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Thinking Critically About News and Media Literacy

Media and news literacy was the focus of the recent Future Ready Librarians Virtual Summit. While the challenge of media literacy remains huge, Future Ready Librarians® are leading, teaching, and supporting this essential work in their schools, communities, and across the U.S. Whether you joined us for our live event or want to get the highlights, here’s a quick recap of key ideas and resources for you to use.

Social media has changed everything

While this seems self-evident, it is easy for educators to look past (or down on) social media when working with learners. Kristen Mattson, a former teacher librarian who wrote the book Digital Citizenship in Action, said “Media creation is easier than ever, the information gatekeepers are changing, and media is no longer a one-way conversation.” 

During the FRL Summit, Shaelynn Farnsworth of the News Literacy Project engaged participants by sharing TikTok videos and asking librarians to identify whether short videos were ads, opinions, news, and/or endorsements. Two features made this activity stand out. First, as a media platform, TikTok is widely used by younger generations. But according to an informal chat poll is not widely used by the librarians in attendance. This was the second key takeaway — Future Ready Librarians need to meet kids where they are, specifically leading their instruction with social media as a primary medium for information and ideas. 

A decade ago, digital citizenship and media literacy were largely defined by sterile lessons on stranger dangers and keeping passwords secure. While trailblazers like Common Sense Education and NAMLE have long championed media literacy education efforts, the rapid spread of mis- and disinformation caught schools and communities off-guard. Thankfully, educators, school leaders, and teacher librarians have created a range of lessons and resources for media literacy learning. 

The News Literacy Project has a number of free tools and resources.  

Checkology offers interactive lessons to help students (and adults) “identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, and apply critical thinking skills to separate fact-based content from falsehoods.” While registration is required, all lessons are free.

The Sift is a “an educator’s guide to the week in news literacy,” providing context, resources, and guidance to help teachers explore media literacy with a focus on current viral rumors and mis- and dis-information. Here is an example of their newsletter. Also requires registration, but is free. 

With a focus on education, NLP has recently showcased Future Ready Librarian superstar, KC Boyd in a recent profile and invites educators to join News Lit Nation, a community of practice focused on media literacy education. 

Raising Digital Leaders 

Teacher librarian and frequent Future Ready Librarians contributor Jennifer Casa-Todd shared a variety of strategies she uses, recognizing the need for educators to look social media in the eye and not be afraid to challenge mis- and disinformation when they see it. She shared how she publicly called out misinformation on social media in her native Ontario, Canada and succeeded in getting a misleading post removed. She shared, “We need to publicly ask questions and draw attention to misinformation with facts and links.”

She also acknowledged the ‘CRAP trap’ which Mike Caulfield of the University of Washington has called out as being outdated and overly complicated

“Checklist approaches like the CRAAP test actually come out of old library collection development criteria….Over time those questions have been refined to create a student tool for thinking about documents. But it’s never really worked online. When we’re online nowadays we’re the filter.”

Casa-Todd, who has written Raising Digital Leaders, spoke to the need to accept that social media is the go-go for current generations in our schools and that students are active consumers and producers beyond the classroom. She highlighted the media triangle which helps students see media as constructed with value messages and special interests. 

Upcoming Professional Learning for Future Ready Librarians: 

2nd Annual Digital AppSmash Webinar, November 17, 2021 (4:00-5:00 pm ET)

During this 2nd annual fast-paced and fun event, twenty Future Ready Librarians will share twenty digital tools and how they use them with their students to create amazing experiences in face-to-face, virtual and blended learning.

You won’t want to miss as they share about each digital tool outlining how it is used and how it supports us as Future Ready Librarians.

It’s going to be an exciting hour filled with sharing, networking, and collaborating!

Register today to join us! 

Supporting Social Emotional Learning Through the Library, November 20, 2021 (11:00 am to 1:00 pm ET)

Our next live Future Ready Librarians Summit will be focused on SEL and the library, helping Future Ready Librarians lead, teach, and support in this critical area. We will not only discuss the social and emotional needs of students, but also examine how teacher librarians can take care of themselves and their colleagues. 

During this summit, we will reflect and collaborate around the following questions:

Register to join us on November 20th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm ET.

About Mark

Mark Ray is an advisor for Future Ready Librarians®. He teaches in the Teacher Librarian Certification Program at Antioch University Seattle and is a former teacher librarian, district administrator, and 2012 Washington State Teacher of the Year.