network take off? What’s the budget? Where has it received traction? How does one get involved?
I’d like to hear from any participants, as well as from members of the digital/media/information literacy world.