Develop digital and media literacy
Another step in tackling the challenges we see in the world, after reflection on identity and building the skills of deliberation, needs to be growing awareness that economic, business, and consumer development cannot continue unaware of the implications and hidden values found in our technological world. Awareness of what role digital tools have in our communities needs to grow, while also working to understand how the source and perspective being put forward matter in our lives.50 Gaining an understanding of our reality and situation causes us to pause and take a deep breath. As we think more about our context and reality, and what it means for our future direction, we become aware and open for learning.
As a society, we have seen a move away from belief in the unlimited development occurring at the end of the 20th century. Big groups within societies have come to understand that production and consumption and growth, understood as income no matter how it is achieved, are toxic. Thanks to this, we have moved more toward a more complex understanding, situationally awrare, conscious of the impacts of development.
This “development consciousness,” as we might call it, helps us be knowledgeable about the impacts of our choices and actions on other human beings, the planet, and our futures.
Students in a study of middle graders who engaged with their teachers in civic engagement projects were able to interpret information coming from a variety of types of sources.51 In Estonia,52 ICT teachers and leaders work toward what they have called “digital competence,” which includes both digital safety and specific work with digital media in order to better understand it. As information bombards students across multiple social media platforms, they need to be able to analyze the information coming at them. The same goes for the teachers and staff in a school. The impacts of the challenges the world faces, on individuals, members of groups, and the environment around us are not always visible. Often, they emerge over time and grow in their importance. Teachers, as public intellectuals, should help students to understand their situation from even political perspectives.53 One activity that can contribute to generating awareness and new knowledge about consumerism and its impact on all of us is to look at online advertisements or print magazine covers and advertisements from various parts of the world. Have the participants answer questions such as:
- • Are there universalities in wants and needs around the world?
- • Are advertisements or magazines directed at one particular group, for example, women, different in different parts of the world or within a country?
- • Do any advertisements fail because of what the company chose not to consider? For example, why would an advertisement in Canada that shows a young girl cleaning her brother’s room cause controversy?
Once the group has generated their answers, design and implement a media literacy campaign for the other students in the school. What cautions or warnings would the class recommend for others to pay attention to? What lenses should we use when trying to understand an Instagram meme, a Facebook advertisement, or a commercial in a magazine or on TV? Teachers and students need to know that “no technology resource is completely bias-free, so our skills as digital citizens need to be honed, challenging us to be creators instead of merely users.”54 Having students think about how to answer these questions and teach others in the school or community about them will help them all become more media literate.