Today marks the end of the second annual U.S. Media Literacy Week—and as studies continue to show bleak results for students’ ability to navigate digital news, advocates say that media literacy education is more important than ever.
Young people are viewed as tech-savvy digital natives, but most still struggle to identify false information and critically evaluate online sources. As the flood of fake news shows no sign of stopping, teachers are grappling with how to help their students develop digital literacy, or the abillity to consume, understand, and communicate and share this digital content.
To coincide with Media Literacy Week, the social justice organization Teaching Tolerance, an educational project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has launched an initiative to help educators tackle fake news. With short informational videos and online lesson plans for every grade level, the new campaign seeks to help teachers instill seven key competencies for digital literacy in their students.
Maureen Costello, the founder and director of Teaching Tolerance, noted that the level of students’ digital literacy can have important implications for all grades and subjects.
“Teachers need students to have the skills to evaluate claims, marshal evidence in support of a claim, and understand the difference between a good source and a bad source,” Costello said. “And they have a moral responsibility to make sure that students are not harming other people.”
The mission of Teaching Tolerance is “educating for a diverse democracy,” which Costello described as helping students appreciate differences and participate in the public sphere. “Digital literacy is a really crucial part of that, both in countering hate but also in promoting really good civic engagement,” Costello said.
For educators who are struggling to find simple ways to teach digital literacy, Costello recommended having students watch their media diets for a week and reflect on the sources they do—and don’t—rely on. Teachers can use this New York Times lesson plan for conducting a “news audit,” or encourage their students to participate in the Times’ media literacy challenge, which runs until Dec. 22.
Over the past year, teachers and schools have started taking more active steps to bring digital literacy into the classroom. In some districts, school librarians are tasked with leading lessons and presentations on digital literacy.
Schools - use your trained professional librarians to help teach media awareness!
— Maude (@MaudeFindlay72) November 3, 2017
— Stephanie Wallace 📱 (@librarianerd) November 4, 2017
Teachers, how are you bringing digital literacy into the classroom? Share in the comments or on Twitter with #TeachersFightFakeNews.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.