“Mapping in itself is a media literacy skill. Knowing how to access these resources is also part of this skill,” said Idit Caperton, president and founder of the World Wide Workshop Foundation. “We need to make sure that when we create these resources and programs, … we aren’t automatically excluding a large population.”
Other participants offered their opinions on how media literacy can become a national priority.
“There are multiple entry points for the media literacy agenda in the new National Ed-Tech Plan we just released,” said Kwasi Asare, associate director for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. “One of them [is] sponsored challenges and incentives for public and private sectors to promote media literacy in the form of professional development for teachers, or providing access to resources via wireless broadband.”
Robin Bronk, CEO of the Creative Coalition, said the best way to engage communities in backing media literacy education is to let people know that media literacy skills can mean the difference between life and death.
“Media literacy goes beyond online safety; it means knowing how to filter and analyze messages that influence childhood obesity and media programs that can lead to situations like Columbine. Our coalition could be one platform that offers a national PSA on media literacy as a life-saving skill to have,” she said.
“We also need to realize that promoting the term ‘media literacy’ might be too large of a sell,” said Alan Simpson, vice president of policy for Common Sense Media. “When you say ‘media literacy,’ many people in the community might not know what that means or think it’s worth their time. But if you sell it through online safety for young Facebook users, or the prevention of bullying, it might pick up.”
Already, some lawmakers are taking steps to boost media literacy skills and education.
For example, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., has proposed a bill, the 21st-Century Skills Incentive Fund Act (S. 1029), that would provide matching federal funds to states offering students curriculum options that include information literacy and media literacy.
If passed, the bill would appropriate $100 million a year for states that develop a comprehensive plan to implement a statewide 21st-century skills initiative and are able to supply matching funds.
Also, Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., have sponsored the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), which authorizes $40 million to support media literacy programs for children and youth.
Although they are steps forward, these bills—even if passed—will not be enough, said Hobbs.
The 10 recommendations for action “provide specific concrete programs and services to meet the diverse needs of our nation’s citizens, young and old, and build the capacity for digital and media literacy to thrive as a community education movement,” she said.
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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