/ Dan Gillmor / 6 am Tue, Jun 30 2015
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  • Take control of the media with this media and news literacy course

    Take control of the media with this media and news literacy course

    We're in an age of information overload, and too much of what we watch, hear and read is mistaken, deceitful or even dangerous. Yet you and I can take control and make media serve us — all of us — by being active consumers and participants. Here's how.

    This was the theme of my last book, Mediactive (here's Cory's super-kind review; blush...), and it's at the heart of my online teaching and much of my recent writing.

    So it was logical to extend the mission -- and next week (July 6) we're launching a "massive open online course" (MOOC) on media/news literacy in the digital age. It's called "MediaLIT: Overcoming Information Overload."

    That overload, in this media-saturated age, is leading to all kinds of good and not-so-good outcomes. Having vast amounts of information about just about anything means we can learn more--a lot more--about almost anything. That's the most exciting part of what's happening.

    But all that information also means, as the jawdropping CNN "ISIS flag" debacle demonstrates, that we have to be a LOT more careful about what we believe. To use guest lecturer Howard Rheingold's framing, we have to employ "crap detection" in a big way these days.

    People like Howard have helped us take the course beyond the standard lecture-readings-quiz format. We have words of wisdom, in a collection of videos, from some experts in the media and media-literacy fields, in addition to just plain experts in subject areas who deal with the media on a regular basis.

    Here's a taste--snippets from the videos we'll be using in the course--of their wisdom. Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales:

    and Margaret Sullivan, public editor (ombudsman) at the New York Times:

    and Lawrence Krauss, an ASU colleague who's one of America's best known scientists:

    and Amanda Palmer, a brilliant musician and Internet innovator:

    You get the idea.

    These folks are among many who were kind enough to discuss how various kinds of media work (and don't); the vital role of journalism in our world; how we as consumers of media need to handle the deluge of information; and much more.

    CNN's Brian Stelter (one of our guests) recently told me, speaking of his move from newspapers (the New York Times) to television, that the latter is "a team sport." So, I can assure you, is a MOOC. Putting this all together has been an amazingly complex process. And it wouldn't be happening without other people's time, talent and effort.

    I've had lots of help from colleagues at Arizona State University's online arm (I teach online courses for ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication), and from our platform partner edX, the MOOC operation founded by Harvard and MIT.

    We're all well aware that the jury is out on whether MOOCs are going to be a major way people learn in the future. Of course they won't replace traditional education, I'm optimistic that they will be at least helpful, if not transformative in some ways. We all see this project as an experiment that we hope will move the genre forward.

    Most of all, however, we envision this MOOC as useful. While putting it together has been (shhh) a lot of fun in addition to hard work, the point of it all is to bring media and news literacy to a wider community.

    The course is free and open to all. I'm hoping some of you will sign up, though I also know that regular readers of Boing Boing already possess well-calibrated BS detectors. As we all should!

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