Volume:6, Issue: 1

May. 1, 2014

Media Education and Media Literacy in Russian Education Today
Bondarenko, Elena [about]

Keywords: media education, information culture, media literacy, complex media education, modern Russian education, criteria for media literacy.

Abstract: the author reflects on the specific features of media education in modern Russian schools, the essence of complex media education, and the indicators of media literacy. 


The term “media education” is still a matter of heated debate in Russia today. Mass media experts understand media education mostly as professional training (including early professional development) for future journalists, TV and cinema directors, cameramen, etc. With the advent of multimedia computer technologies, laymen now tend to believe that media education means IT in education.

Given the fact that the term has originated in the educational environment, both interpretations need to be clarified. For teachers, media education means primarily texts from mass media offered to students to read, analyze, and produce their own ‘media-texts’. In this situation the developmental and formative functions of media education come first: media education serves both as a tool to study this area of knowledge and a way to shape students’ overall information culture – mostly critical thinking and skills to handle information. As for media education technologies, they have an applied nature and help to consolidate studying of various school subjects and courses into an integrated process of learning because the main goal of media education is to develop overall information skills, information culture, ethics and aesthetics of communication in the world of mass communications.

During the era of expanding PR relations, we are immersed in the high-tech information environment, the world of symbols and signs, where the impact of the hidden meanings of media texts (advertising, flyers, posters, printed media, etc.) is constantly increasing. In these conditions it is extremely important not only to teach young people the basics of critical thinking but also to help adults relieve the stress caused by aggression of media texts.

Among the key factors that determine changes in modern education, external media environment is becoming increasingly powerful. One of the essential components of information environment in education is media communication (printed media, radio, cinema, TV, video, and computer multimedia technologies).

It is necessary to prepare every student for life in the open information environment with the ongoing dialogue of cultures. In this situation, one of theories dealing with the origin and development of culture, Bibler’s dialogue of cultures theory (Bibler, 2005), is of special interest. Any individual can properly develop only while being involved in some type of creative activities, in a dialogue, and in an interaction with the world. Developmental learning becomes possible only in the situation of a dialogue. And media communication provides a constant dialogue while a modern student is exploring new information areas.

Considering the role of mass media in the life of students today, it should be noted that young people perceive modern media communication not only as a source of valuable learning but also as a cause to shape their outlook and develop a special kind of culture – students’ media culture. It occurs not only when passively perceiving various media texts but, first of all, when trying to create their own texts using the language of mass communication. Some time ago it was hardly available to students, but now, thanks to modern gadgets, any school student first becomes a “writer” (or a media texts’ producer) and than a “reader.”

Students are surrounded by media texts every day. Their perception, understanding, and production imply the existence of some basic level of information culture. However, information culture may be developed only if both a teacher and a student are actively involved in some goal-oriented activity. We, therefore, need to design and implement a wide range of up-to-date media education technologies for the present-day schooling.

What are media education technologies?

In the post-industrial society, information culture means not so much a set of applied knowledge enabling us to navigate through libraries, media resources, and computer networks but as a specific criterion of personality development characterizing a two-way perception, diversity, and openness of global knowledge. Information culture also implies that an individual has mastered a certain level of information skills (searching, transferring, processing, and analyzing) and specific, though most commonly used, methods and technologies. New education standards of the Russian Federation define the above as the development of universal learning skills.

Media education serves here as an educational system, which allows us to use modern methods and technologies such as development of communicative competence together with audiovisual and information literacy, based on our worldviews (development of critical thinking, shaping our own concepts based on various multichannel information flows). The use of up-to-date technical teaching aids is increasing together with an active growth of an innovative informational and educational environment.

Now, when it is possible to provide an objective analysis of the first phase (the end of the 20th century) of the “information outburst,” the majority of researchers, who study education in its development, insist on the need to teach school students’ information culture. Along with the aspect about information (a set of knowledge and skills in search, selection and analysis of information aimed at satisfaction of individual information needs), the concept of information culture includes a number of aspects connected with culture (understood as a way of human existence in the information society) and the world outlook issues (which define the amount of individual’s active participation in transforming the world).

Thus, the modern society brings dramatic changes to the definition of information culture. It is more accurate today to speak about teaching both media literacy (literacy of mass media texts perception, understanding, and interpretation) and information literacy (set of most common skills to handle information).

European educators identified four areas which secondary education should prepare students for: lifelong learning, active community life, economic activity, and professional life. Taking into account national, social, economic, cultural and historical aspects, all these areas found their way into all European systems (2).

The ongoing educational reforms in Russia embrace a number of initiatives including integration of out-of-school resources into the school curricula (educational environment design), development of the future-oriented model of education, and the implementation of a self-education system which contributes to enforcement of learning strategies and further development of competencies. New standards demand that schooling should be based on the interaction of learning and self-education.

What should be done today?

First of all, it is necessary to sort out problems related to terminology. If literacy in a broad sense is understood not only as the ability to read and write using the target language but also as the ability to produce texts according to the established grammar and spelling rules, then media literacy means the ability to understand and analyze media texts as well as produce them.

Information literacy adds a set of skills to handle information, i.e. to classify it by the given criteria, collect, filter, and convert from one form to another, present in accordance with the preset parameters, etc. Media literacy is ‘colored’ by ideology while information literacy is more instrumental.

Also, we should not forget about the purpose of shaping any kind of literacy. It is often described as the amount of the contribution a particular nation makes in the intellectual life of mankind as a whole, which is actually part of a general culture, i.e. the goal of media literacy development is media culture and, in a broader sense of this process, information culture.

Media education is the best way to achieve this goal. As the basis of educational activity, it guarantees an effective development of general learning skills and information culture of a teacher and a student.

However, the areas where media education is implemented most effectively, are constantly changing. Thus, the most appropriate areas, where media education work is necessary, currently include the following:

  • Personal informational security sphere (ability to orientate oneself in the media environment, realize proper navigation, and cope with media viruses and Internet addiction).
  • Information search sphere (ability to make search queries, select and filter information, store and edit it according to specified parameters; here it is also important to satisfy information need and stimulate further need for new information).
  • Media texts’ perception and interpretation sphere (perception, understanding, context acquisition, an ability to see the concept and hidden implication(s) of media texts, and an ability to build one’s own concept based on received information).
  • Media creation sphere (production of media texts – both independently and in collaboration, proceeding from reproduction to production and then, to creation).
  • Practical exploration of media environment (skills to follow ethical rules of media communication and understand the orientation of a media-based dialogue; different levels of participation in media environment development and operation: from local (e.g. school) to global information networks).

Creation and practical implementation of an integrated pedagogical system of building and developing information culture is one of the most urgent problems of modern schools. Media education helps to make a process of knowledge acquisition more efficient. School media education may be implemented in the following directions in order to:

  • Develop critical thinking by introduction of media texts in teaching particular subjects in order to integrate it into media education [integrated media education].
  • Study modern media practices: school press, basics of video filming and editing in school film and TV studios (it helps to shape students’ own views about the media through incorporating their artistic and creative potential; in addition, it contributes to the development of students’ media literacy which is necessary for a citizen of the future society); in other words, to provide special or socio-cultural media education (B. Sobkin, 2000).

Consolidation of these areas will result in a comprehensive media education, i.e. incorporating the whole range of media technologies to enhance education as a whole. Its goal is to combine regular media texts activities in class with creative practices in various media outside schools. Schools should teach students an understanding of the media language and the ability of clearly expressing themselves. Students should be able to achieve the state of harmony, balance, and knowledge about the world, the soul, and the human being – that very “living knowledge” described by V. Zinchenko: “The difference between dead or static knowledge and living knowledge is that the latter cannot be learned, it has to be built – built in a way people build a living image, a living word, and a living movement rather than dead or mechanical action” (Zinchenko, 1998, p. 22).

In our opinion, it is comprehensive media education that the present-day Russian schools need because it includes all forms of students’ media culture development (both curricular and extracurricular activities).

In accordance with the concept of comprehensive media education, we suggest the following indicators of media literacy: personal informational security; perception and interpretationof media texts/messages; production of students’ own media texts (media creation); and practical exploration of media environment.

It is important to note that critical thinking is crucial in developing one’s information literacy. Critical thinking is not limited to critical perception of information. It involves an overall analysis based on a number of factors and leading to the general understanding of a media text and an orientation in communication (Solso, 2009).

From the point of view of didactics, an application of media education technologies is a flexible and universal process, which offers wide opportunities to develop critical thinking and to boost an individual creative potential. However, in this case the contents of pedagogical activities differ significantly from the traditional educational process. Firstly, professional activities of the teacher become much more complicated as the teacher is not only expected to have special training in multimedia technologies but also to apply various teaching techniques and aids related to technology, and motivate students’ independent creative activity. Secondly, the fact that learning and social education now partially depend on students’ activity, contributes to the development of students’ individual educational strategies. In these conditions, an explanation of any subject matter requires an increased activity and intensive interactions between the teacher and the student. Now, teaching a class is more complicated and demanding – the teacher should simultaneously introduce the subject matter, control multimedia gadgets and quickly react to any changes in the class condition in order to provide an efficient feedback.

Thus, media education technologies have become essential elements of a modern educational environment. To develop students’ critical thinking and unlock their creative potential are the major goals of modern schooling. However, pedagogical concepts of media education are wider than the narrow subject-based interventions and methods – this area of pedagogy is not limited to the search for effective use of all the opportunities offered by media or telecommunications. It is “the philosophy of education” (A. Zhurin), the most common strategy to develop critical thinking and information literacy with the help of media. 

References

  1. Bibler V.(2005).  Myshlenie kak tvorchestvo [Thinking as creativity]. Moscow: Mysl.
  2. ISIO RAO. Analiz organizacii profil'nogo obuchenija v sisteme obshhego srednego obrazovanija v zarubezhnyh stranah [Analysis of the organization of vocational training in the system of secondary education in foreign countries]: www.isiorao.ru/Progect/experience/profil/obraz.%20zarubegom.php
  3. Sobkin V. (2000). Televidenie i obrazovanie: Opyt sociologicheskih issledovanij 1980-90-h // Obrazovanie i informacionnaja kul'tura. Sociologicheskie aspekty. Trudy po sociologii obrazovanija [TV and education: Sociological surveys of the 1980-90s // Education and information culture. Sociological aspects. Works on sociology of education], Volume V, Issue VII. / Ed. by V. S. Sobkina. Moscow: Center for the sociology of education, Russian Academy of Education.
  4. Zinchenko V. (1998). Psihologicheskaja pedagogika. Materialy k kursu lekcij. Chast' I. Zhivoe Znanie [Psychological Pedagogy. Materials for the lecture course. Part I. Living Knowledge]. Samara.
  5. Solso R. (2009). Kognitivnaja psihologija [Cognitive psychology]. – 6th edition. Saint Petersburg: Peter.
  6. Zhurin A.A. (2012). Integrirovannoe mediaobrazovanie v srednej shkole [Integrated media education in secondary school]. Moscow: Binom.

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