Media and information literacy

Isolating what is true is such a challenge these days. We now live in a world where “alternative facts” and fake news are lavishly circulated by an army of strident online trolls. It is ironic that the technology that enables us to instantaneously access tremendous amounts of media content also severely hampers our ability to separate fact from fiction.

Rashed Mian, the resident multimedia reporter for Long Island Press, wrote recently that “little attention has been paid to an ever-evolving problem gripping the internet: For all its democratizing prowess, it is saturated with so much information—from traditional media outlets, alternative voices, hyperpartisan blogs, and industry groups funneling propaganda through websites masquerading as legitimate public policy centers—that it’s become increasingly difficult to distinguish between factual news, scientific research and agenda-driven content, academics say.”


Mian also quotes Sam Wineburg, founder of the Stanford History Education Group at Stanford University, who said that “the way that a citizen learns about how to form an opinion about (issues of public policy) is typically through a digital medium, increasingly through a digital medium…. And so this issue goes far beyond fake news and far beyond news literacy to implicate the most basic duties of citizenship in the 21st century.”

The correlation between literacy and the duties of citizenship is crystal clear. The Philippine Statistics Authority holds to the definition that basic or simple literacy means that one can “read and write with understanding a simple message in any language or dialect.”  Functional literacy, on the other hand, assumes that the individual’s reading, writing and numeracy skills are “sufficiently advanced to enable the individual to participate fully and efficiently in activities commonly occurring in his life situation that require a reasonable capability of communicating by written language.”


However, today one must also have media and information literacy skills in order to live productively in the 21st century. Basic and higher education systems all over the world have been constantly reworking their curricula and course offerings to meet this challenge. In this respect, the Department of Education’s new K-12 curriculum is noteworthy because media, information and technology skills are integral to its learning goals.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education describes media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate information in a variety of forms; it is interdisciplinary by nature.

“To become a successful student, responsible citizen, productive worker, or competent and conscientious consumer, individuals need to develop expertise with the increasingly sophisticated information and entertainment media that address us on a multisensory level, affecting the way we think, feel and behave.

“We need to develop a wider set of literacy skills helping us to both comprehend the messages we receive and effectively utilize these tools to design and distribute our own messages. Being literate in a media age requires critical thinking skills that empower us as we make decisions, whether in the classroom, the living room, the workplace, the boardroom, or the voting booth.”

Information literacy meanwhile pertains to a complex skill set. According to the Association of College & Research Libraries, information literacy is the ability to determine the extent of information needed, access the needed information effectively and efficiently, and evaluate information and its sources critically. Furthermore, one must be able to incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base, use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose, understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally.”

For our country’s sake, let’s hope that our next generation of learners possess these competencies.

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Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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