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Topic: The Current Media Education Practice in Grenada and Possible Approaches to Media Education.
Introduction and Background
In many parts of the world it is becoming more pertinent today than ever before that media education and or media literacy are included in the education, political, and social systems of society. In the past 40 years, media education has transcended “from a fringe concern to a global movement” (Lee, 2010, p. 2). This is necessary to counter the challenges of “uneven access, misinformation, and exposure to harmful content” (Martinsson, 2009). Moreover, the drastic changes in the world today in terms of communication and media cannot be ignored. It is clear as asserted by Douglas Kellner and Jeff Share (2007) that we are living in a “media saturated, technologically dependent, and globally connected world” (p. 3).
According to Alexander Fedorov (2008) who quoted definitions from UNESCO documents media education “enables people to gain understanding of the communication media used in their society and the way they operate and to acquire skills using these media to communicate with others; ensures that people learn how to analyze, critically reflect upon and create media texts” (p. 56). In a separate discussion Fedorov (2001) referred to media literacy as a product of media education which helps people to actively use opportunities of the information field (cited in Fedorov, 2008, p. 57).
The discussion on media education is heavily weighted on the discussion of media literacy, which is beyond the traditional pillars of reading and writing, it is “the repertoire of knowledge, understanding and skills that enables us all to participate in social, cultural and political life” (Scarratt, 2007, p.2).
Although media literacy and or media education is widespread in many countries today, recognition to implement either or and knowledge of their importance to schools and societies is historic in nature. Alexander Fedorov (2010) concludes that France was the first country to commence work in the area of media education, Great Britain and Russia also paved the way in the 1920s and that “the powerful theoretical impact on media education all over the world was executed by the studies of H.Lasswel and M.McLuhan” (p. 2-3). He notes further that communication scholar Marshal McLuhan was the first to support and argue for media literacy in the ‘global village.’
Countries that are well developed industrialized and technologically advanced (Lee, 2010, p. 5) have seen the benefits of media education while the less developed and under-developed ones are not that fortunate.
When we critically analyze the world around us, it is absolutely clear that communication is primarily “based on the premise that the media have significant effects” (McQuail, (1994) cited in Scheufele, (1999, p. 104)). From a very tender age, the media in some way, shape or form have influence the way we perceive the world. This influence is shaped by music, TV, video games, magazines and the most popular influence, particularly for young people is formed by social media through online communication. The internet or online communication “is fast becoming a natural, background part of everyday life” (Bargh & McKenna, 2004) as a considerably large number of people of all ages are connect to the internet as seen in figure 1.
Grenada is a small tri-island state in the Caribbean, its dependencies are Carriacou and Petite Martinque and together the islands share a population of just about 110, 000 people. The island which was discovered by Christopher Columbus in the year 1498 is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean (Central Intelligence Agency, 2014). Grenada has been in the ruling hands of many colonies, including the Caribs, French, Spanish, and the British who invaded the island in 1962 and acquired it in 1963 (Government of Grenada, 2009). Grenada gained its independence from Britain in 1974 (Maps of World, 2014), a mission pioneered by former Prime Minister Sir Eric Mathew Gary. Grenada prides itself as a tourist destination and an exporter of nutmeg and cocoa which makes tourism and agriculture the main pillars of the country’s economy.
In this term paper I will discuss the importance of media education in general, analyze the significance of media education in Grenada, discuss the current media education practice in Grenada and offer some possible approaches to media education.
The Importance of Media Education Generally
The term Media Education (ME) is sometimes accepted worldwide as an umbrella term that embodies media literacy and information literacy (Wilson et.al, 2011, p. 19). Regardless of which term is widely used or which is politically correct, it cannot be denied that media education is necessary in the lives of all human beings. In order to understand the importance of media education, this paper argues that it is critical to differentiate in terms of definition, media literacy, and media education and information literacy; terms which are often confused and used interchangeably (Martinsson, 2009, p.4).
According to Elain Scarlette (2007) “media education is the process of teaching and learning the whole range of modern communications, and the issues and debates about them” (p.2) where as “media literacy emphasizes the ability to understand media functions, evaluate how those functions are performed and to rationally engage with media for self-expression contrary to that of information literacy which emphasizes the importance of access to information and the evaluation and ethical use of such information” ( Wilson et al., 2005).
It is critical to note what media education is not. Elain Scarrat (2007) posits that “using television and computers to teach any subject, say Science, ICT, History, with the assumption that such technologies are a neutral means of information delivery is not media education” (p.2). Since this paper also captures the essence of media literacy it is critical also to note what it is not. Thoman and Jolls (2003) conclude that “media ‘bashing’ is not media literacy and that Media literacy does NOT mean “don't watch;” it means “watch carefully, think critically” (p. 23).
In essence “media education is the process through which individuals become media literate which means they are able to critically understand the nature, techniques and impacts of media messages and productions” (Media Literacy Week, 2014). Media messages and information are transferred to audiences through various forms and platforms (Cissel, 2012, p.67) thus it is extremely important that users and non-users are knowledgeable about the media landscape in their society. This paper concludes that there is a noticeable relationship between media education and media literacy and thus looks at the importance of both in general. This relationship or connection is possibly agreed upon by traditionalist and reformist (Kellner & Share, 2007, p. 5).
Firstly, Media education is important because by definition, its intentions are aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 which specifically states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
This right basically speaks to “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create” messages and information across multitude media platforms (Livingstone, 2004). In order words, every human being should be equipped with the necessary skills and resources to be able to use and participate in media undertakings and to ultimately be able to understand and evaluate media content.
Secondly, media education is important because it can be accepted as a tool used “to empower the public to manage the increasingly complex media and information environment and, arguably, permits the legitimate deregulation of the media content industry” (Livingstone & van der Graaf, 2007). The landscape of media and information that most people are exposed to is overwhelming, thus media education serves as pool of guidelines which helps people cope with the massive quantity of information in their environment since they are now “exposed to more mediated messages in one day than our great-grandparents were exposed to in a year” (Thoman & Jolls, 2003, p. 11).
Managing the wealth of available information and media content is one thing, being able to constructively utilize the content is another, which brings this paper to point number three on the importance of media education in general. As discussed by Carlsson et al, Eds, on the topic ‘Empowerment through Media Education’ constructive use of media and information by citizens qualifies for the creation of media literate citizens which are critical ingredients in the recipe for democracy and development (p.
They further noted that with strong “critical abilities and communicative skills individuals are able to use media and communication both as tool and as a way of articulating processes of development and social change, improving everyday lives and empowering people to influence their own lives” (p.11). This can all be achieved through the effective use and implementation of media education across various spectrums.
This fourth point directly relates to the third point above, it speaks to citizenry participation in democratic processes which is encouraged through media education or media literacy. In their CML MediaLit Kit for the Center of Media Literacy Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls (2003) note that “in a global culture” the two vital skills that citizens need are “critical thinking and self expression” both of which are introduced through media education as a tool citizens can use to better understand the political sphere, contribute to public discourse, and to participate in the democratic voting process (p. 11). Similarly, Martisson (2009) asserts that “media literacy can strengthen the public interest to improve socio-political conditions, enable citizens to participate actively in public discussions and deliberates to affect change, and empower citizens to fulfill their rights and obligations” (p. 5).
A firth point in the discussion on the importance of media literacy is that media education can aid in bridging the ‘participatory gap.’ If we look at the media from a critical and logical standpoint it is highly possible that we will arrive at the realization that “the media no longer just shape our culture they ARE our culture” (Toman & Jolls, 2003). Culture as argued by many scholars has an array of various meanings. For the purpose of this discussion however, this paper quotes this definition by Edward Tylor:
“Culture or civilization, taken in its broad ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” (qtd. in Bradley, nd, p. 3).
A close look at this definition reveals how knowledge, any other capabilities and habits contribute to culture. The 21st century has seen “infinite access to knowledge and information” (Toman & Jolls, p.10) however, there is still a participatory gap or digital divide as many people do not have this infinite access. Henry Jenkins and his coauthors (2009) in their discussion on ‘Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture’ suggest that the participatory gap between the haves and haves not cannot be filled by solely opening access to technology for all but this open access has to be “coupled with new educational initiatives to help youths and adults learn how to use those tools effectively” (p.17). These initiatives are channeled through media education and or media literacy which amplify the importance of both.
The Significance of Media Education in Grenada
In this section this paper focuses on the significance of media education to schools (students and teachers), government and society on whole. In an interview with the me for the purpose of this paper, Mr. Patrick Simmons, an educator for thirty years and one of the most well respected former minister of youth in Grenada, stated that “Media education is maybe the single most important dimension in any developed or developing country in maintaining a dynamic , well informed and progressive populace. My experiences have led me to conclude that people who are well informed are more capable of making rational and constructive decisions or criticism.”
Schools (Students and Teachers)
In Grenada, 24.5% and 16.5% of the population are between ages 0-14 and 15-24 respectively (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015). These numbers represent the youthful innocents of the country and they are curious about the internet and the media, exposed to large quantities of media and information content, advertising, vulnerable to harmful content since most are unable to safely shift through the magnitude of information available.
Internet World Stats website shows that as of December 31, 2013 Grenada had a total of 38,553 internet users with a penetration rate of 35.0%. By all indication, a large majority of the population access the internet and by observation media and information content is mainly accessed by young people through mobile technology. Media education is significant for citizens of school ages because through the school system they can become “media-literate people and thus will be better able to protect themselves and their families from harmful, offensive or undesired content” (Carlsson et al, Eds, p. 119).
In order for students to adopt a media-literate mindset, teachers have to become pioneers as they themselves are required to become media and information literate (Wilson et al., 2011, p. 16). In their discussion on the topic Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers, these authors noted that the used of “teachers is a key strategy to achieving a multiplier effect: from information-literate teachers to their students and eventually to society at large” (p. 16).
Like in most countries children in Grenada spend a considerable amount of time in schools compared to time spent with family (8am-3pm, on average). Generally, a child’s future is strongly impacted by his or her teachers’ input and influence. As such, if media education is channel through the school systems, pioneered by teachers, the effects will be significant.
Government (policy makers, politicians, political administrations)
Media education is significant to government because as a democratic country, heads of state and other officials should aim to ensure that all citizens can actively participate in the democratic processes of the country. Without media education a literate, well informed and a strong democratic society cannot be realized (Dewry (1916/1997) cited in Keller & Share (2007)). .
Society and the Public Sector
According to Johanna Martisson (2009) a significant opportunity which exists in new media and can be achieved through media literacy is citizens becoming “watchdogs through citizen journalism and blogging,” they can identify corruption and demand transparency and accountability (p.5). Citizen journalism is almost non-existent in Grenada; media content is not created on that level which limits communicative competence.
Moreover, for the 40.3% of Grenadians between ages 25-54 (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015) media literacy can teach them the skills needed to navigate through the sea of images and messages they come in contact with every day (Thoman &Jolls, 2003, p. 11).
Public sector has the opportunity to help create a media literate environment which can have long term benefits to their businesses in this every changing technological world. Business operators can invest in various media literacy programs which can help students to be aware of the media and communication changes around them and also encourage them to use their creativity in the field of digital technology.
The Current Media Education Practice in Grenada
As noted by Mr. Patrick Simmons, “it is very safe to say that media education has not been part of the taught school’s curriculum. However some progressive teachers in the education system have made it their responsibility to ensure it is part of the hidden curriculum. Additionally, our society being historically one of oral tradition seems to have an everlasting bind on the masses thus suffocating the growth of media education.”
On the basis of observation and participation, media education practice in Grenada only stretches out to access, one component or function of media education. I have worked with Flow the only television cable provider in the country in its selection and interview process of young information technology competent young people to be place in local information communication and technology centers throughout the country. This initiative was well praised and accepted by the government and people of the communities because of the availability of free internet service it provided. The initiative provided access to the internet, a similar function or opportunity offered by the school’s curriculum. Other initiatives by the private sector and public policy makers to fulfill other function of media education are seriously lacking.
In recent years information technology was added to the schools’ curriculum and is mandatory for all students. On a tertiary level, the lone college institution in the country, according to Internship Coordinator Shevonna Antoine, “T.A Marryshow Community College has an associate degree program in ‘Media Relations’ that caters to media professionals.” Although it houses many teenagers after the completion of secondary school, it does not have any program specifically tailored to media education. Ms. Antoine stated she thinks “there should be media education available in all schools given the influence media has on the nation.”
In essence, media education in Grenada has merely touched the surface in terms of reach, implementation and understanding. The country is not yet at that place where citizens recognized that the media education is more than providing access to technology. The country has not fully realized that the internet and “mass media are not mere vehicles of communication but they constitute a real environment which conditions thought and determines behavior and thus the education system must tactically respond” (Lee, p.2).
Some Approaches to Media Education in Grenada
There is no doubt that the initial foundation for media education should be laid in the school systems. The genesis of media education as discussed by Alexander Fedorov (2008) proves that one of the most effective paths to media education is to include it in the schools’ curriculum. This paper suggests The Critical Analytical Approach which “teaches young people to deconstruct the hidden ideology of the media messages” (Lee, 2010, p.4). In an article published by the Ontario Ministry of Education it stated that “critical thinking refers to a body of intellectual skills and abilities that enable one to decide rationally what to believe or do. It also includes a set of values: the pursuit of truth, fairness or open-mindedness, empathy, autonomy, and self-criticism” (Association for Media Literacy, 1989).
This approach can be valuable to Grenadians because with it they can adopt a critical attitude and form their “independent judgment about the values and ideologies hidden in the media messages” (Lee, 2010, p. 4). Furthermore with this approach, media manipulation will be minimized.
Another approach to media education that can be beneficial to Grenada is The Protectionist Approach. This approach “emerges from fear of media and aims to protect or inoculate people against the dangers of media manipulation and addiction” (Kellner and Share, 2007, p. 6). According to Alice Lee (2010) proponents of this approach consider television as plug in drugs, the media as sources of sex and violent content which have dangerous effects on society. She notes further that their justification to this approach is “the need to protect young people by arousing their awareness of the potential danger of and influence from the negative media messages and to guide them from consuming certain products” (p. 3-4).
Although this approach is criticized by scholars and media educators for its “decontextualization and anti media bias” which underestimates the complex relationship between the media and their audiences and that empowerment can be achieved through “critical pedagogy and alternative media production offer” (Kellner and Share, 2007, p. 6), this paper argues that despite this criticism this approach can be effective in Grenada.
Empirically, there is no known educational program or initiative that highlights the dangers of the media, such dialogue is also not present in the homes or social circles of many. The media does have an influence on the overall way of life of Grenadians and many young people are swayed by the content or texts they are exposed to. Hence, the protectionist approach is suggested as one of the approaches that can influence positive change in media education.
Conclusion and Discussion
In conclusion, the world is now home to audiences who are consumed by a plethora amount of media, information, and technological content and as such protection of possible dangers is absolutely necessary. Media education provides the necessities for audience to understand, analyze, use and reflect upon the sea of media and communication content they are exposed to. Carlsson et al (nd) notes that “a fundamental element of efforts to realize a media and information literate society is media education” (p. 11).
Media literacy can be considered a corner stone of media education and it is importance should be equally embraced. It is aim at bridging the participatory gap between the haves and the haves not. Personal autonomy, critical thinking, problem solving, social and communicative skills can be achieved and developed through media literacy (Martisson, 2009, p. 3).
In Grenada, the main priority in relation to media education seems to be to provide access to information which signals that there is a considerable amount of work to be done. More Grenadians need to look at the media and available technological avenues as a means to create and distribute content that can impact positive change, change that can make a difference. Too many are keen on using the internet and technology to create a Facebook or Twitter account. There are unlimited opportunities in new media, citizen journalism, and the creation of blogs, websites, and applications. If these opportunities and more are embraced, communicative competence in Grenada will be realized.
The Critical Analytical and The Perfectionist Approaches should seriously be considered since Grenadians, particularly children and young people can be taught how to “evaluate media content, critically dissect media forms, investigate media effects and uses, to use media intelligently, and to construct alternative media” (Kellner and Share, 2007, p. 4). If those approaches are adopted, Grenada will be on the right path of building a meaningful foundation for a media literate society. This paper concurs with the view shared by Mr. Patrick Simmons that “proper media education may promote a culture of respect and tolerance among the Grenadian populace for differences in opinions and views on relevant issues.”
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 See a categorization of countries where media education is developed in Alice Y.L. Lee, ‘Media Education: Definitions, Approaches and Development around the Globe,’ (2010), available at: http://www.google.com.mx/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.eric.ed.gov%2Ffulltext%2FEJ966655.pdf&ei=sO3qVJKUDc61sQTX8oK4CA&usg=AFQjCNF8yMaFvelKoVcq-9EK0ftHsjXUpw&bvm=bv.86475890,d.cWc (accessed 19 February 2015).
 ‘Media Literacy Fundamentals,’ Media Smarts, available at: http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/general-information/digital-media-literacy-fundamentals/media-literacy-fundamentals (accessed 19 February 2015).
 See for example Spencer-Oatey, H. (2012) ‘What is culture? A compilation of quotations,’ GlobalPAD Core Concepts. Available at: GlobalPAD Open House http://go.warwick.ac.uk/globalpadintercultural
- Quote paper
- Master of Arts Asheida Charles (Author), 2015, The Current Media Education Practices in Grenada and Possible Approaches to Media Education, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/313607