Book Review: Media and Digital Literacies in Secondary School

Kupiainen, Reijo. Media and Digital Literacies in Secondary School (New York: Peter Lang International, 2012). 160 pages. $ 37.95 (paperback). ISBN 1433118408.

Media and Digital Literacies in Secondary School provides an interesting overview of the digital experiences of secondary school children in a publicly funded Finnish school. Kupiainen offers a preview of school life and the learning environment in Finland while reflecting on the use of digital technology by young people. In addition, the book explores the creative skills and media production by secondary school children.  Reijo Kupiainen beautifully elaborates the changing patterns of media education and digital experiences in school spaces.

The six-chapter book is written in a simple and engaging manner. It chronicles an ethnographic study conducted by Kupiainen during 2009-2010 in a Finnish school that he calls by the pseudonym “The Maple School.” The book is structured around the young people’s use of different media technologies within the school context. It primarily centers on digital literacy and media education among secondary school children and teachers. Several citations and references on the subject of Internet studies drawn from previous literature are presented in the midst of the narration.

The Introduction chapter is an elaborate description of the The Maple School. It offers a prelude to the research conducted at the school by the author. The narration is interspersed with literature review of ethnographic research. The next chapter, titled “Studying Literacy Practices,” gives a broad overview of the central theme—media and digital literacy and media education in Finnish schools. It also gives insights into the young people’s use of digital technology.

In the third chapter on “Media Ecology in School Spaces,” the focus is on both formal and informal learning environments at The Maple School.  A comparison of the students’ and teachers’ use of digital skills is aptly presented as “Digital Natives and Immigrants at School.” The final part of the chapter includes the growing trend of social networking practices among young people. It presents vignettes of similar observations at The Maple School.

The fourth chapter, titled “Creative Media Production,” portrays the creative production skills of the school children through their weblogs, videos, photos, etc. Chapter 5 on “Classroom Strategies” is a presentation of the ethnographic observations made during the academic year. It explains the assignments, textual analysis, and creation of advertisements and soap operas done by the secondary school children. The concluding chapter, “Learning and Media Literacies,” emphasizes Internet use for civic participation. In general, the chapter talks about the participatory culture among young people in Finland.

Media and Digital Literacies in Secondary School is volume 59 in the series of New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies by editors Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. The book will add to the existing body of research on the use of new media and complement studies on young people’s use of digital technology. In essence, the book examines school spaces and learning in the changing media environment as experienced by the students. It is a contribution to the fields of education, pedagogy, new media, and Internet studies. The narration and writing style capture the audience interest in a manner typical of ethnographic studies. Credibility of definitions and concepts are well substantiated by including references by experts, as well as rigorous discussions by the author. This book is an easy read that will appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students. It will also be of interest to future researchers and media scholars interested in the field of Internet practices among children and young people.

Sudha Venkataswamy

About Sudha Venkataswamy

Sudha Venkataswamy is Vice Chairperson and Assistant Professor (SG) in the Amrita School of Communication at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (University), India. She is currently a Research Scholar with the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. Her research interests include digital natives, digital divide and use of the Internet for education and information.

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