Unlike information literacy, media literacy has traditionally had a home in the UK schools within the English curriculum and, since 1986, as a separate subject (Media Studies). More recently there has also been institutional recognition with the advent of schools gaining the Media Arts College specialism. The Arts emphasis has shifted the centre of gravity of media education in these schools away from its traditional home in English, towards other Arts subjects (Burn and Durran 2007).
The rise of digital sources has presented significant challenges to media educators. The stability of print sources and television has given away to an ever proliferating variety of media forms making the traditional demarcations between verbal and visual media, or digital and print increasing problematic (Buckingham 2003: 97). This places a fundamental challenge to the boundaries of the traditional curriculum which creates a need for a cross-curricular approach to media literacy rather than media studies.
A 2003 Report on media literacy stated that there is no clear and commonly agreed definition of ‘media literacy’ and concluded that levels of media literacy in UK schools are unpredictable, inconsistent and ‘likely to be low’ (Kirwan, Learmonth et al. 2003).
In a paper about media literacy Sonia Livingstone starts with a skills based definition. Media literacy ‘is the ability to access, analyse, evaluate and create messages in a variety of forms’.
All of these concepts have influenced how digital literacy is interpreted and, depending on the curriculum priorities and individual backgrounds of those responsible for digital literacy, will continue to affect how it is seen.
The curriculum is changing, evolving and as well as constraints there are opportunities as boundaries between the subjects blurred. The DeFT project and others (Future Lab 2010) have observed that digital literacies and practices often enable boundaries to be more fluid. Many of the Case Studies show how, by embedding digital literacies into their practice, they moved across curriculum areas seamlessly, extending learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, establishing and working not only with other teachers but also with professional and community partners to enrich and enhance the learning of young people.
References: see 3.1.4 References / Links to Further Resources