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Defining and Teaching News Literacy

By Justin Reich — January 14, 2014 3 min read
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As the production of journalism changes dramatically, educators need to think carefully about how best to prepare young people as media consumers. “News Literacy” has emerged as an organizing concept for helping young people make sense of a changing media landscape, and the McCormick Foundation has taken a leadership role in funding organizations that are thinking imaginatively about teaching kids about the news.

My colleagues at the Berkman Center have just released a series of reports about defining news literacy, about how young people in urban contexts experience and make sense of the news, and about emerging approaches to nurturing news literacy in young people. I offer a fourth report along a slightly different line: exploring how small non-profits can consider evaluating their work.

Here’s the Berkman Center release on the the News Literacy work that they’ve been doing in Chicago in partnership with McCormick. I’ll follow up in another post with some thoughts about the role of evaluation in educational non-profits:

Over the past few months, the Youth and Media team (led by Urs Gasser and Sandra Cortesi) has collaborated with Chicago-based organizations that encourage and support youth to be active, engaged, news-literate community members. The Youth and Media team found fascinating trends in youth information behavior and identified new opportunities for learning. We challenged existing frameworks for news literacy and developed practical guidance for community-based practitioners. And now we’re excited to share the results with you!

Our four research and practice briefs take diverse, yet interconnected, approaches to news literacy, and they are now available for download through SSRN:

1) “The Challenges of Defining ‘News Literacy’ ” seeks to stimulate a discussion about approaches to defining, framing, and understanding core concepts such as ‘news’ and ‘news literacy’. The brief draws on our growing body of research into everyday youth behaviors, and identifies key competencies for youth to become empowered, informed, connected citizens.

2) “Mapping Approaches to News Literacy Curriculum Development: A Navigation Aid” helps build the capacity of our community of practitioners to develop and teach news literacy curricula. We provide a concise summary of approaches to news literacy, current methods of reaching youth through instruction, as well as a roadmap for innovative curriculum design.

3) “Youth News Perceptions and Behaviors Online: How Youth Access and Share Information in a Chicago Community Affected by Gang Violence” takes an on-the-ground approach to news readership and examines the everyday information needs of youth living in Chicago. The brief draws upon focus group interviews that raise new questions about how youth online behaviors are affected by community violence.

4) “Evaluation in Context: Reflections on How to Measure Success of Your “WNM” Program” is a thoughtful roadmap for organizations and programs to implement a data-driven evaluation cycle. Written by Youth and Media mentor Justin Reich, with the support of the YaM team, this practice brief encourages nonprofits, as learning organizations, to critically and impartially examine and improve their self-efficacy as they work towards meaningful objectives.

We invite you to review our team outputs and contribute your reactions and reflections to the dialogue!

This work is supported by a generous grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation through their Why News Matters program.

We look forward to continuing to draw upon focus group interviews, our body of research and practice, and the extensive resources of the Berkman Center community to strengthen this unique connection between youth media research and on-the-ground youth service organizations.

To stay updated on what we’re doing at Youth and Media, check out our website at youthandmedia.org and follow us on Twitter @YouthAndMedia. Thank you for the support!

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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