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Information and media literacy (IML) enables people to interpret and make informed judgments as users of information and media, as well as to become skillful creators and producers of information and media messages in their own right.
Prior to the 1990s, the primary focus of information literacy has been research skills.Media literacy, a study that emerges around the 1970s traditionally focuses on the analysis and the delivery of information through various forms of media. Nowadays, the study of Information Literacy has been extended to include the study of Media Literacy in many countries like UK, Australia and New Zealand. The term Information and Media Literacy is used by UNESCO to differentiate the combined study from the existing study of Information Literacy. It is also defined as Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the United States. Educators, such as Gregory Ulmer, has also defined the field as electracy.
IML is a combination of information literacy and media literacy. The purpose of being information and media literate is to engage in a digital society; one needs to be able to use, understand, inquire, create, communicate and think critically. It is important to have capacity to effectively access, organize, analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a variety of forms. The transformative nature of IML includes creative works and creating new knowledge; to publish and collaborate responsibly requires ethical, cultural and social understanding.
The IML learning capacities prepare students to be 21st century literate. According to Jeff Wilhelm (2000), "technology has everything to do with literacy. And being able to use the latest electronic technologies has everything to do with being literate." He supports his argument with J. David Bolter's statement "that if our students are not reading and composing with various electronic technologies, then they are illiterate. They are not just unprepared for the future; they are illiterate right now, in our current time and context". (Wilhelm, 2000, p. 4)
Wilhelm's statement is supported by the 2005 Wired World Phase II (YCWW II) survey conducted by the Media Awareness Network of Canada on 5000 Grade 4 – 11 students. The key findings of the survey are:
Marc Prensky (2001) uses the term digital native to describe the individuals, who have been brought up in a digital world. The Internet has been a pervasive element of young people's home lives. Ninety-four percent of kids report that they have Internet access at home, and a significant majority of them (61 percent) enjoy a high-speed connection.
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