I arrived during the student's second of three weeks creating media literacy education lesson modules - "by students for students" - that are offered to higher education programs around the world through the Academy's website. I joined the "Prosumer Group"*, made up of students representing 11 countries and 4 continents lead by program director Paul Mihailidis, to help them develop videos aimed at introducing some of the key questions explored within their module on social media.
When I arrived on Monday, I caught a seminar given by Professor Clement So, director of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong that brought me up to speed with the prevailing themes being investigated at the Academy to that point, and helped me understand what my role (as a K-12 media education consultant from NYC) would be with "The Prosumers". Reflecting on a series of discussions he'd recently participated in between Chinese journalism scholars and administrators of major news organizations in Western Europe and the US, he talked about media convergence and how it is affecting journalism. For example, Financial Times of London, traditionally a "lean back" print media outlet, now provides a range of online "lean forward" platforms (video, blogs, and apps for wireless devices) as sales of their paper product decrease. Readers can customize their experience and talk back to staffers online. Faced with audiences that can customize their flow of news and potentially cut a reporter out of their media loop, journalists need to balance the tailoring of their reporting to what readers want to hear, while pushing news that challenge the "echo chamber effect" and maintains an informed citizenry. In short, the modern journalist needs the skills to communicate fluently using this range of media, the habits of mind to critically analyze and acknowledge inherent bias in their reporting and in the platforms delivering their messages, and knowledge of their audience.
I'm not a journalism scholar, but what I was hearing was right up my alley. I work within New York City schools to help educators adapt how they teach to the changing media landscape -- to prepare students to be lifelong learners able to critically analyze messages and express themselves in any form of media they encounter. What Professor So, and the Academy had been discussing was at the heart of the Core Principles of Media Literacy Education, the National Educational Technology Standards. K-12 media educators encourage students to think of the particular worldviews, biases, needs, and wants of their audiences when communicating in various media, and to keep in mind that all media messages they receive are created by someone with a particular point of view and bias of their own -- as objective or ethical as they claim to be. The way I see it, the core principles are the same at either end of today's media landscape -- especially in the age of the "citizen-journalist" or "prosumer" where the average Joe can publish to global audiences on the web. Journalists and citizens alike need media literacy education in order to access, analyze, create and share their voices through the variety of rich media we have access to.
So, after a quick tour of the Schloss Leopoldskron from Paul, I met up with The Prosumers and got briefed on the subjects of their videos: 1) the Facebook phenomenon, 2) the convergence of our consumption of media onto the computer, and 3) our role as newsmakers in the social media realm. Over the course of the week I helped the group develop the following videos -- by talking through and fleshing out what they were trying to say, and making technical suggestions regarding how to capture and deliver them. The videos are meant to prompt discussions within programs using the 2010 Salzburg Academy lesson module on social media.
It was a fun and thought-provoking week. The exposure to these students and faculty at the Academy will undoubtedly bring a global perspective to my work with students and teachers this year. I encourage you to check out and use all of the modules on the Salzburg Academy for Media and Global Change website, and keep up with this important program in the future.
The following descriptions are from the students:
Video #1 (left): "When you were a Child (prosumer anthem)"
This video explores how the changes from industrial to social media have changed our daily activities. It asks if these subtle changes have really changed the larger political, social, economic, cultural and global issues that we continuously face.
Video #2 (left): "Is that Ross"?
This video explores information credibility, rumors, and accuracy online, asking how we can decipher fact from fiction when information is spreading wider, faster, and easier than at any point in the past. The speed of information sharing is faster and easier but who is controlling it? Where does that leave core journalism values such as objectivity, accuracy and balance?"
Video #3 (left): "My First Time"
We're all on Facebook...all the time? This sarcastic short looks at how the mass adoption of facebook is changing modes of expression, exposure, and relationships.
* the term "prosumer" comes from the combination of producer + consumer, related to the active role of citizens in the flow of information.