by Samantha McAleese & Kara Brisson-Boivin, MediaSmarts, Canada.
MediaSmarts – Canada’s centre for digital media literacy – has advocated for a national digital media literacy strategy for over fifteen years. The development of such a strategy is not only of interest to our organization but to key stakeholders and community partners across the country. This endorsement was re-confirmed during an online symposium we hosted in partnership with Digital Public Square in February 2022. Attendees expressed their eagerness to move forward on the next steps to realize a comprehensive strategy grounded in equity, inclusion, accessibility and digital well-being.
Our latest report, From Access to Engagement: Building a Digital Media Literacy Strategy for Canada, summarizes the discussions that took place at the symposium along with key findings from an environmental scan of existing national and international digital media literacy strategies. The scan included interviews with key informants from Canada and other jurisdictions about their experiences working on digital and media literacy frameworks. For example, we spoke to Dr. Julian Thomas from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society about his work on the Australian Digital Inclusion Index and a representative from the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport about their new Online Media Literacy Strategy.
The symposium, held on 9 February 2022, brought together key stakeholders and community partners from across Canada who share an interest in developing and implementing a national digital media literacy strategy. Attendees included representatives from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, DigitalNWT, the Neil Squire Society, the Nia Centre for the Arts, the Rideau Hall Foundation, the Samara Centre for Democracy and academics from several Canadian universities, among many others.
Breakout sessions and discussions allowed attendees to: (1) identify needs and challenges across various priority groups in Canada related to digital media literacy and (2) identify commitments and principles that should be included in a national strategy to address those needs and challenges. What it means to be digitally literate is always-already changing, and therefore it was necessary to hear from partners and collaborators about current challenges and opportunities in the field. Attendees insisted on a ‘nothing about us without us’ approach to digital media literacy and called for a holistic, collaborative, inclusive and community-driven method to develop a national strategy. There was also a reminder that any strategy must remain flexible and responsive to changing needs, challenges and contexts.
MediaSmarts identified ten foundational commitments and principles to guide the development of a national digital media literacy strategy. These commitments and principles are based on what we heard at the symposium, feedback received through the post-event surveys, information gathered through the environmental scan and our own expertise in the field.
A national digital media literacy strategy in Canada must:
- Ensure representation from communities and stakeholders across Canada.
- Support equitable access to community-based programs.
- Embrace lifelong learning
- Promote digital citizenship and close the digital divide.
- Prioritize safety and digital well-being.
- Increase inclusion, accessibility and active participation of priority groups.
- Foster better connections between different jurisdictions (regional, provincial, national and international).
- Clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of the tech industry.
- Include ongoing evaluation and adaptation to ensure transparency and accountability.
- Have adequate and sustainable funding.
Identifying these commitments and principles marks the beginning of a much larger project to finalize, implement and evaluate Canada’s national digital media literacy strategy. Work on this strategy must continue to center on the insights and experiences of those who work within communities across Canada and who understand the immediate and unique digital media literacy needs of the individuals and families who access their programs.
The Community of Practice established through this project demonstrates an already expansive network of service providers and partners who value and promote the key elements present within the foundational commitments and principles. If you are interested in connecting with us about this project or wish to join our Community of Practice, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MediaSmarts remains excited by and committed to the challenge of creating a national digital media literacy strategy for Canada. We look forward to continuing conversations and collaborative efforts toward developing, implementing and ensuring the ongoing success of this strategy.
Check out the MediaSmarts website for more information about what we do.
This project was funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Digital Citizenship Contribution Program.
Dr. Samantha McAleese, Research and Evaluation Associate, MediaSmarts
Dr. Kara Brisson-Boivin, Director of Research, MediaSmarts