In the wake of #FakeNews, and, more recently, President Trump’s “Fake News Awards,” it makes me reflect on our role as educators when it comes to media literacy, which has me again pondering the purpose of education. In 1934, John Dewey wrote,
“The purpose of education has always been to every one, in
essence, the same—to give the young the things they need in
order to develop in an orderly, sequential way into members of
society. This was the purpose of the education given to a little
aboriginal in the Australian bush before the coming of the white
man. It was the purpose of the education of youth in the golden
age of Athens. It is the purpose of education today, whether
this education goes on in a one-room school in the mountains
of Tennessee or in the most advanced, progressive school in a
radical community. But to develop into a member of society in
the Australian bush had nothing in common with developing into
a member of society in ancient Greece, and still less with what
is needed today. Any education is, in its forms and methods, an
outgrowth of the needs of the society in which it exists.”
In this unprecedented, exponential, and experimental age of communication, information, and sometimes misinformation, all previous norms and rules start to blur. As online rhetoric becomes more polarized, it starts to seem that our needs as a society are also becoming divided.
But the ability to ascertain truth remains a common, fundamental need of a democratic society, which makes our free press all the more essential. As educators this pursuit of truth comes through cultivating healthy media literacy. The ISTE standards are a powerful resource, as they can all be used to strengthen our students’ capacity to assess whatever information comes their way. Here are my thoughts on what this might look like.
1. Empowered Learner: “Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.”) → Helping students learn to identify bias, and giving them the technological know-how to discern among different types of online media (ie, social media posts, blog posts, journalism, etc.)
2. Digital Citizen: “Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.”) → Helping students learn specific strategies for fact-checking, and a general “think before you share” mindset.
3. Knowledge Constructor: “Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.”) → Giving our students immersive opportunities to read a large cross-section of sources when embarking on a new unit.
4. Innovative Designer: “Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.” → Encouraging students to be part of the solution when it comes to misinformation by creating their own carefully-sourced media literacy resources (infographics, videos, etc).
5. Computational Thinker: “Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.”) → Teaching students the science and driving force behind “click bait,” as well what methods mainstream news outlets use to fact-check.
6. Creative Communicator (“Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.”) → Giving students the opportunity to have authentic audiences via student blogs to increase their literacy as online contributors.