Whether it’s recognizing fake news, media bias or just information overload, media literacy has never been more important.
While librarians, media specialists and writing teachers have traditionally taken the lead in teaching research skills and media literacy, it’s increasingly up to teachers of all subjects and grade levels to make sure students are responsible producers and consumers of media content.
If media isn’t your background as a teacher, the task can feel daunting.
“In order to have a democracy and a free society, we have to rely on the discernment and judgment of each and every citizen and that can only happen through education,” says the Center for Media Literacy’s president and CEO, Tessa Jolls. “They must have a methodology to rely on that’s evidence-based and is, frankly, scientific.”
Reading carefully and thinking critically have always been the basic tenets of media literacy, but those skills become more vital in the age of social media, citizen journalists, circular reporting and, yes, fake news. Those skills are the hallmarks of the Knowledge Constructor standard, which is part of the Standards for Students. The organizations below offer tips, videos, curricula and lesson plans to help educators guide students in navigating the media landscape.
The Center for Media Literacy. This nonprofit organization develops resources for teachers using evidence-based, peer-reviewed longitudinal studies.
The Center for News Literacy. Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism offers a curriculum toolbox for teachers with information on teaching media literacy.
Common Sense Education. This independent nonprofit organization offers a toolkit for educators on news and media literacy, geared by grade level, that includes lesson plans, videos, interactive games and professional development.
CRAAP Test. A classic, the CRAAP Test was developed by librarians at California State University, Chico, and reminds us to assess articles based on the Currency, Relevance, Authority (or source of the information), Accuracy and Purpose (meaning does the author have a particular intent). The American Association of Librarians has recently updated the CRAAP test to reflect added scrutiny to the authority component. For instance, authority shouldn’t be assumed based on a person’s title, but only in conjunction with the other factors, such as accuracy.
Cyber Civics. An off-shoot of Cyber Wise, the digital citizenship program, Cyber Civics is a media literacy curriculum developed for middle-schoolers that progresses from digital citizenship to information literacy and concludes with media literacy for positive participation.
The Library Voice. ISTE member Shannon McClintock Miller has created a Padlet dedicated to media literacy resources and lesson planning ideas. You’ll find everything from the basics of media literacy to teaching students to spot fake news.
Media Literacy Clearinghouse. ISTE author and media education consultant Frank W. Baker offers links to recommended books and other resources for educators. He recommends teachers post basic media literacy questions on their walls so that students can always refer to them.
Baker also recommends students use a Google news aggregator to ensure they see a variety of resources. To ensure news sources are from across the full political spectrum, use a site such as AllSides to choose news from left, right and center.
Media Literacy Now. This national organization for media literacy education provides policy and advocacy information, expertise and resources to to implement media literacy education in schools.
News Literacy Project. This project has been offering “drop-in” units focused on news matters, the First Amendment, the standards of quality journalism and current news and information landscape since 2008. Now, the News Literacy Project is making the lessons more widely available through its program, checkology virtual classroom. With the free basic version, teachers can offer the interactive lessons to an entire class, while a premium version provides individual student licenses for a 1:1 or blended learning model.
NPR’s Breaking News Handbooks. New York City’s WNYC-FM’s “On the Media” program published its first handbook in 2013. Each handbook, intended to be clipped and posted near your computer or TV, includes tips such as: “Check the domain! Fake sites often add ‘.co’ to trusted brands to steal their luster. (Think: ‘abcnews.com.co’),” which came from their Fake News Edition. Other editions include “Election Polls” and “Islamophobia.” This is a great tool to discuss current events with students.
Being informed — defined as evaluating the accuracy, perspective and validity of digital media and social posts — is one of the five competencies of the #DigCitCommit movement. Watch the video below to learn how you can get involved.
Jennifer Snelling is a freelance writer based in Eugene, Oregon, and mother of two digital natives.
This is an updated version of an article that originally published on April 11, 2016.