Cool Tools, Thing 14: News Literacy

I will admit, I’ve done my best to avoid news beyond the weather forecast for the majority of my adult life so far. My avoidance is based on many of the same reasons other people give for why they don’t do a better job keeping up on current events:

  • The news is depressing.  I don’t want to bookend my day with stories of tragedies.
  • The news is overwhelming. There’s so much of it and it’s always changing. It feels impossible to keep up!
  • There’s no follow through. Stories get covered ad nauseum (I’m looking at you ebola outbreak) and then, suddenly, just disappear and we never hear anything else about them.
  • I don’t have time to sort through all this and get to the real facts.

However like many others, I’ve realized since the recent election and the proliferation of discussions about fake news and alternate facts it has ushered in, I cannot, in good conscious, continue to avoid the news. Ignorance is no longer bliss.

Understanding that news literacy is important and no longer avoidable is one thing. Knowing how to work it into my life and my curriculum is another. While I don’t believe that I need to be an expert on something before I can tackle it with students, this was not a topic I was comfortable just trying out with them and seeing what happened.

And I will admit, I tried to tackle this tool several times. And each time, I would get overwhelmed and put it aside “for later”. I was starting to worry that later would never come and I, and by extension my students, would not be getting media literate anytime soon. Then, fortune smiled on me and I learned that OCM School Library System was having a workshop entitled, Media Literacy in the 21st Century with Julie Smith, author of Master the Media: How Teaching Media Literacy Can Save Our Plugged-in World. This class really bolstered my confidence. I can do this! I just need to construct a plan and here’s what I’ve come up with so far! (And seriously, if you get a chance to attend a Julie Smith media literacy class-do it!).

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Become More Media Literate Myself

Find Quick and Easy Resources for Media Literacy Lessons

While I’m well on my way to feeling more confident about my media literacy skills, I’m not sure I’m ready to completely craft my own lessons from scratch. In addition to the great resources in this tool, I’ve found some other sources for helping me out with potential lesson for next year:

  • Center for Media Literacy website-the have these things called MediaLit Moments, downloadable classroom activities that provide teachable ‘AHA’ moments
  • The Media Education Lab has tons of resources for teaching media literacy (some free, some not)
  • I loved the suggestions in the 50 Ways to Teach With Current Events article. Some ideas I’m particularly excited about trying to work into next year’s curriculum (mine or other teachers):
    • Brainstorm Solutions to the World’s Problems-I think this could be a fun twist on a research/writing assignment
    • Weekly News Quiz-A great addition to the library website and could be a cool activity for students who finish projects early or need another option during book exchange time and enjoy challenges.
    • Battle Others in Bingo: Could be an interesting way to learn about the news and media-my students love end of the year review BINGO!
    • Do a Scavenger Hunt: another activity my students love that would be fun to adjust for news literacy
    • Mix and Match Headlines, Stories and Photos-I think my students would be way more invested in learning about this stuff if it seemed more like a game
    • Hunt for the Three Branches of Government in the Paper-again, making it into more of a game would really encourage them to learn all they can
  • Julie Smith had some fantastic ideas for incorporating media literacy into everyday subjects. Here are some of her ideas I’d love to try out with my students and teachers next year:
    • Compare the book to it’s movie. What changes were made? Why?
    • Write catalog copy for every day objects and make them seem amazing
    • Watch scenes from “historical” movies and then read 1st person accounts for some historical events. Compare and contrast. Write letters to directors about any oversights/errors/inaccuracies/omissions they find. Discuss why they might have changed things etc. (I’m especially excited about this one because it would also give me a chance to practice finding and using primary sources)
    • Use accurate information to create purposefully misleading charts and graphs

I’m still very much a novice with this whole media/news literacy thing but I feel much more confident than I did before I (finally) undertook this Cool Tool. I’m even excited about trying to teach it! I’d call this Cool Tool a success! 

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