Students Need Expanded Skills to Compete in a digital world; media and IP literacy matter

With the growth of fake news and digital piracy, the ability to access, analyze and evaluate using all forms of communication, known as media literacy, has become an essential life-skill for people of all ages and backgrounds. 

Consumers of media today can not accept as accurate the numerous packets of information and imagery that are aimed at them daily. They need a context to filter digital content critically, in a manner that questions media messages, their source and purpose. This can not stop manipulation but it can render it less harmful.

No one is more vulnerable to content manipulation via the media than young people and students, although investors and voter are not far behind.

Fakes and False Narratives

Every day audiences are exposed to massive amounts of easily infringed content like copyrighted music streams, news and images and counterfeit goods (‘fakes’), some of them dangerous. Most of what they see, legal and otherwise, exists to promote a perspective or goal; not all of it is accurate.

Audiences are subject false narratives and memes, like those, for example, accusing honest inventors and patent owners of acting in bad faith, smeared as “trolls” when, in fact, it is the accusers who are more likely the ones stealing.

“Literacy is not just the ability to read and write, or even the ability to thrive in today’s technological world,” says Bethany Oxford in Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century. “To be literate in the 21st century, a person must be willing to constantly learn about and adapt to many different areas of life, subjects, and environments.”

Intellectual property literacy provides a basic knowledge-base for people to make informed decisions about what they hear and know about inventions, content and brands, and how they are impacted by them, which is significantly. A lack of IP awareness affects innovation and product quality, as well as health, commerce, new businesses and jobs.

Lack of IP literacy also makes it difficult to discern what is true about IP’s benefits, and who is promoting which agenda and for what purpose (Hint: it usually has something to do with money). IP illiteracy affects those with all levels of education and income.

Critical Thinking

Media Literacy Now defines digital and media literacy as a “21st Century skill which teaches students to apply critical thinking to media messages and to use media to create their own messages.”

Media literacy suggests digital responsibility – the burden on which falls not only on content providers, distributors and IP holders, but on users and those who educate and influence them. Literacy is a moral responsibility.

Fostering New Skills 

Digital and media literacy education is intended to promote awareness of the media’s influence, positive and negative, and create an active stance towards both consuming and creating media and content. A good example of leadership is the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), a non-profit organization that is both a voice and resource.

NAMLE aims to make media digital literacy highly valued and widely practiced as an essential life skill. The organization, envisions a day “when everyone possesses the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, CREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication.” Media literacy education refers to the practices necessary to foster these skills. Media includes digital media, computers, video games, radio, television, mobile media, print, and communication technologies that we haven’t even dreamed of yet.

More Mindful Consumers

With so much misinformation surrounding the purpose, use and impact of intellectual property (inventions, creative expression, design and names) and their rights (patents, copyrights and trademarks) it has never been more important – or too early – to teach students basic IP principles. Even grade schoolers can and should know IP right from wrong. (See “Cracking Ideas” for creative suggestions.)

Students and other audiences need the skills and context to think critically and act ethically about information, communications and property rights that affect people, creativity and commerce.

Students can learn to be more mindful consumers and thoughtful creators of intellectual property, aware that IP rights are not the impediments they are frequently portrayed as in the media — and that IP is not only for lawyers and large corporations. It is either the misinformed or the highly threatened who perpetuate these falsehoods.

Students and other audiences need the skills and context to think critically and act ethically about information, communications and property rights that affect people, creativity and commerce. There are many digital and IP stakeholders, even if they are unaware of it.

Wikipedia and Google depict multiple areas of “literacy” – critical, information, media, digital, visual, mathematic, but they do not even mention intellectual property. The time is right to include IP awareness as part of a set of basic student competencies — Beijing certainly does.

IP awareness equips students to be more thoughtful consumers,  creators and citizens.

Image source: namle.net; medialiteracynow.org; medium.com

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