Students are lagging behind in media literacy – but the gap is not insurmountable
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When 3,446 high school students watched an anonymously produced video on Facebook purporting to show ballot stuffing during a Democratic primary election, only three students were able to identify the true source of the video – even though all students could search the internet .
The Facebook video actually showed footage of voter fraud in Russia, not the United States. Findings that less than a tenth of 1% of college students in 2019 could identify the true source of a video alleging voter fraud in a US election were uncovered by Stanford Graduate School of Education researchers in a study published in 2021.
“The overwhelming majority of students said that it [the video] was trustworthy even if they could go online anytime…and they would have found a bunch of articles that he was untrustworthy,” said Joel Breakstone, lead study author and director from the Stanford History Education Group. “And that speaks to the depth of the problem.”
But a more recent study published in April, co-authored by Breakstone with other Stanford researchers, finds a glimpse of hope for those looking to help students spot misinformation.
This research, also made in 2019found that high school students who took just six 50-minute digital literacy lessons were twice as likely to identify questionable websites.
Navigating Media Literacy and Censorship Laws in the Classroom
Some states are beginning to require media literacy in schools. In 2021, a state law spent in illinois required all public secondary schools to include a unit on media literacy in their curriculum from the 2022-23 school year. Additionally, the state Board of Education will decide how to provide the materials and professional development to make this possible.
Texas also has a state law requiring a civic training program which gives instructions on media literacy, “including instructions on verifying information and sources, identifying and responding to logical errors and identifying propaganda, according to grade level and in accordance with restrictions of article 28.0022”. The quoted section prohibits classroom discussions suggesting that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex”, and does not allow teachers “to demand an understanding of The 1619 Projectby the New York Times.
Media Literacy Now, a non-profit organization that advocates for media literacy in public education, said in a press release that training Texas law teachers in media literacy seemed promising. But the organization finds other state mandates limiting classroom discussion to be ‘anti-free speech’, adding that ‘excluding politicized topics from the classroom will only exacerbate the problems media illiteracy in the country”.
As of January 2021, 42 states have proposed or passed legislation restricting educators’ ability to teach about racism and sexism, according to the education civil rights alliance. In a recent House Subcommittee HearingSome lawmakers and a witness said recent “parents’ rights” bills requiring greater oversight of curricula will keep schools focused on teaching rather than divisive topics.
Teaching “how to think, not what to think”
Even with these increasingly restricted parameters for educators, media literacy experts say teachers can still learn to spot misinformation.
“We teach critical thinking skills and teach kids how to think, not what to think,” said Shaelynn Farnsworth, director of educator network expansion at the News Literacy Project, a nonprofit nonprofit education organization. partisan that provides resources to educate on how to consume the news.
Teaching students about media literacy and how to spot misinformation not only impacts their understanding of news, Farnsworth said, but these skills can also help them defend themselves when actively participating in civic life.
Educators also struggle to stay on top of misinformation and teach students to identify it, she said. Teachers can start by helping students develop these skills, including teaching journalism skills, how to reverse image search, and how to read sideways — a skill that fact checkers often apply by opening new tabs to perform checks. background information on a source’s organizational relationships. and claims.
Teachers need more support to embed media literacy skills into the curriculum they already teach, and that includes providing more opportunities for professional development, Breakstone said.
There are also outdated lessons in media literacy that teachers should move away from, including the idea that every website ending in “.org” is reputable, he said. Anyone, including hate groups, can buy an “.org” domain, he said.
There are obvious difficulties in many districts and classrooms when it comes to discussing political or social issues that are “ripe for media literacy conversations,” said Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.
But educators can still dive into building media literacy skills without tackling these controversial topics, she said. While she thinks the classroom can be a place to engage in these debates, she understands that teachers need to get creative with less controversial media content.
“You can decode and analyze the media. You can make a music video and you develop those skills that can translate into news and translate into hot topics,” Ciulla Lipkin said.