22 May 2008

Young media consumers redefine literacy

The Economist.com article I had quoted from in my previous post, From literacy to digiracy, ends with:

“So, no surprise that when we incarcerate teenagers of today in traditional classroom settings, they react with predictable disinterest and flunk their literacy tests. They are skilled in making sense not of a body of known content, but of contexts that are continually changing.

Teachers must recognise that our pedagogical tools are inconsistent with the skills needed to survive in a world where people are always connected to everyone and everything. In such a world, learning to think for oneself could well be more important than simply learning to read and write.”

These words are important to us not only as social commentary, but also because of their prophetic value.

When I look at the digital world around me and, particularly, the consumption of digital/electronic media by today’s youngsters, I am certain that the traditional definitions and associations of the term ‘literacy’ need to be reviewed. And, along with it, more appropriate learning/teaching methods – or, what the Economist.com article calls ‘pedagogical tools’ – need to be invented.

In the West, this need is already critically apparent in the world of news consumption. More and more youngsters in the 18-34 years age group are consuming their news digitally, and not from their morning papers. Newspaper readership is on a downward slide as youngsters are choosing Internet news channels and portals, e-newsletters and even emailed news from friends, to source their daily news from.

A recent study by Associated Press, aimed to better understand the behaviours of young readers in the 18-34 years age group, has found that not only is consumption of printed news by this group declining, youngsters today are actually sourcing and sharing news with each other through text messages, emails and social networks… which are popular and powerful media channels today, but discounted by traditional media.

According to a report in The Editor’s Weblog, Jim Kennedy, VP and Director of Strategic Planning at Associated Press, suggests: “These young consumers are looking up to news as a form of social currency.”

[Citation: AP study of young media consumers: “they want the back story”, The Editor’s Weblog, posted by Jean Yves Chainon, 21 May 2008.]

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