Media Literacy of College Students

I’m reading a dissertation called, “MEDIA CREATION AND THE NET GENERATION: COMPARING FACULTY AND STUDENT BELIEFS AND COMPETENCIES REGARDING MEDIA LITERACY WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION” by Hans Schmidt. It’s pretty fascinating to me because much of it confirms what I have personally experienced and have long suspected about so-called “Digital Natives” who are supposed to be experts in communicating with technology. He writes:

Despite the perception that today’s college students are digital natives, individuals of this generation typically lack the media creation competencies that are an important dimension of overall media literacy. Additionally, data suggest that, despite the perception that students should be learning about media creation, they currently rarely learn about this aspect of media literacy at the college level.” (Schmidt, H. 2010)

A year or so ago, I remember discussing this very phenomenon with Michael Wesch and we both agreed that it’s a mistake to assume that all young people are competent communicators in digital media. The ones that we take note of are indeed adept in their media savviness, but they are outliers, not truly representative of the entire population of the millenial or net-generation. Some young people are doing amazing things with technology, but most are picking the low-hanging fruit of social media tools like Facebook.

I remember Mike emphasizing how important these digital media skills are to people living immersed in a digital environment, yet we continue leaving them to specialists. We don’t teach video-making as a necessary skill to all college students. Only certain majors are likely to ever have a video project required, yet digital online video is a huge part of almost every college student’s life.

I’m sure that our conversation came shortly on the heels of my first reading Elizabeth Daley’s paper on Expanding the Concept of Literacy, and I suddenly realized how these new media tools that I’ve long been fascinated with are actually the new tools of literacy. I was glad to see in this dissertation that Schmidt agrees with us.

Competencies associated with media literacy need to be possessed by everyone today, just as competencies associated with print literacy should be held, not just by professional writers and editors, but rather by the entire population. (Schmidt, H. 2010)

I decided to take a little break and jot down this blog post while I’m thinking about these things. Also during my break, I found this little animation, obviously made by a “digital native” who does have some skill in video-making through animation. I had to watch it several times, it made me laugh so hard.

So are the majority of your students making videos? Are they skillful at photography, graphics software, or other digital media? Or are they like what others and myself have experienced, with a few being extremely talented but the majority limited in what they can do? I think it’s really critical that we teach this stuff to all students, so I have digital media projects in all of my classes, including the non-digital media courses I teach.

***Edit*** Not two minutes after I posted this, a google alert came in telling me about a new HuffPo article entitled, “College Students and the Cacophony of Noise“.

Media and Technology Literacy must become a major part of every, single elementary-age curriculum. Teachers, parents, and politicians have to make an extra effort to explain that these machines are supposed to clarify information and not act as the prime movers and shakers for critical thinking.

I sense a new movement for media literacy forming!

5 thoughts on “Media Literacy of College Students

  1. I was assigned to read your blog by Dr. Strange at the University of South Alabama. I am well aware that not all students are digital learners. I had no care in the world to read blogs before this course, although I was slightly familiar with YouTube. I have used digital photos and cameras for many years, but I had not moved into making videos. I earned my degree in education eight years ago and never once had to make a video for an assignment. School systems are eager to put money behind anything that they are convinced will improve test scores. The biggest predictor for success is literacy, but how will making videos have a major impact on reading comprehension? I really enjoyed your post! Thank you!

  2. Hi Dawn,

    I suspect you and I might have differing definitions of literacy. If you get a chance, take a look at Expanding the Concept of Literacy by Elizabeth Daley to learn more about why making videos is relevant.

    By the way, I’m not nearly as interested in improving test scores as I am with student learning. If I can get students to deeply understand and use a medium they are immersed in daily (video), I know this will help their learning and understanding of the world.

    Just so you know, I’ve only had a couple of video assignments as a student myself. One was a research project called YouTube in the Classroom, and the other was my doctoral preliminary exam called Relevance of Digital Media to Youth. I’ve not heard of anyone writing a doctoral prelim exam in video before, but after doing both written exams and the video, I can assure you my video easily required 3-4 times the effort of the written form.

    I now give video assignments to my students. They enjoy the novelty of it, without realizing I’m expecting them to have a deeper understanding and expend more effort in their project than they would have for a written report.

  3. Thank you for responding to my comment. I think that we have similar views on literacy, and I will take a look at Expanding the Concept of Literacy. My experience with high school students who could not read or write has effected the way I see literacy. I also work with adults who are not able to read and write, although they perform their skilled labor jobs very well. I think of literacy as being the skills necessary for the work place such as filling out job applications, comprehending the directions given to you by your employer, and being able to read and comprehend safety procedures in the work place. I think that it is a novel approach to use videos in learning other than documentaries that students struggle to stay awake while watching. I see a great deal of benefit in using videos that demonstrate how an interview would proceed or how to apply for a job, especially if the students who make the video are going through that process in real life.

  4. Hi! I was assigned to read your blog in Dr. Strange’s class at the University of South Alabama. I must say I agree with you on this topic. I think we should make digital media a critical part in everyday learning! I think it should be a required class to graduate high school. I honestly can’t think of anyone who doesn’t have some sort of digital media at home or that they work with on a daily basis. Our future leaders of this world will be exposed to new kinds of technology probably more than once a year! It definitely changes more than we know! We see children watching videos, playing video games, and playing on their parents’ iPhones and think “why don’t they pick up a book?”, but yet, all this exposure to the digital media is preparing them for the future. One day they may use computers in every class, more than likely, in elementary school. It’s funny because when I started this EDM 310 class I thought I was pretty up to date on technology and thought I have heard of it all but boy was I wrong! It changes so quickly and some of us are oblivious to it! Do you think eventually kids will be learning to use iPads in the schools and what other types of digital media would you suggest teachers use to teach? Thanks for the blog! It is very eye opening!

  5. Bill it is me again, Sabra from EDM 31O at the University of South Alabama. Dr. Strange has allowed me to continue to follow up on some of your blog post and I found this particular blog quite interesting. I, myself, can relate to those students that have not been given the chance to become technologically savvy. Before enrolling in this course I had no clue how to navigate YouTube, Google, Movie Maker, and certainly did not know how to create my very own blog! Even though I sometimes struggle to complete all my assignments in EDM 310 adequately, I am so thankful that I was required to take this course. I know that without this requirement I would have never been successful at conquering technology and I truly feel I have half way made friends with the digital world now! When I think back on my younger school years and how none of my generation was given the chance to work with technology in the way that we should have it really saddens me. Like you said in your post, people everyday are emphasizing the importance of learning technology in the digital world we live in yet educators are leaving it all to the specialist when they should be focusing on teaching the new generation what they need to know about technology. As you also stated, teachers should not assume all their students are competent communicators in digital media, because unfortunately there are still so many people like myself that do not quite know as much as they should concerning technology. I do not believe we can stress enough the importance of instilling lessons of media and technology within our students.

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