Dr. Drissia CHOUIT
Moulay Ismail University
Understanding Media and Information Literacy
Media and Information Literacy Explained
Grizzle, Alton and Carolyn Wilson (eds). Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers. Paris: UNESCO, 2011.
Tuominen, Suvi (ed). Pedagogies of Media and Information Literacies. Mosco: UNESCO & IITE, 2012.
Chouit, Drissia and Abdelhamid Nfissi. Background Document for the First International Forum on Media and Information Literacy, 2011.
Evolving Definition of Literacy
Literacy is a term which is quite frequently referred to in research
literature. Nowadays, it often appears with various modifiers, which include ‘digital’, ‘computer’, ‘visual’, ‘technology’, ‘communication’ and, of course, ‘media’ and ‘information’.
This tendency shows the growing interest to literacy studies, and is indicative of rapid changes in contemporary societies. It is also noteworthy that ‘literacy’ now suggests more than the traditional reading and writing skills.
While the importance of numeracy and these fundamental literacy skills cannot be underestimated, the inclusion of
media and information literacy means that young people should also be able to understand the functions of media and other information providers (e.g. libraries in which books serve as the media) and be able to seek, evaluate, use and create information to
achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. Information literacy studies have shown that students have difficulties with assessing the reliability of data even in educational environments, although modern young people are often assumed
to have at least much better technological skills and, therefore, media and information literacy skills than older generations.
Unifying Notions of Media and Information Literacy
Due to the prerogatives of the digital age and convergence of communications, UNESCO has blended two areas in media and information studies which used to be distinct – media literacy and information
literacy – under one umbrella term: media and information literacy, moving from what these terminologies mean individually to a unified notion that embodies elements of both media literacy and information literacy.
On the one hand, information literacy emphasizes the importance of access to information and the evaluation
and ethical use of such information. On the other hand, media literacy emphasizes the ability (1) to understand media functions and evaluate how these functions are performed, and (2) the ability to use critical thinking skills to analyze and use media for
To define the two concepts briefly, we can say that Information
Literacy addresses all forms of information and communication, in various contexts and aspects of life. Therefore, it is a fundamental human right in the digital era because it empowers people to be active actors in society through their informed selection,
critical evaluation, responsible use and creative production of information. In fact, to face the challenges of knowledge economies and knowledge societies, we have to endow individuals with new skills and training commensurate with the information and communication
revolution, not only in terms of "access" to information and communication technologies, but also by providing them with the "know-how": skills and competencies on how to use these technologies effectively. Therefore, it is necessary to raise awareness about
the importance of Information Literacy at all levels of society –educational, social, cultural, economic and political- and to invest in ICTs in education and lifelong learning. The capacity to use ICTs has, ineluctably, become an integral part of Information
Media Literacy, on the other hand, sharpens Information Literacy by (1)
maximizing critical capacities, analytical skills and knowledge structures to access, decipher, evaluate, interpret and make informed use of various media forms; (2) providing a reflective learning on the dynamics of mass media: the nature of the media landscape,
its processes and functions, which, in turn, (a) raise awareness of audiences on how the media shape the frames of reference of individuals, their value systems, attitudes and behaviours, and how they might impact on their democratic values and civic obligations
and (b) make of them responsible users of various media and information contents; and (3) enabling individuals to become creative producers of information and media in various contexts, tailored to specific audiences. This shows the importance of combining
both Media and Information Literacy (MIL) as fundamental basics in the process of democratization and active citizenship to help individuals develop critical thinking, achieve their full potential and enhance their participation in the emerging knowledge societies.
In addition, MIL should be seen as an essential tool to facilitate intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and a cultural understanding of people.Intercultural Literacy is a key component of MIL, as we should be able to relate media and information to
particular social and cultural contexts, and we should also be able to use effective cross-cultural communication to this effect.
Key Elements of Media and Information Literacy
Key Elements of Media and Information Literacy can
be represented schematically as follows:
use of information
the role and
functions of media
which media can
fulfil their functions
the light of media
Engage with media
needed to produce
Ability to Distinguish Information Sources and Needs
The proper use of
information made available by media and other providers of information depends on people’s abilities to analyze their own information needs and to locate, retrieve and evaluate the quality of the information they can access.
‘Information’ is a major concept for all information-related disciplines. The term has countless definitions.
It can cover data; knowledge derived from a study, experience, or instruction; signals or symbols. Simply put, information is data that has been collected, processed and interpreted in order to be presented in a usable form. Another way of defining information
is “knowledge given to somebody in a form they can understand.”
information providers enable access to information and in some cases let people store their own information. Apart from media, there are also other sources of information (e.g. health notices, government reports and oral communication). The information may
be transmitted electronically (e.g. as election debates on television) or in face-to-face sessions (e.g. town hall meetings) and may be mediated by media or by people.
There is an extremely vast abundance of diverse informational materials, content, and resources available — particularly on the Internet — varying greatly in accuracy, reliability,
and value. This information exists in a variety of forms (e.g. as a text, image or statistics, electronically or in print) which can be made available through online repositories and portals, virtual and real libraries and documentary collections, databases,
archives, museums, etc. However, the quality of information provided by the sources can range from ‘very good’ to ‘very bad’.
Before starting information retrieval, one should realize a need for a particular piece of information. Information needs are the requirements of a particular user (or a group) for information on specific
subjects. Before evaluating information sources, it is important to define what the information is for. This process will help to identify reliable information sources. The following key questions might be asked: What kind of source would be the most reliable
for providing information in this particular case? Which sources are likely to be fair, objective, lacking hidden motives, and showing quality control?
Information sources can be divided into three categories.
A skilful information user chooses several different types of sources and uses them according to his or her needs.
Primary sources are original sources.
(ii) Secondary sources are produced
by information providers; here information has been interpreted, analyzed or summarized (e.g. scholarly books, journals, magazines, criticism or interpretations.) Possible subjectivity issues or other biases can be corrected in peer reviewed secondary sources.
The definition of a secondary source may vary depending on the discipline or context.
sources include compilations, indexes, or other organized sources (e.g. handbooks, encyclopedias, databases) and consist of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources.