Media Education Landscape, Media Literacy in Schools

Media Literacy in Schools

Given the various social and economic factors feeding into the participatory divide and the politics of online ethics and regulations, it is to the 2nd of Jenkins’ challenges that media education might be more directly relevant.  Buckingham professes dismay:

“… that the school system should continue to ignore the dominant forms of culture and communication of the last century, let alone those that are now emerging.” (2007: 180)

Burn and Durran (2007) signally do not ignore it and exemplify the pockets of media literacy good practice that have been developing since the 90’s in tandem with the development of more affordable and intuitive digital software. Following on from Buckingham’s critique of Masterman’s 1980’s innoculatory project, where:

Discrimination on the grounds of cultural value was … replaced by a form of political or ideological demystification” (Buckingham 2003:9)

Burn and Durran argue in favour of dislodging representation and the study of how media artifacts construct the world as the primary focus of media education so that communication can re-establish itself as a key concept.  In line with much of the prescience of Lanham and his belief in “the radical enfranchisement of the perceiver” (1993:17) ) and Williams’ allusion to a future of “equitable access to the means and resources of directly determined communication, serving … a qualitatively different social life” (Burn drawing on Williams, 2009:25), Burn and Durran’s creative production practices materially demonstrate a renewed concept of “media oracy” (2007:167) or “Lit-oracy” (Burn, 2009: 19). This represents a paradigmatic shift in emphasis, foregrounding the stylistic surface of rhetorical performance as well as attending to its anatomy.  Attention will be given to the relevance of oralcy to new media practices and literacy later in this account.

Burn and Durran’s work builds on certain precepts established by the New London Group (1996) and their concept of multiliteracies in flux with social contexts, as set against prevailing linear, monomodally conceived notions of literacy which they see as increasingly irrelevant in a environment of “hybridity and intertextuality” (New London Group, 2000:29, drawing on Fairclough). For young people at the computer interface, the confluence of informally acquired cultural repertoires and formally taught technical competence is a fulcrum for the articulation of “what Williams called relations between elements in a whole way of life” (Burn & Durran, 2007:173). As such, complex kineikonic design work (a mode originally conceived by Burn & Parker, 2003) could critically inform and add much needed relevance to national curriculum content and delivery structures.

For Jenkins, the systemic promotion of media literacy in the US, given its fragmented and de-centralized educational infrastructure, must present problems. In this country the concept of standardized curricula and national teacher qualifications are already well established and while certain areas remain inconsistent, uneven and problematic – curriculum delivery, assessment, lack of localized flexibility – we should be pursuing a more enlightened exploitation of this powerful network; more flow with fewer obstructive, inherited and antiquated routines. Jenkins (2011) laments thus:

“Media education may be one of the last professions to reinvent itself in response to contemporary media changes; we should have been the first.” (www.manifestoformediaeducation.co.uk/2011/01/henryjenkins)

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