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The New Media Skills

It's time to review the new set of skills people of all ages require to succeed.

After my son told me recently he couldn't find one of his favorite books and that I should, "order another one online," he climbed into my office chair and set his hands on my laptop keyboard as if to suggest he would show me how if I needed his help. The novel part of this exchange was that he had just turned four years old — and he hasn't bought anything (that I know of) online.

If the saying, "It wasn't like this in my day" has become cliché, it still rung true as I began to reflect on the other parts of boy wonder's childhood that will be wildly different from my own... and that perhaps I ought to be learning even more from him.

Children are natural creators, circulators, connectors and collaborators, and now that technology is a part of their lives because it's part of the conversations around them (even if they don't watch TV, play video games or work online) they are becoming participants rather than simple consumers of the complex world they inhabit. At very young ages even, especially in households like mine where computer devices are frequent fixtures, children are developing a new literacy beyond reading and writing, from one of individual expression to social involvement.

The New Media Literacy center at MIT lists the following eleven skills necessary in this new world, and I circle back to those as the über set of skills for all of us, no matter our age.

The new skills include:

1. Play: the capacity to experiment with one's surroundings as a form of problem-solving.

2. Performance: the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery.

3. Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes.

4. Appropriation: the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.

5. Multitasking: the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.

6. Distributed cognition: the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities.

7. Collective intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal.

8. Judgment: the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources.

9. Transmedia navigation: The ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities.

10. Networking: the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information.

11. Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

Denise Tayloe of online privacy advocacy group, Privo, reminds us that online we're creating a permanent public record of ourselves, and who amongst us wants to re-read (let alone share with others) the notes we passed or diaries we kept when we were young. She suggests there ought to be one more new media skill.

12. Awareness: the capacity to mindfully see one's self in the context of the larger world where people's interests are not always compatible with one's physical and emotional safety.

These new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. These skills build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research and technical skills, and critical analysis hopefully addressed in each classroom and every home.

Our goals should be to encourage children and youth to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary society.

Why stop there or then, though? These literacies should be addressed when organizations develop new programs for their knowledge workers. They ought to be considered when hiring someone for a job. They must be part of the enterprise social media conversation as a way to look at the gaps our cultures have between current practices and the organizations we need to become.

How would you rate yourself with these skills? How are you helping those around you strengthen their skills?


For more on this theme visit sites like Zoey’s Room, a website to help tween girls find the fun side of science and technology. Check out the blog of Izzy Neis about online communities, entertainment, kid empowerment, and online safety. And by all means, look around you. The opportunities are endless for us to become stronger, more skilled and more literate.


Marcia Conner >> @marciamarcia  >>