Examining UNESCO’s Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy

Posted on February 21, 2017. Filed under: digital citizenship, Eci834, educational, Masters, online safety, Social Media, Social Networking, teaching and learning, Technology |

I read an article this week that discussed UNESCO’s launching of it’s framework for media and information literacy. I found it very intriguing.  Especially considering our EC&I 834 discussions around media, media platforms and Learning Management Systems (LMS). It gave me some insight into international thought regarding these learning outlets.

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. It’s main purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration on these matters. Their 5 Laws have to deal with media engagement, creation, transparency, communication and acquisition. I am going to walk through each of the laws and discuss how I think it pertains to myself as teacher and the students who will be accessing my material for my online course.


Photo credit: Alton Grizzle and Jagtar Singh via Unesco.org

Law 1- I love how it mentions that information and communication are for use in critical civil engagement and that all media and information are equal in stature. Just because technology has come a long way, does not make books irrelevant. All types of media and information (MIL) are useful to help citizens engage critically. I also think Law #1 is trying to reveal that certain types of information are not more valuable than others. In the 30’s the German Student Union ceremonially burned books that did not agree with Nazi ideologies. This MIL law would condemn that practice and encourage all forms of information and media providers.

Our online course modules are trying to promote student’s critical civil engagement. In fact my module is going to be focusing on works cited and digital citizenship, which relates to this law quite well!

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-9-15-11-pmLaw #2- Media and Information literacy is for everyone! What a great statement! Men, women, and children all deserve access to new information and should be allowed to express themselves. China and North Korea are examples of countries that don’t believe in this MIL law. China censors their citizens through “strict media controls using monitoring systems and firewalls, shuttering publications or websites, and jailing dissident journalists, bloggers, and activists” (Xu and Albert, 2017). Basically anyone that can/will speak against the Chinese government is stopped. Have you seen this video of a BBC journalist trying to interview an independent candidate running for office in China? It’s terrifying.

North Korea has similar but perhaps worse censorship with their citizens. The Kim Jong-un dynasty spends millions of dollars each year indoctrinating their citizens with government propaganda that the Kim dynasty is infallible. They entirely restrict access to any outside media and information, and people like Kang Chol-hwan go to great lengths to smuggle it in. Read about that in The Plot to Free North Korea with Smuggled Episodes of Friends.
Law #2 seemingly empowers students to be creators of media and express themselves through it. In our course’s modules, each of my group members and I have decided that we will have a blogging/journalling component so that students are producing and publishing their own content on a weekly/bi-weekly basis. We are also trying to use many different tools that promote content creation rather than content consumption.


“Consolidation” photo credit: Sam Churchill via Flickr

Law #3- Is basically talking about all news we see today isn’t it? It seems that if the screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-6-35-48-pmcurrent Facebook article we are reading or sharing isn’t fake news, it is still riddled with some type of political undertones or journalistic bias. I could be exaggerating a bit, but I definitely feel like today’s news articles aren’t as cut and dry as they used to be.  It seems harder and harder to just report the facts, and easier for the journalist/author to choose “a side” and go with it. (I wonder if that’s because practically all of our news outlets are owned by the same people! See infographic above!) That said, if we don’t want our media outlets and information to support indoctrination and/or propaganda, we should make sure that we are teaching students (and parents) how to critically engage with media. They need to be taught how to question the message, and understand the information that is trying to be communicated… Especially if/when there are political


“Trump’s Fake News” photo credit: outtacontext via Flickr

undertones or hidden agendas. Can students (or teachers for that matter) spot Fake news? You can take Globe and Mail’s fake news quiz to find out! (I only got 4 right! But in my defence, I mistook some satire news for fake! …but still :|) Furthermore, this article discusses how the top fake American election news stories generated more Facebook engagement than the top election stories from the major news outlets. Scary right?

My group member, Adam Krammer is going to be doing part of his course module on quality research, finding reputable sites, and evaluating resources. I imagine he will touch on what students can do to avoid some of the aforementioned pitfalls.

Law #4- I actually need some help figuring out what this law means. screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-9-42-24-pmSo is it saying that
everyone wants knowledge even if they say they don’t? I’m not really sure I understand. Who or why would someone say that they don’t want to engage with new information or knowledge? Would this be like my North Korea example? They actually want new knowledge even if their government says they don’t? Please help me out friends, I don’t think I’m reading this one clearly enough!

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-9-48-48-pmLaw #5- I completely agree that media and information literacy are not acquired all at once. Classes like EC&I834 are great examples of this! Every time I take a class with Alec and Katia, I learn more about technology and its different tools. I am also challenged on the pedagogy behind the technology and how it pertains to teaching and learning. It has definitely been a lived and dynamic process for me, and my learning is ever changing and shifting. I don’t believe my MIL is complete as I don’t have knowledge in every area of access, evaluation/assessment, use, production and communication of information. I try to pass what I do know on to my students, and we grow and learn together from there.

Because I am focusing on digital citizenship and works cited skill development in my online course module, I have decided to try out some pre-made dig cit activities to engage the students within their level of media and information literacy. One of the activities my students will do in my module is take part in an online game by Common Sense Media. The game takes students through a “choose your own ending” type experience where they get to navigate through cyber-bullying, privacy, memes, ads, spam, good sources, behaviour and copyright to name a few. It is a fun and easy way to take a quick look at these various topics and test their knowledge on what they have learned. It is by no means comprehensive, but is designed to get students thinking about this content and how it pertains to them and their online media literacy.


“Information Literacy” photo credit Ewa Rozkosz via Flickr

When I was in high school there was a class called Media Studies. I didn’t take it, but imagine it was doing what this post is talking about- engaging with Media in a critical capacity.  High school teachers, is this still a class? If not, is it because critically looking at media belongs in every class? The more I dug into these MIL laws, the more I realized how important media literacy really is.  The term “literacy” no longer just means traditional reading and writing anymore.  It is our job as teachers to guide students into examining media and information literacy at a deeper level… in EVERY class.


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10 Responses to “Examining UNESCO’s Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy”

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Great post. There is a media studies class-don’t really know what all is involved with it though. I think as teachers we have our students use a lot of media and not really teach them about it. We assume somehow that we need to teach reading and writing- yet somehow our kids are equipped with understanding how media works. I’m shocked by the number of kids who don’t realize they have to site media, or don’t recognize the bias in anything online. They think that the Facebook news is the gospel truth- and don’t compare other information about the topics. I love this visual and am for sure going to share it with our teachers to use with their students.

Great to hear Lindy! I’m glad you might be able to find it useful for your students.

I think that Law #4 is getting at the idea that not everyone is going to engage in media in a formal way but that, deep down, we all do and we need to ensure that this right is not compromised. I think you are on the right track with North Korea, or even those that do not have the technology, or literacy skills to interact with various media as well as those that have enough “other” going on in their lives that interacting with media takes a back seat to survival. Even though they might not admit to wanting to interact with media, if given the chance and the skills, they likely would.

I would also liken this to my dad and his refusal to join Facebook. Although he says he does not want access to the information, pictures, features of the platform, I will often find him asking me about this relative or that relative that I can “check up on” through looking at their Facebook profile. Even though he sees the benefit, he refuses to join.

Great example Kara! I hadn’t thought about those who refuse to join in on platforms like that. My grandma is the same way. ALWAYS asking what’s new on Facebook but refuses to get it. Although she also refuses to use a cell phone as well, so there might be some fear in the unknown as well. Thanks for the comment!

I don’t understand all of the laws well, but like you, I appreciate that the fifth law includes digital citizenship. It seems to be a theme in recent posts!

We do have a media studies 10 and 20 class… but I’m not sure what they focus on. In our grade 9 level there was an emphasis on digital citizenship and beyond that it is the teacher’s discretion to implement any work revolving around these laws. I am pretty sure Alec and Katia were part of a digital citizenship guide for SK that is supposed to be implemented soon though… so it will be commonplace in the future for all educators to practice the gist of these laws.

Thanks for the read… it’s interesting to see an “international curriculum” or sorts.

Logan, so there is still a Media studies class! Interesting! Maybe I will have to dig a little further and find out what these teachers are using for content! I think you might be talking about this guide- http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/83322-DC%20Guide%20-%20ENGLISH%202.pdf And it’s very useful! Covers so much ground!

Thanks for all the information! I learned that I do not spot fake news very well so I had best pay attention to what I’m reading. What is the best way to check a story? Is there a webpage that does it for you (or did I miss that part in your post)?
And, I was surprised to see how the reporter was treated in China! I can’t believe the lengths they went to to keep him from speaking to the home owner. I can’t imagine!

Jen, in my own experience, Snopes.com is the easiest tool to fact check. Right on their home page they have a “most searched” section where today’s top headlines are fact checked. Underneath the article they will have a little subtitle that says fake news if it isn’t true. I find this helpful. The only problem is that hardly anyone leaves Facebook or Twitter, or whatever other platform to fact check. (Including me most days!) If we don’t fact check, how can we expect students to!? Yikes!

Great post Danielle, I appreciate your points regarding the importance of students learning media and informational literacy. With the plethora of fake news online, as well as Trump disparaging the actual media, it really reinforces the importance of our student’s literacy as being informed global citizens. One other element that I connect with in your post is the importance of helping our students critically evaluate whose perspective or world view is not represented in the deluge of media. As citizens we need to ensure that all perspectives are examined, and not just those who are dominant or over represented by those with access. Do you think perhaps that Law #4 connects to this? Perhaps as citizens we need to ensure those without access still have their voice or point of view heard? ie: if a person does not have digital access, do they even know that there are issues regarding wifi access in their country especially in relation to human rights? Kara does a great point illustrating some examples connected to this (with the Facebook non-engagers), so I will not go on. Anyways, great post… very easy to read and you definitely raise excellent points.

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