OP-ED | The State adopts guidelines on media literacy; Now schools need to get to work
Last week was National News Literacy Week. Fittingly, the Connecticut Department of Education (DOE) has announced the adoption of its Guidelines and Recommended Actions on Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy.
Since the summer of 2017, a committee made up of “teachers, library media specialists, representatives of parent-teacher organizations and people specializing in digital citizenship, internet safety and media literacy worked on the guidelines under the auspices of public law. 17-67.
Developing the guidelines took two and a half years of hard work by committee members. But now the work becomes even more difficult: we have to apply these guidelines and teach them to the children. As the DOE explained, “Every day, students are vulnerable to dangers such as cyberbullying, identity theft, and phishing.”
What’s more, American students – not to mention adults – are sorely lacking in information skills. That’s why the News Literacy Project (NLP) has partnered with the EW Scripps Company to develop National News Literacy Week.
“The need for information literacy has never been greater,” according to NLP. “Even the most discerning audiences can struggle to distinguish between legitimate information and content created to persuade, sell, mislead, or exploit.”
As an example, the News Literacy Project notes that “63% of people worldwide agree that the average person cannot distinguish good journalism from rumors or lies.” Additionally, “50% of the public have little knowledge of the term ‘op-ed’ or don’t know what it means.” (Hint: You’re reading an opinion piece right now.)
I was fortunate enough to attend the NLP NewsLitCamp, co-sponsored by Bloomberg News last week in New York for News Literacy Week. The day-long seminar gave educators a “first-hand introduction to information literacy, as well as tools and resources they can use in their classrooms.”
To say the seminar was time well spent for this media literacy professor is an understatement. In short, I was captivated all day. For example, I found myself continually nodding my head in agreement as NLP Director of Education John Silva explained what it means to be “information savvy” – recognizing when the information is credible, know which sources to trust and engage positively with the news. . And I immediately recognized the content of my own lessons in class as Silva described the different types of misinformation and the fact-checking skills needed to detect them.
However, information literacy is not a skill limited to the boundaries of a single class. Silva emphasized the importance of embedding information literacy throughout a school’s curriculum. Whether in the library or in language arts, history, science and math classes, the critical thinking skills inherent in information literacy are essential in all disciplines, according to Silva, a former social studies teacher at Chicago Public Schools.
As if to test the skills we just talked about at NewsLitCamp, I came across an intriguing article on my Facebook page as I was taking the train home. It appears that “deep state actors in the Obama administration have woven an elaborate tapestry of collusion, subterfuge, and electoral chicanery” in order to “preordain the 2016 election outcome.” As the fascinating article asked, “What better way to do that than to spy on the rival presidential campaign?”
Besides the fact that the author was a “Denver-based freelance doctor and writer” – not exactly a member of the Media Bias Fact Check, American Thinker is “dubious, based on far-right biases, promoting conspiracy theories/ pseudoscience, the use of mediocre sources, and the failure of fact checks.”
I mentioned these points in the comments section of the original Facebook post, and provided a link. The author of the post ignored my comment, which I didn’t mind, considering Mark Twain’s famous observation: “No amount of evidence can ever convince a fool.” As it happens, I had just seen this quote in another Facebook meme. Just one problem: Mark Twain never said that.
Clearly, Americans — especially children — need help navigating the information overload they encounter on a daily basis.
Fortunately, the Connecticut Department of Education has adopted guidelines for digital citizenship, internet safety, and media literacy. Never before have such subjects been more essential and topical. Indeed, it is high time for schools to start addressing these topics.
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who teaches journalism, media literacy, and AP English language and composition at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
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