Ubiquitous Era: Digital media requires intercultural competence in Education

We are living in a ubiquitous era. Everywhere and anywhere, computers are inherent. Toys, means of transportation, market place and so on, whatever you name it. With such a comfortable life style, people are getting addicted to internet or media. Some even show withdrawal symptoms when computers, nowadays mainly mobiles, are removed from them. Without the devices, we feel restless, anxious, and lethargy. For example, one of the broadest internet using country (Figure1), South Korea, shows 6.9% of internet addiction and shows 14.2% of smartphone addiction (Figure2). Considering the fact that the survey age expanded and the smartphone addiction percentage increased, it is hard to say the number of actual addicted decreased, even when the graph shows downtrend in the percentage of internet addiction risk range.

Figure 1. Number of Hot spot per 100km2 comparing Korea versus Latvia (Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Korea, aim of 2017)


Figure2. Internet and smart phone addiction % of 2014 South Korea (2015.04 NIA Korea)

But even with various side effects, such technological development offers new opportunities to us including marginalized students. Finland, one of the most advanced educational country, tries to apply such media use in practice in context of Media Education. From our field trip to Helsinki mediakasvatus koulukino, KAVI, HAPPI and Tampere Media School, I realized how much Finland is dedicated to Media Education. Starting from provision of age rated audiovisual program list, they have media literacy week every February and education system to assist people to develop their Media Literacy abilities. According to KAVI institute [1], improvement of media and information literacy(MIL), and related skills are the goal of Media Education. Such literacy skills are considered to be a civic competence and to raise people’s critical thinking. Based on the fact that education policies and systems are supported by national policies and various organizations, Finland became one of the front runner in Media Education.

Even though media includes print media, image media, and electronic media in whole, it is clear that electronic media expanded and is keep expanding its territory evidently.  Nowadays, there is even a phrase that “learning is just under your fingertips”. To some, it might still sound like a mirage, but already our technology is advanced enough to provide service such as 1:1 tablet teaching. Teachers can have constant connection with their students, and distribute contents according to students’ ages and considering their learning conditions. This type of 1:1 media distribution will obviously help students to exchange thoughts, interact, access to online information and also help to develop their media literacy skills. This is also my sincere hope but it is said with guided access, it will accelerate learning for those with attention deficits or other learning disabilities. Such technology progress allows teachers as well to access towards various types of tools and teaching materials. Hopefully this will level up the quality of teaching. Practically, there will be barriers having enough fund to purchase and maintain such electronic equipment, but considering the usage of smartphone rate, hopefully there would be other options for schools to make this become reality.

On the other hand, there are some concerns regarding such technology development. The software allows to track and control(lock, limit, monitor etc) students devices under the excuse of letting the educators and students focus on each other’s roles and blocking them from misusing the device. It is important function to help students concentrate but we should take into consideration of students’ privacy and their free will as well. According to KAVI guidelines, the best way of Media Education is sharing media-related conversations not just banning and restricting things. In short, it is important to form a well-balanced Media Education environment. Not just for children but also for every individuals, we should provide a safe media environment. As media environment can not be just limited to single country, this brings us to think about cultural diversity and intercultural competence. According to Jokikokko, education and media make us be conscious of the world and diversity. He claims cultural diversity doesn’t just mean national cultures but also subcultural characteristics and small parts that form our identities. Teachers will be obligated to maintain intercultural competence which covers both “encountering ethnic, racial or linguistic differences and other subcultural differences”. Finland’s discussion about teachers’ intercultural competence started from late 70s and 80s (Jokikokko K. 2010, p.13-14, p.22). Also Kotilainen(2010) claims the need of Global Media Education based on the facts that global publicities increased cultural diversities expanded around the world (Kotilainen S. 2010, p.65-74).

It may sound a bit like daydreaming but when we accept cultural diversity and bring up the intercultural competence, we can embrace marginalized others, immigrants, refugees and multi-culture backgrounded peoples.  To do this, we should realize that every individual is different and that there is no correct answer for learning and teaching. As Latin phrase says “Non scholæ sed vitæ discimus”, we should ‘learn’ to nourish our lives. Hope we all, regardless of nationality, gender, age and wealthiness, accomplish our rights to express, share and produce our thoughts under critical thinking and discernments in ubiquitous era.

The author You Kyung Kim is a student in the Master’s Degree Programme in Media Education


[1] https://kavi.fi/sites/default/files/documents/mil_in_finland.pdf


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