Teach Digital Literacy—Make the Internet a Better Place

Freely creating online content is a privilege and a responsibility.

(Photo: Todor Tsvetkov/Getty Images)

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Jun 12, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

In school, students are guaranteed basic math, history, reading, and writing courses. But as digital media has proved, it’s far more than a passing fad; the next generation needs a course on navigating news, stories, images, and videos presented online.

The idea of digital literacy might seem like a simple one. Sure, you know how to use the computer, get on social media, and maybe even run your own YouTube channel. But to ethically collect media, mull over a creator’s possible ulterior motive, and not be tricked into assuming an Onion article is a real news story, new Internet goers need a little guidance along the way.

“Most young people don’t have any kind of mentor to the online world,” Henry Jenkins, a provost professor of communication, journalism, cinematic arts, and education at USC, told TakePart.

Jenkins’ Media, Activism, and Participatory Politics Project (MAPP) aims to get young people involved in the ever-evolving digital media landscape and identify what is at stake when users release their content to the world.

MAPP has looped Hit Record on TV With Joseph Gordon-Levitt (disclosure: Hit Record on TV is produced by TakePart’s sister company, Pivot TV) into the educational process, creating a series of videos to be used as a conversation starter.

All the content uploaded to Hit Record’s website is fair game for alteration, reuse, and redefinition. The shorts shown on each episode represent multiple points of view and challenge traditional ideas of ownership over the final product.

Hit Record really models what a more participatory culture might look like,” said Jenkins, adding that collaborators are monetarily compensated for their contributions, creating a democratic environment.

But equal participation creates its own set of concerns. Photoshopped images and questionable reporting has fooled many a savvy online user. As more people are able to voice their stories and ideas, consumers are forced to become more skeptical and critical in determining credible media and what stories to pass along.

“Our message is very much ‘Think carefully and then get involved,’ ” Jenkins said.

“Stories are the ways we communicate with each other,” he said, emphasizing the importance of adding your individual voice to the conversation in order to effectively participate in today’s society. “It’s the way wisdom gets passed down from one generation to another.”

The groundbreaking Emmy Award–winning series Hit Record on TV With Joseph Gordon-Levitt returns with an all-new season of short films, music, animation, conversation, and more. Season 2 finds Gordon-Levitt and hitRECord’s global community collaborating on themes such as “Secrets,” “The Dark,” “Your Mom,” and “The Number Two.”

Hit Record on TV With Joseph Gordon-Levitt airs Friday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT, only on Pivot TV.
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This story is sponsored by Hit Record on TV, a TV series on Pivot.