UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE) is glad to present video lectures “Civilizations, Technology and Literacies” by Prof. Tapio Varis, Professor Emeritus of Professional Education, UNESCO Chair in Global E-Learning, University of Tampere (Finland). The lectures cover a wide range of issues related to the Media and Information Literacy (MIL), including the discussion of cultural and collective identities, dialogue and clash of civilizations, world communications and competences required in the XXI century, impact of information and communication technologies on societies and cyber security issues.
Prof. Tapio Varis is a Principal Research Associate at the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and a member of the Governing Board of the UNESCO IITE (2009-2017). He has been a visiting professor in many parts of the world, including Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, the United States, Spain, Jordan, China, and Austria. Prof. Varis has authored about 300 scientific articles on the topics related to “Global Peace through the Global University System”. His monograph co-authored with J.-M. Perez Tornero “Media Literacy and New Humanism” was published by UNESCO IITE in 2011.
We asked Prof. Varis a few questions:
UNESCO IITE: Dear Prof. Varis, please tell us why these three extensive fields – Civilizations, Technology and Literacies – come together in the title of your lectures? What will the lectures introduce to the learner?
Prof. Tapio Varis: Special attention needs to be given to media literacy as a competence of the creative society and global citizenship education. In the global, multicultural world communication necessarily mediates different values and cultural behaviors and serves civilizations. Technology has been used for learning, training and education throughout history. Great civilizations and cultures have very different patterns of communication and use different senses in a different way. The lack of visions and spiritual debate on ethics and values in diversities and dialogue among civilizations has created a need to look at the deeper essence of communication and education with a new perspective of equity and higher humanity. We need social imagination and critical media competences for a global dialogue and to have a holistic perspective to the interrelations between civilizations, technology and literacies. Yet, there
UNESCO IITE: In the time of the revolutionary development of digital technologies, what are the most essential skills that can help people to handle overwhelming amount of information coming from different media?
Prof. Tapio Varis: Media literacy aims to develop both critical understanding of and active participation in the old and new media to create such communicative competences that would allow the use of modern technology in the UNESCO spirit of “new humanism”. Critical and creative skills are needed to develop a broader cognitive competence to understand the goals, values and cultural dimensions of the information flows. Media education should provide the elementary skills for media use and cultural sensitivity for multicultural communication and civilizational competence.
UNESCO IITE: For more than six years, UNESCO has promoted the composite concept of Media and Information Literacy. However, there is still much debate all over the world on wording and notion of such an important sort of literacy. What are the reasons for this lack of professional consensus and what developments in the field you consider the most promising?
Prof. Tapio Varis: There is not enough theoretical understanding that in essence we are dealing with communication competence where media is only part of the process. Furthermore, there are many types of literacies and new ones are being created since new technologies emerge and different civilizations have different communication practices. Communication and education are interrelated and the new forms of media change the thought processes as well as the structure of the memory. The political, educational and spiritual communities may prefer other literacies than the industry or business, for example. I consider the civilizational approach most promising because it reflects the holistic, historical and value-level thinking and competence.
UNESCO IITE: How can we estimate our personal level of MIL? Are there any defined criteria for such assessment?
Prof. Tapio Varis: The UNESCO handbooks are very useful to help defining technical levels. In general, the personal estimation of the MIL level is a continuous process because MIL is an evolving concept. Some skills may become obsolete and new ones need to be learned and some basic communication competences relearned. A practical criteria for defining personal skills is that one feels comfortable and self-confident in the media and information environment.