Media literacy

More connected? Additional devices do not diminish ‘troubling’ media literacy skills


What is media literacy for students?

Media literacy is the ability to understand the validity and intent of a medium. The term can be applied to any form of media with which students interact. This includes images in lessons and class projects, educational videos, texts, and other resources. This also applies to media outside the classroom, from billboards and television to social media feeds.

Often the term media education is used when news education or information education would be more appropriate, such as when students are researching information and seeking to identify relevant and appropriate sources. Mastery of current affairs and information requires that students possess a range of skills in critical thinking, analysis and objectivity.

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Why is media literacy teaching important in the digital age?

In 2019, the Stanford History Education Group published a study – a follow-up to research they conducted in 2016 – in which 90% of high school students failed four of six information literacy assessments. The researchers called the results “disturbing,” and they are not the only observers to reach this conclusion.

Adams says his organization discovered similar results when testing students. “We can see that the students struggled to understand exactly what sets quality standards-based journalism apart from other forms of news,” he says. “They also have a hard time identifying what matters and does not count as evidence of an allegation or differentiating between a high quality, reliable source and an untrusted source.”

As an education consultant, Frank Baker works with librarians and teachers to improve media literacy. One of the common concerns, he says, is that “kids don’t check anything. They just want the information fast, so they put a stop to the search on Google, and they expect Google to check the results.

Although they are digital natives, students need guidance from teachers on how to properly use the tools at their disposal. Other times, even after learning to verify information, students will choose the path of least resistance.

“For them it’s exhausting,” says Susan Yutzey, a retired library media specialist from Upper Arlington City Schools in Ohio. “They have all of this homework to do, so looking for the fastest way to get what they need is what they do. That is why I recommend not only a one-off media literacy course, but that librarians as building information specialists work with [high school] teachers to try to integrate those lessons where students succeed every four years in different subjects.

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How can students develop better media literacy?

With more devices in schools, educators have more opportunities to discuss media literacy in the classroom and incorporate it into lessons. Educators should work with the school librarian – an expert in research and information – to integrate the teachings into their classroom.

“We need every teacher in every discipline to teach media literacy,” says Baker. “If you’re a teacher and using pictures or videos in a classroom, you need to have a heavy dose of media literacy so that we can help young people think critically because the evidence is clear, they don’t think critically. . “

Yutzey adds that collaboration between librarians and educators should start early. “It’s really incumbent on us as librarians to teach throughout kindergarten to grade 12, so what we do with kids shows them some of the techniques,” she says. “Then we don’t try to eliminate bad habits, which happens once they get into middle school and high school. They have developed very bad habits about how they rate the media.

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