Information Literacy in the 21st Century


Ezra Klein recently drew attention to a 1985 book by Neil Postman titled Have fun to death. He specifically mentions how Postman explains that these familiar high school literature class authors – Orwell and Huxley – differ in terms of visions of a dystopian future. As Klein puts it, “‘Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information,” Postman wrote. “Huxley feared that those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and selfishness. Orwell feared the truth would be withheld from us. Huxley feared that the truth was drowned in a sea of ​​insignificance. Today our students face an intimidating media landscape that never seems to end and is hyper-motivated to get their attention.

Helping them navigate, analyze and understand this part of our world is crucial. And yet educators may think our students are smarter than they actually are. The Stanford History Education Group conducted and published a 2017 study on this exact situation. They claim that our students not only struggle to overcome prejudices like so many adults, but are also woefully unprepared to spot fake news, or even whether or not the articles are sponsored on the sites they are. read. As they conclude, “Overall, the ability of young people to reason about information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak. So, as educators, it is then up to us to provide solutions to a growing problem.

Possible solutions

Scott McCleod, associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Colorado, Denver puts it this way: “Not only is the concept of digital natives disproved, but it also seems to grant us permission. . . to avoid the difficult challenge of fostering students comfortable with technology and information because we supposedly have little to teach them. This is by no means the case.

Matt Renwick, a director from Wisconsin, offers some simple tips to help educators get started.

  1. Reliable information flows can be organized
  2. Persuasion must be understood
  3. Teach quality research strategies
  4. Let students create content for an audience

We can’t cover everything here, but below you will find some wonderful resources to build on Renwick’s introduction. By using PBS LearningMedia’s streaming video and Discovery Education’s partnerships and strategies, educators should feel more comfortable taking on the challenge we face. Need a simple way to help students understand media bias? Check out Allsides, a list of news organizations indexed by political leanings.

PBS Learning Media

At PBS LearningMedia, there are several wonderful collections of the latest content and lessons, including Braincraft, Common Sense Media, Above the Noise, and PBS NewsHour. We’ve put together a file of our favorite episodes with how-to videos covering everything from how the media uses neuroscience to persuade them with products, to lessons educating them on identifying high-quality websites and hands-on activities to investigate. on sources of information.

They also hosted a webinar to encourage citizen journalists to help teachers understand why teaching journalism is important and how to fit it into the curriculum. Want to explore other media literacy projects, but don’t know where to start? The KQED member station has built a comprehensive professional development site, KQED Teach, which hosts guided courses on everything from building media messages to infographics and the essentials of video storytelling. A simple free login will give educators access to all courses at their own pace with activities and tasks to complete and peer feedback.

Discovery education

Through a network of partnerships, Discovery Education has developed a series of programs and programs to make classrooms more efficient and attractive. Their Spotlight On Strategies series is a collection of instructional strategies broken down by competence for direct implementation. Their Top 10 series hosts lists to scaffold student research to empower students, promote critical thinking and problem solving, as well as improve their abilities to compare and contrast sources and content. .

Additionally, Discovery Education and the Nielsen Foundation have developed a program called Discover Data that includes lessons on data analytics in the media industry, helping students create predictive models to interpret consumer behavior at the to come up. In this way, students gain a behind-the-scenes knowledge of how large organizations use the vast amounts of data that we, as consumers, generate. And speaking of how organizations use information, check out the lessons in their Ignite My Future series for activities on understanding Deepfakes, separating fact from fiction, or what revisionist history is.

Additional resources

Outside of Discovery and PBS, there are many sites and organizations that seek to educate our students about fake news and media literacy. Earlier we mentioned the Stanford History Education Group report on student abilities. Following their critical research, SHEG built a program around civic reasoning online. Their tools include physical and digital tasks as well as assessments to refine students’ skills in the area of ​​digital literacy.

And for more general, everyday use, Allsides is a great organization that has created a website featuring a range of media perspectives on current new trends. Instead of watching students confirm their own biases with their favorite media source, Allsides can help them see what perspective that source is coming from as well as other sources that can help balance their views.

Because, as the Stanford researchers said, “Never have we had so much information at our fingertips. It is up to us to decide whether this bounty will make us smarter, better informed, or more ignorant and narrow. ‘spirit”. We have the tools we need. Now it’s up to us.


Comments are closed.