Comunicar Journal Blog

Facebook to build an informed community

In a lately meeting, Facebook announced to media practitioners that they would do their part to elevate media literacy by means of supplying tools and training to journalists.

At first glance, Facebook’s move is shocking, or at least confusing as we all know that Facebook is the platform where all sorts of information got spread/viral. To ensure freedom of expression and to do its business well, Facebook has no reason to select/censor/filter contents from users of various backgrounds. After all, Facebook is no more than a commercial organization based on “contents”. In my view, it is debatable that how Facebook shall position itself on this issue. However, for better or not, a healthier and fairer media eco-system is beneficial to the whole society, as long as Facebook provides media literacy tools rather than be the “tool” itself.

During the Facebook meeting, ways of engaging in media literacy are introduced, though a lot more moves are still at their preliminary phase. Third party experts are of great importance to this emerging literacy project. Experts in various fields are invited to join force to conduct situation analysis. In Hong Kong, Facebook partners with the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

The media literacy project by Facebook leaves a few concerns, in another word, new challenges: shall we re-define news/journalism again? When Facebook, the largest social media in the world claims to do “journalism” as well, what shall we expect from Facebook-style journalism and journalistic journalism? In addition, as the “third party” mechanism acclaimed by Facebook represents the “independence” and “fairness” which are complied with traditional journalism spirit, does it mean that this “third party” equals to “objectivity”?

When the boundary between online and offline world blurs more and more, it is an urge for us, as researcher, educator and citizen, to re-think “news”.



Participatory media and change of teaching method

In the latest issue of Comunicar, a theme that has received intensive discussion in the recent decade leads a series of research articles: Shared science and knowledge, Open access, technology and education.

Among the serial articles, one of them draws my special attention: Soler-Adillon, J., Pavlovic, D. & Freixa, P. (2018). Wikipedia in higher education: Changes in perceived value through content contribution. Comunicar, 54, 39-48. Given to the prevalence of wikipedia in our daily internet use as well as in academia practice, the authors conducted experiments that compared how students perceive the reliability and usefulness, and of likeliness of finding false information on Wikipedia. A significant change of perception on the above aspects was found before and after students got a chance to edit contents on wikipedia. Their appreciation of the task of writing Wikipedia articles, in terms of it being interesting and challenge also increased.

This article stimulates my further contemplation on one of the latest fashion in teaching method: flipped classroom. Recently, I attended a workshop organized by universities in Hong Kong. In the workshop, concepts and practical experience regarding this teaching method was introduced. Basically, the rationale behind is that, students in today’s digital age have mastered various means of knowledge acquisition, especially with the assistance of the internet. Therefore, the role of teacher shall be transformed from instructor to coach/tutor. And the function of classroom shall be more for discussion than for one-way lecturing. Participatory platforms such as MOOC, Moodle and to name a few should play a leading role in the process of education because students living in the digital age shall be more interested in and inclined to interactive two-way communication. Wikipedia, in this regard, is a vivid example and exemplar of participatory media. Shall it be a primary means in university teaching? Or, when students are told to search information on their own, how to guarantee the quality of knowledge they have “acquired”?

Besides the primary and ultimate issue of “how to stimulate students’ self-learning motivation”, media and information is of particular importance in this regard. In the previous blog entry, Prof. Alice Lee addressed: media and Information Literacy (MIL) are the combined capabilities of Media Literacy, Information Literacy and ICT. It means to search, evaluate, use and create media messages and information efficiently from any platform (Internet, media, library, museum, database, etc.).

Teaching is never a problem of teaching method, in my view. In the old days, as long as students are highly self-motivated, traditional teaching methods such as one-way lecturing or multi-way communication in seminar, deliver knowledge and stimulate new thoughts effectively. Great thinkers learn in libraries, classrooms, reading clubs and on their owns, instead of on MOOC or Moodle. Vice versa, without strong and critical media and information literacy and embracing little self-motivation, students, even given a large variety of learning options, will fail to receive high-quality education.

flipped classroom的圖片搜尋結果

Media and Information Literacy: Critical Minds for Critical Times

     The Internet and digital technologies have rapidly developed in recent years. The cutting-edge communications technologies have brought a lot of convenience to human societies, but in the past few years they have fueled misinformation, fake news, political propaganda, hate speech and commercial fraudulent manipulation. Social networking sites have trapped Netizens in the echo chamber, causing polarization in public opinion and creating social rips. The world has rapidly marched into the so-called “post-truth era.” If these problems are not solved, the situation may deteriorate further as we step into the “all Internet world.”

     It is no wonder that UNESCO raised the emergency slogan “Critical Minds for Critical Times,” urging the media to play a role of building a peaceful, just and inclusive society and holding the “Media and Information Literacy and Cross-Strait Initiative (MILID) on the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Critical Times: Re-Imagining Ways of Learning and Information Environments” (UNESCO, 2017). Global media educators need to explore ways to use different approaches to media and information literacy education (MIL Education) in a variety of settings. About 200 media literacy and information literacy experts, coming from 40 countries, gathered in Jamaica by the end of 2017 to exchange views on this important issue.

At present, all walks of life have tried their best to prevent the false news from spreading. In some countries, the government considered legislation and criminalized the delivery of false news. However, some scholars worry that doing so would undermine freedom of speech. The other is to call for media and social networking sites to step up self-regulation, with Facebook and Google promising to take counter-measures on counterfeit news, but seeming no success and their sincerity being questioned. Some news agencies set up a verification team to verify the news, but need to use a lot of human resources. It is then believed that the more effective way to fight against fake news is to educate the audiences. MIL education should be able to cultivate media-and-information-literate citizens and contribute to the battle against misinformation and fake news.

Media and Information Literacy (MIL) are the combined capabilities of Media Literacy, Information Literacy and ICT. It means to search, evaluate, use and create media messages and information efficiently from any platform (Internet, media, library, museum, database, etc.).

In the post-truth era, MIL educators encourages young people to be responsible global citizens. New technologies have improved human livelihood and built smart cities. But there are also many negative effects that threaten the well-being of humankind and bring modern society to a “critical time.” How could we free the “all Internet world” from chaos in information in the future? It is believed that MIL advocates need to continue their efforts globally.

Composed by

Prof. Alice Lee, Professor and Department Head

Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University

Jamaica conference

Media education in an era of “post-truth”

A thematic conference The Third International Conference on Popular Culture and Education takes place in the Education University of Hong Kong on July 20th-22nd, 2017. The conference is organized by the Centre for Popular Culture in the Humanities and the Literature and Cultural Studies Department.

One of the highlights of the conference is the keynote speech delivered by the prominent scholar of media literacy, Prof. David Buckingham, Emeritus Professor of Media and Communications at Loughborough University. His inspiring speech “Teaching Media in a ‘Post-Truth’ Age: Fake News, Media Bias and the Challenge for Media Literacy Education” not only pinpoints the trends in the contemporary media landscape which is fraught with “fake news”, but also proposes possible solutions in the field of media education.


First of all, it is not a strange phenomenon that we are surrounded by “fake news” in everyday life, from political news to entertainment. Fake news is a somewhat inclusive category: hoax messages, spoof stories which people take them as real, and political lies which were extremely excessive during political campaigns (e.g. pro-brexit groups painted an ad on a bus saying: “We spend the EU 350 million pound a week, let’s fund our NHS instead. Vote leave. Let’s take back control.). Tabloids full of fake news”). Sometimes “fake news” is revealed in a form of “disinformation”: telling part of the truth but misleading the message to another direction. Tabloids are full of fake news. And social media and emails is a major platform for “clickbaits”. Moreover, as online video channels such as YouTube is not bounded by the political advertising regulations, political propaganda bombards. What is even more familiar to the mass population is the president of the United States, Donald Trump who is the master of “fake news” on Twitter.

So, what’s the problem? For decades, people used to blaming the media for letting the rampant fake news grow. From a perspective of political sociology, it could generate a threat to democracy, as what the concept “media logic’ has told us that mass media has played the role as the surrogate of public opinion. Instead of going through formal “political logic” (e.g. policy making and deliberation), political figures and entities are inclined to make use of media, both in legacy and digital forms, as the major terrain of democratic practice. As a result, a new term has risen: post-truth – the alternative facts that triumph objective facts and the latter become less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.  We have seen a changing media landscape – a few number of major media outlets are given way to popular vernacular voices.


Admitting the important role of the government to impose more regulations to respond to the changing society, Prof. Buckingham advanced the discussion by proposing media literacy as a more profound solution to address the issue. Instead of sticking to a checklist which is adhere to traditional media education pedagogy: Examine provenance; Assess authority; Check source; Cross check facts; and evaluate design (always capital letters? Flash colours?), Prof. Buckingham affirms that critical thinking is the ultimate goal of media literacy education. Going beyond a static “checklist”, he suggests:

  • Think twice and put fake news in a wider context of news bias and (mis)representation
  • Media bias: defining terms, objectivity, balance, agenda setting
  • Know how to make news.

While media and education scholars are still paying every effort to tackle the issue, a best solution is yet to come. Media literacy education is never an individualistic approach that readers/audiences could sit back and watch online news comfortably after taking a course, but a social responsibility to build a better environment, to bring back the role of mass media as the fourth power, a check-and-balance force against the government.


Re-thinking digital competence

In their latest article, Amiama-Espaillat and Mayor-Ruiz demonstrated a comprehensive study on Generation Z in the Dominican Republic. Aiming at assessing their digital reading and reading competence, the researchers conducted survey among adolescents at 10th grade in both public and private schools. Adopting existing reading competence measure scales, the researchers discovered that the reading proficiency literacy vary between students in the two types of schools.

It is concluded that, “a student with prior knowledge and one who lives in a literate culture will more efficiently incorporate what one has read while at the same time enriching one’s reading experience. It is a matter of the ‘rich get richer.'” On the contrary, a student with limited prior knowledge and reading habitus, even if the person reads a lot and uses ICTs, that student will be unable to efficiently incorporate the information.


Cruel but true, the gaps in whatever terms such as knowledge gap, digital gap and so on, exist and the situation is even getting deteriorated. It has been testified by lots of scholars that, what matters most to people’s digital competence is their knowledge of how to use it and the peer culture that creates a “habitus” of “getting used to using it”, instead of the how the quantity of digital devices available to the people. To put it in an ancient Chinese saying, “it is better teach how to fish than give fish” – an ancient wisdom while still exhibits contemporary universal value. This significant but callous phenomenon has been well proved by the authors.

While the measure tools adopted by Amiama-Espaillat and Mayor-Ruiz so comprehensive that we as readers are able to grasp a general picture of how Dominican teenagers make use of their digital devices in daily life, I am curious if the teens, who show lower points in reading proficiency competence, could be regarded as “low competence”. As the authors of the article well aware of that: “students’ use of Internet, even for academic purposes, seems to be insufficient to develop the necessary reading or digital competence”, the digital competence of people, especially who are termed as the “generation z”, comes little from schooling or academic activities. It is quite true that, from our daily observation and also from the minor findings of this study, multi-channel use of digital devices constitutes the major part of people’s learning experience – learning by doing. There is not significant discrepancy between different generations in terms of learning process.

As pointed by the article authors,  there is a great need to further examine other factors such as teachers’ technological and pedagogic competence. Perhaps, more facets are worthy of further examination: parenting, peer groups, and the process-dimension that shows how teenagers gradually adopt certain digital use habits.


Amiama-Espaillat, C. & Mayor-Ruiz, C. (2017). Digital Reading and Reading Competence – The influence in the Z Generation from the Dominican Republic [Lectura digital en la competencia lectora: La influencia en la Generación Z de la República Dominicana]. Comunicar, 52, 105-114. 

Link to the article:


Revitalizing Communication and Literacy Concepts in the Digital Era

“With the revolutionary development of ICTs, transition to knowledge societies, and the new learning mode of the Net Generation, it is proposed that the concept of media literacy should be extended to media and information literacy (MIL). “

Alice Y.L. LEE

Professor, Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University

Digitalization, globalization, and individualization have introduced sea change to people’s work and lives in the 21st century. In the academic world, these changes also post significant conceptual challenges to the fields of mass communication and media education. In February this year, a group of media and communication scholars gathered in Brussels to attend a conference on “Revitalizing Concepts in Mass Communications.”

Brussels conference 1

These scholars came from different parts of the world, but their concern was the same – how to update the traditional concepts and make them relevant in the new age. They discussed priming and framing, called for rethinking about media policy, proposed new journalistic concepts and suggested a new paradigm for media education. The conference chair, Professor Tim Vos, pointed out that traditional terms such as audience, journalist, and even mass communication have no longer capture the media reality nowadays.

In the conference, I am particularly interested in discussing with the participants about renewing the literacy concept in the knowledge society. With the revolutionary development of ICTs, transition to knowledge societies, and the new learning mode of the Net Generation, it is proposed that the concept of media literacy should be extended to media and information literacy (MIL). MIL is a compound concept integrating media literacy, information literacy and ICT skills. A media-and-information-literate person is expected to be able to master messages coming from all information sources.

Regarding the conceptual change, Professor Vos put forward several types of (re)conceptualization such as concept transformation and concept creation in his concluding remarks. Conference participants agreed that for those concepts which are still fine, we need to find new empirical referents while for those concepts which are outdated, we have to abandon them or develop new ones to capture the new social phenomena.

The media landscape in our world has already had a new face. It would be nice for members in the academic community regularly match the existing concepts with the empirical world to see whether those concepts require modification or appropriation.



The Fourth International Conference on Media Literacy

Marching into the age of Web 3.0 and knowledge society, media and the Internet are playing an influential role in everyday life and continue to affect and transform human’s habits in acquiring, sharing and analyzing information. Media education hence is becoming increasingly important in terms of promoting professional learning and teaching of critical information consumption. The Fourth International Conference on Media Literacy: Multidisciplinary Approach to Media Literacy Research and Practice held in Hong Kong at 5-6 November boosted and marked the field into a new stage.

More than 70 local and overseas academics and educators from over 10 countries around the globe, including Czech Republic, Sweden, India, Japan, Singapore, Mainland China, Taiwan and the US and so on, participated in 10 panels of the conference. Within the two-day conference, around 50 papers were presented, in which half of them were from Mainland China. Participants had rich academic exchanges on media literacy amongst numerous disciplines, such as education, communication studies, journalism, cultural studies, language, arts, new media, health communication, etc.

Besides panel paper presentations, there were two forums focusing on media education. At one of the forums, not only did participants share their views on media education, they also moved on to discuss about the future of Media and Information Literacy (MIL). Noteworthy is that, during the conference, the Chinese version of UNESCO’s “Global Media and Information Literacy Assessment Framework: Country Readiness and Competencies” was introduced by faculty members of the Communication University of China and Dr. Kwame BOAFO, the International Communication and Information Consultant of UNESCO Office Beijing. This marks a milestone that, this framework is officially launched in Mainland China and will greatly enlighten further research.

Another important forum put its emphasis on discussing media literacy as a field. Academics, educators and participants shared a common view that media literacy is a growing academic field, since there have been quite a number of fruitful publications, conferences and academic activities being launched throughout the years around the world. But there remains room for development before media literacy becomes an established academic discipline.

MIL conf 1

(Photo 1. Plenary speakers, honorable guests and chairmen of the conference take photo at the kick-off ceremony)

Apart from the forums and panel presentations, plenary speeches and special talks also enriched the conference with speakers’ inspiring sharing of their knowledge and expertise. For instance, Dr. Donna Chu from The Chinese University of Hong Kong discussed the implications of media and technology changes for media literacy and the challenges of teaching students on media production. Prof. Andrew Burn from the University College London suggested that we should shed light on creative media production in the field of media education. Such cross-medium and cross-disciplinary practice will benefit the linkage between elite and popular culture. From a critical point of view, Prof. Ellen Seiter from University of Southern California brought forth the challenging fact that we are facing the exponential expansion of media conglomerate, such as Google, in different social aspects. Situated in such context, she highlighted her special concerns of brain health among young media users. Media literacy curriculum is regarded as useful for guiding young people to face the challenge of the digital era.

MIL conf 2

(Photo 2. Dr. Donna Chu shares her views at the conference forum)

MIL conf 3

(Photo 3. Prof. Andrew Burn delivers his plenary speech at the conference)

MOOC as an all-in-one platform for teaching and research

HKU04x Making Sense of News


(HKU04x ran between May 19 and June 23, 2015)

I’ve recently finished teaching my first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on news literacy for the public on edX, the non-profit education portal founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The six-week course, titled Making Sense of News, attracted thousands of students from 147 countries. It comprised 63 short lecture video clips (mostly between 2 to 4 minutes), exercises, readings, five graded assignments (two of which were peer-reviewed) and discussion forums (964 comment entries were made by the final week).

Making Sense of News: Geographical data
More than 7,500 students from all over the world signed up for the course.

The massive collection of students’ behavioral data aggregated at the end of the course made me realize the potential of online-based media education research.

The following blog post sketches out some of the many possibilities this emerging form of teaching and learning can be used.

The big data gathered through MOOCs, in my view, would shed light on certain elements that could have not been examined through the conventional research methods.

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Xu Wen: Media literacy education as liberal education in a Chinese high school


Two years ago, I got a chance to practice media literacy education in a Chinese high school. Based on the preliminary survey among these high school students, they are involved in popular culture, but do not care news much. News is an important channel for high school students to know the world and participate in social affairs. Therefore, we (the research team) plan to take them to focus on studying news. The purpose is to help students to access to news information, analyze and evaluate news information and communicate news in various situations. Studying news information is a way to cultivate citizenship, helping them to involve in social activities. Media literacy education is taken as liberal education in the school, and news is the main topic through the course. For news information, the main analytical framework for the course is:

Who (person and agency) produce the piece of news?

How many information sources are used in the piece of news?

Are these sources independent?

Which are reliable sources and which are not? Why?

How do you rewrite the piece of news if you were a journalist?

During the course, it takes activity-based learning for students. There are a lot of news examples that we can use for students activities. They are often divided into different groups to discuss some current issues, to present their news production and so on. Right or wrong is not the final answer for their discussion in the classroom. They have to provide logical and rational analysis for their opinions instead of offering a conclusion. Besides the classroom learning, students visited newspaper agency and TV station to get direct perception toward news production. With two rounds of practice, students show great interest in studying news. For media literacy education, it is expected that students could communicate news information in various situation. However, the time for the course is very limited. There are just six sessions for each class. In the later practice, we wish it could extend to news communication and production, particularly with we-media like twitter.

Author: Ms. XU Wen

XU Wen

Research Fellow, Institute of Higher Education, Communication University of China

Research interest: media literacy, comparative education and higher education