The old “media literacy” meant being able to understand a news broadcast or a commercial; having some idea how it was constructed and how it might manipulate you; being able to choose reliable and relevant broadcasts and avoid junk. Those are still good skills to have. But the new “media literacies” include things like “digital storytelling”–being able to tell a story using words, images, and sound on a website–designing a digital game, or writing a text document online with lots of collaborators.
These are active skills, befitting a more active media environment. They are also highly challenging, and it is definitely not true that “young people today” know how to use them effectively. Quite the contrary–teenagers are less likely than some older groups to spend time doing these things, and I have often found them intimidated by the combination of tech skills and civic/political skills that you need to be effective.
But here are two amazing toolkits people of all ages can use to learn the new media literacies.
1. Puget Sound Off, a great social network for youth in the Seattle area, now has a set of “interactive videos to help you master blogging, digital storytelling, and other multimedia skills.”
2. The New Media Literacies Project at MIT has a large library of training videos and games that are designed to be combined, augmented, and amended by a community of users.
I think this field is in its infancy and we are just learning what skills are important and how to teach them. The best learning is experiential, and I’ve gained a lot from interactions with both of the projects listed above.