Digital Literacy Debate – Can YouTube Improve Learning?

The concern about media literacy is not new.  See the video below, Blogging Through History,  for a look at how pamphleteering, Ben Frankin, and Yellow Journalism required readers of the past to look with a critical eye at the written word.  Blank pages were placed at the end of written documents so readers could comment and pass along.  Sound familiar?

These days it seems like everyone is watching YouTube, and some of the content is actually allowing learners to access wonderful, accurate, and thought provoking digital media via the Internet.   Educators like Sal Khan are giving wider access to subjects like Math, Science and History to a diverse group learners on demand with The Khan Academy.  In sharp contrast, there are also the clips of cats skydiving.  So, can YouTube make us smarter?

I believe through proper analysis of the message, it can.  Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls, in Media Literacy, A National Priority for a Changing World offer us some advice about how to evaluate media.  Since digital media has become more complex, diverse and accessible, the actual content of the message becomes less important than the analysis and further re-communication of the message.  Readers can use the following 5 questions to better evaluate digital media:

1.  Who created the message?

2.  What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

3.  How might different people understand this message differently from me?

4.  What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

5.  Why is this message being sent?

The authors add that:  “Now is the time to make media literacy education a national priority in advancing 21st century skills for a 21st century world”

What are you doing in your classrooms to encourage students to learn digital media skills?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *