Social media illiteracy

Media Illiteracy in J-schools?

Tweeting, what’s that? Texting? Not allowed. Orkut? Banned. This is the scene in undergrad Journalism schools in Bangalore where students are more media savvy than their teachers. A few days ago I was at a Journalism Students Forum in one of the undergraduate colleges in Bangalore. The topic under discussion was “The Role of Media in Social Change.”

Media experts went on a historic tirade about the role of print media in India’s freedom struggle, and about Television serving packaged news. But they seemed completely clueless on the impact of social media. Had they heard of Obama winning the elections using social media? If USA is too far away from their mind, had they heard of the pink chaddi campaign back home that left the communal rascals shamefaced and democracy had won, thanks to New Media.

It was as if they were living in the cocooned web of the past, the 1980s and not in 2010. They seemed afraid of the social impact of the mobile, the Internet and even the Reality shows on television. They wholeheartedly admitted they were media illiterate. I was baffled, what they were doing as teachers, and professors handling research papers, developing curriculum (when was the last time they had upgraded it? The syllabus hadn’t changed since I had studied in the eighties, except perhaps for the lone RTI act included in a hurry to convince themselves they had upgraded it.

They had not heard of Twitter, facebook or Orkut, as somebody had banned their use in the college. And there they were, talking about our “banning culture.” Ban the movie, ban the book, yeah, ban everything without even understanding what it is, one professor was waxing eloquently.

But what they don’t realize is that students don’t always learn everything in the classrooms. A lot of learning actually takes place in the privacy of cyber cafes lurking in the basements of the city. And teachers need to look forward and not rest in the knowledge of  the yesterdays quoting the same old anecdotes, the same old jokes, year after year, even generations after, as in some cases.

Yeah, Hum log, Mungerilal, Yeh Joh hai Jindagi and Karamchand were great serials of our time, but it’s time to move on else we will end up looking like the black and white songs of Chitrahaar shown during the good old days of Doordarshan before the advent of  Star TV.  Old songs might be great, but you need to remix them if you want the next-gen to hum along.

13 Responses

  1. August 18, 2014 at 5:54 am

    well written post – this topic is applicable forever. As we know every coin has 2 faces, it is upto individual how to make use of this.
    Personally I don’t prefer social network (only facebook)@ school level.students spend most of their time to know someone’s life. Even today many companies avoid social network sites access in there workplace just to maintain productivity(not to increase, but just make sure it should not go down)

  2. May 4, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I think they all should actually encourage blogging, since by the looks of it Blogging and online news site will soon replace newspapers in the future. Social Media is an essential thing to make the students more organized but Yes I would agree that many students would be making a misuse of the freedoms allocated to them. They would instead of trying to increase their knowledge, would be more involved in chatting and checking their profiles

    1. Jyothi
      May 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      The use of gadgets and new media tools in classrooms reminds me of the good old debate whether the use of calculators in a math class is harmful or beneficial. Do calculators in the classroom distract or help you calculate faster? Once the students know how to divide and multiply, do they still need to do it manually where as they can actually be doing more complex math using the calculator?

      Applying the same logic, if we can google the year the battle of Plassey was fought or the Bill of Independence was signed using our mobile phone, what is wrong with it? How has it benefited us by knowing the date anyway? On the other hand we can use Wiki, and other educational websites to enrich our learning experience and once students see the benefits, am sure they will not be distracted. BTW, when was the last time you saw a student being distracted by a calculator?

      Instead of banning gadgets we need to teach students to use them in an effective way, am sure the students will appreciate it.

  3. May 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I took a couple journalism classes back in ’07. One of my professor said blogs would disappear once newspapers figured out how to monetize their online presence.

    In fact, this particular professor discouraged students from keeping blogs.

    So strange.

    1. Jyothi
      May 3, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience Seth, I am only surprised that it is happening not just in my part of the world but globally across the J-schools of the world. I think as teachers there is a lot we need to learn from the youngsters even as we share our experience and knowledge with the students, learning has to be a two way experience only then we can say ‘learning has actually taken place”. We cannot go around with the I Know Everything attitude and also the management need to be a little bit more open to change. we don’t need minds that reproduce archival material, we need minds that can map the future, and yes, it is okay to fail !

      1. Sushil Thomas
        May 5, 2010 at 1:08 am

        I have to agree with Jyothi, Learning is a two way experience, a science and a process. While system of education across various states is evolving. I have learned that in Tamil Nadu (State in India), there is a plan to abolish 10th Standard (Grade) – centralized examinations, as a measure to lift off the pressure of centralizing graded examinations from 15 year olds – The Government of Tamil Nadu’s education system is evolving with the times.

        Lets evolve and embrace change.


        1. Jyothi
          May 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm

          The kids will be elated at the new initiative, but am not sure the teachers and parents will react to it positively. Anyway, it is still in the planning stage, a long way to go, but how I wish I was in 10th standard now!

  4. May 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    That’s true.
    Have a nice day!

  5. Muki
    March 27, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Pencil, Paper, Printing Press, Radio, TV, Dictaphone, CD, DVD, Digital Camera, Internet, Mobile and finally it is iPAD…Globally across generations people take time to adapt to new media and technology. Google, Facebook and Twitter are great tools for sharing information. But many times they are pain in Schools, colleges and corporates.

    I was a speaker at an event in one of the Top Business Schools in Chennai recently and i could see few of the students texting and i told them that if my session is boring the doors are open.

    When i was part of Tour of Nilgiris, i was tweeting real time sitting in the launch party and i was a real time journalist without the support of the Big Media boys.

    Today Mobile, Internet and TV overpower our daily lives. There is a great need to balance between learning the basics and using technology to enable and enhance our lives.

    I recommend that the media schools should give a 15 min Twitter break so that students can collaborate, participate and share their story online real time.

    Having dedicated KIOSKs are great idea so that the network is not clogged and it is safe from virus and other attacks.

    Welcome to BANgaluru…

    1. jyothi
      March 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      I think the idea of having a 15 minute Twitter break is brilliant, that makes social media official, but 15 minute might be too less perhaps 30 minutes would be ideal?

      1. Muki
        April 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm


        140 words 30 mins is too long.

        1. jyothi
          April 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm

          In our quest to think at the Speed of lightning, and publish opinion in 140 word formats, we are losing out on Reflecting and focusing only on Reacting. I think 15 minutes of thinking, discussion and then a tweet would make more sense than an instant Retweet.

  6. March 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    That’s true, if you ban todays media/technology, does it solve the problem? probably not. But in my opinion having social media sites in schools is a bad idea. They’ll be too busy checking there accounts & blogging instead of learning. What I feel is that they should only be allowed to use the social networking sites if adults are present. Well education enhances lives, instead of blocking socialsites, schools should make there books digital so that students can have an upto date book that doesn’t cost as much & doesn’t KILL TREES.