Media and Information Literacy: Current Needs, Future Perspectives

CICERO Learning celebrated the Media and Information Literacy week by hosting an event together with the Faculty of Educational Sciences and University of Helsinki, at Think Corner, on 28 October. The Media and Information Literacy (MIL) week is globally organized by UNESCO with this year’s theme about “Media and Information Literate Citizens: Informed, Engaged, Empowered”. In the CICERO event, invited speakers discussed the issue with a focus on current needs and future perspectives of MIL.

Professor Hannele Niemi, Research Director and UNESCO Chair on Educational Ecosystems for Equity and Quality of Learning at the Faculty of Educational Sciences opened the event and offered the welcome address. In her talk, Prof. Niemi introduced the MIL week as part of UNESCO’s overall goal to unite different actors who are committed to promoting the new media and information literacies. Considering 21st century needs, some fundamental principles of MIL are to foster social inclusion and promote intercultural dialogue. In turn, these aims are connected with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, as these were adopted by the United Nations Member States in 2015.

Professor Heli Ruokamo, Director of the Media Education Hub at the University of Lapland, discussed the significance of multiliteracy and ICT competences with a focus on the national core curriculum (2015) and upper secondary education. In the official document, multiliteracy is part of the general objectives of education that aims to reinforce the students’ multiliteracy by building on an understanding of different language systems (e.g., as those in science, art and so on), producing and interpreting different texts. Based on these, Ruokamo argued that multiliteracy nowadays should entail a broad definition of text. Texts, therefore, should be seen as entities articulated through a variety of systems that entail verbal, visual, auditive, numeric and kinesthetic symbols as well as their combinations.

Senior University Lecturer Sara Sintonen (Faculty of Educational Sciences), discussed dynamic literacy and multimodal texts. In her talk, Sintonen introduced the notion of literacy-as-event that exists in relation between people, places and things. Within this perspective, literacy is characterized by intensity, rather than just structure, is more than human and, thus, unpredictable and irreproducible.

Adjunct professor Marjaana Kangas (University of Lapland) delivered a presentation on multiliteracy in education drawing from a study on phenomenon-based learning in upper secondary education. Kangas gave examples of teaching and learning activities that promote multiliteracy and pointed out the need to use diverse sources of information, in addition to textbooks. Some examples can be websites, movies, TV programs, advertisements and games. In addition, Kangas argued in favor of a strategy to assess information on the basis of accuracy and reliability, while the use of digital technologies and media should consider their versatile nature. Building on such principles, self-expression, interaction and societal participation could be performed in responsible and ethical ways at a larger scale.

Dr Kari Kivinen, Principal at the French-Finnish School in Helsinki, discussed the school’s strategies and activities for fact-checking and digital self-defense. The Factabaari project has co-created with teachers a simplified version of its fact-checking methodology for teaching. This aims to encourage critical thinking and participation for informed public debate and, thus, resist disinformation. Within this framework, opportunities open up for fact-checking and media literacy communities to get together and set up spaces for further collaboration.

In addition to the invited speakers, the panel of the event hosted 5 adolescent students (16-17-year-olds) from the French-Finnish School and the Helsingin Normaalilyseo. The students represented their classmates and discussed experiences with and views about the media. The panel was chaired by Prof. Niemi who invited the participants to offer their views on issues such as what crucial aspects of literacy are; and what methods could keep us aware and updated about the meanings that multimodal texts convey.