Press “Pause.” What exactly is media literacy? Like traditional literacy, at its most basic level it’s the ability to decode communication symbols to understand and analyze the message being communicated. In the case of print, those symbols are letters and words. In our day with the variety of media within our reach, those symbols also include images, sounds, movements, colors, rhythms, and techniques.
|Renee Hobbs, keynote presenter|
If you’re thinking that’s plenty, wait. To be really literate we need to not only have access to media and understand them and the culture, but we have to be able to evaluate them, conform our behavior to the values we’ve adopted, and then produce media messages, communicating in turn, not only for our own benefit, but for the community, family, work environment, and in our case, the Church.
“Resume Play.” The sheer scope of this aspect of modern life explains the array of topics related to this year’s theme at the conference we attended: “Media Literacy in a Digital Media Age.” We divided up the sessions among us so we could benefit from their richness and share that with each other: pediatrics and digital devices, media literacy in middle school, Facebook and mood management, trends in kids’ media, Internet privacy, toxic media, and the influence of media and incarceration are only some of the entries we found on the menu.
Several international guests were visiting from countries where the Daughters of St. Paul and the priests and brothers of the Society of St. Paul carry out their media mission for the Gospel: Romania, India, Uganda, Philippines, Russia, United Kingdom. These Paulines labor within very different political, religious, and educational environments, within diverse media parameters, attempting to bring the Church’s religious and social teaching to bear on public policy as well as into people’s private lives. Listening to and talking with the conference’s visitors, I sensed that in spite of our different perspective on ethics, spirituality, and human and religious values, when it comes to the goals of media literacy, they share a great deal in common with Paulines everywhere. Here at home, too, we can continue to work so that together, challenges can be met, and both persons and society can hear “good news.”
Photos courtesy of Thomas Goodkind, Ph.D., Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut. See all the photos at http://www.facebook.com/neagschool.