«The World Unplugged» and «24 Hours without Media»: Media Literacy to Develop Self-Awareness Regarding Media.

Across the globe, many students have easy and constant access to media, yet they often receive little or no instruction about the impact of their media consumption. This article outlines a «24 hours without media» exercise in accordance with the guidelines set in Module 7, Unit 1 of the UNESCO curriculum. In the fall of 2010, nearly 1,000 students from a dozen universities across five continents took part in «The World Unplugged» study. Researchers at the University of Maryland gathered students’ narrative responses to the going without media assignment and analyzed them by using grounded theory and analytic abduction, assisted by IBM’s ManyEyes computer analysis software. Results showed that going without media made students dramatically more cognizant of their own media habits –with many self-reporting an «addiction» to media– a finding further supported by a clear majority in every country admitting outright failure of their efforts to go unplugged. Students also reported that having constant access to digital technology is integral to their personal identities; it is essential to the way they construct and manage their work and social lives. «The World Unplugged» exercise enabled experiential learning; students gained increased self-awareness about the role of media in their lives and faculty came to better understand the Internet usage patterns of their students, enhancing their ability to help young people become more media literate.

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