Preparing a world for the Digital Age

Cory Habermehl // Special to Western News

Education professor Carolyn Wilson, who serves as Program Coordinator at Western Education’s International Office, has helped guide United Nations’ efforts to develop active and informed citizens by promoting media and information literacy around the world

Carolyn Wilson envisions a world filled with engaged and informed citizens.

“It’s important,” said Wilson, Program Coordinator at Western Education’s International Office. “We need people around the globe who know how to access information, evaluate what they’re being told and use the information to participate in their local and global communities.”

But developing this world of informed citizens requires empowering people with the skills and competencies to navigate 21st-Century media and information technologies. Being media literate, Wilson continued, is central to active citizenship.

And the United Nation’s educational arm, UNESCO, agrees.

UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – created the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy, an initiative dedicated to developing active and informed citizens by promoting media and information literacy around the world. Wilson has chaired the group since it formed in 2013.

“Without the competencies connected to an expanded definition of literacy, people will be significantly disadvantaged and disempowered in the Digital Age,” Wilson said. “Better-informed citizens can participate more fully in the democratic processes of their countries, and with this group we’re looking forward to helping bring the North American perspective to the global conversation.”

Since its inception, the Global Alliance has grown to include representatives and organizations from more than 80 countries. In order to help operationalize its global aspirations, the organization is now creating smaller chapters to address issues specific to each of the five UN regions.

In addition to chairing the global effort, Wilson is also leading the establishment of the North American chapter. Sponsored by Education’s International Office and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the group recently held its inaugural meeting in London.

The meeting saw some of the best media literacy minds and experts in North America, including librarians, non-profit organizations, public broadcasters and educational professionals, gather to discuss key priorities and next steps for North America.

“Whether we’re talking about traditional notions of education like postsecondary institutions or public schools, or thinking about things like working with community centres, or helping develop online programming, the important part of this initiative is figuring out how we educate as many people, in as many places, as possible,” Wilson said. “We’re right in the midst of this at Western. It’s incredibly exciting to be involved in work with the potential to make a difference on both a local and global scale.”