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Ten steps for better media literacy skills

New action plan calls for educators, community leaders to promote media literacy education

Ten steps for better media literacy skills

Media literacy skills are used for more than just research papers.

As policy makers work to increase the number of U.S. households with broadband access, many are realizing it’s not enough for people to be able to access information online and through various media outlets; they also need the ability to analyze the information they find for accuracy and credibility—a 21st-century skill not every child or adult possesses.

A new white paper, “Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action,” by Renee Hobbs, founder of Temple University’s Media Education Lab, now gives policy makers and education leaders a detailed plan to boost media literacy skills in their communities.

“Existing paradigms in technology education must be shifted towards a focus on critical thinking and communication skills and away from ‘gee-whiz’ gaping over new technology tools,” Hobbs said. “An effective community education movement needs a shared vision. This report offers recommendations that involve many stakeholders, each participating in a way that supports the whole community.”

The need for action arises from other recent reports, such as a 2006 survey by Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that 75 percent of internet searchers “do not pay heed to the quality of information they find, and 25 percent reported becoming frustrated, confused, or overwhelmed by what they find.”

Another report, released in 2009 by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, assessed media literacy in communities and created 15 recommendations to better meet communities’ information needs.

After the release of the Knight Commission report, titled “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age,” the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation partnered to explore ways to implement its recommendations.

The Aspen Institute commissioned a series of white papers to help transform these recommendations into action—and Hobbs’ media literacy report is one such white paper (others include universal broadband, civic engagement, online hubs, and more).

According to Hobbs, knowing how to search for, analyze, and interpret information is a skill that will be used for more than just writing a good research paper: People use media literacy skills for applying for jobs online, getting relevant health information, and sifting through online educational opportunities, for example.

People also need media literacy skills to read or watch the news, write a letter to an editor, comment on an online news story, share ideas online, take an opinion poll, search for information on topics, or take community action.

Perhaps most importantly, media literacy skills are crucial in understanding and maintaining online safety, said Hobbs.

“We must consider the balance between protection and empowerment and respond seriously to the genuine risks associated with media and digital technology,” she explained.

Hobbs’ 10 recommendations for better media literacy skills

Support community-level digital and media literacy initiatives.

1. Map existing community resources and offer small grants to promote community partnerships to integrate digital and media literacy competencies into existing programs.

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Comments:

  1. dressel

    November 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    All this “develop partnerships” items need to be interpretted as “make better use of librarians!”

  2. dressel

    November 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    All this “develop partnerships” items need to be interpretted as “make better use of librarians!”

  3. sgunkel

    November 11, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I applaud the recognition that this article gives to the importance of media literacy skills but I can’t help shaking my head at the proposed solutions to it, since I feel the answer is clear…. School librarians (media specialists) are trained to provide this kind of awareness to students but many states don’t require schools (or even districts) to have a licensed media specialist on staff. It is so ironic to me that here in the 21st century the very staff who could do the most to help with this issue are often the first who are cut when the budget is tight.

  4. sgunkel

    November 11, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I applaud the recognition that this article gives to the importance of media literacy skills but I can’t help shaking my head at the proposed solutions to it, since I feel the answer is clear…. School librarians (media specialists) are trained to provide this kind of awareness to students but many states don’t require schools (or even districts) to have a licensed media specialist on staff. It is so ironic to me that here in the 21st century the very staff who could do the most to help with this issue are often the first who are cut when the budget is tight.

  5. brannow

    November 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I agree with sgunkel, as a library media specialist I know we are positioned with the training to work with teachers and students in teaching media literacy skills. Despite having these 21st century skills, library media specialist are being cut or have to cover so many school libraries in a district that makes it difficult for us to do are jobs well, if not impossible. Lets make sure that library media specialist are included as key personnel in No Child Left Behind and make the money available for school districts to be able to maintain the services of a library media specialist in each building.

  6. brannow

    November 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I agree with sgunkel, as a library media specialist I know we are positioned with the training to work with teachers and students in teaching media literacy skills. Despite having these 21st century skills, library media specialist are being cut or have to cover so many school libraries in a district that makes it difficult for us to do are jobs well, if not impossible. Lets make sure that library media specialist are included as key personnel in No Child Left Behind and make the money available for school districts to be able to maintain the services of a library media specialist in each building.

  7. chmarin@cisco.com

    November 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Disclaimer: I am not an education nor media specialist expert. I might propose something a little more drastic that may resonate more with legislators: re-brand the library. The library is not a quiet place to read anymore. It’s where our next generation of entrepreneurs is germinating. The ability to develop relationships with far flung customers, motivate remote employees and forge international relationships is enabled through effective use media. Do our elected officials “get” that?

  8. chmarin@cisco.com

    November 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Disclaimer: I am not an education nor media specialist expert. I might propose something a little more drastic that may resonate more with legislators: re-brand the library. The library is not a quiet place to read anymore. It’s where our next generation of entrepreneurs is germinating. The ability to develop relationships with far flung customers, motivate remote employees and forge international relationships is enabled through effective use media. Do our elected officials “get” that?

  9. ecaffare

    November 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I agree with the previous posts that school librarians have been teaching evaluation of the written word in whatever form it is presented.
    School librarians are uniquely positioned as qualified teachers of media literacy.

  10. ecaffare

    November 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I agree with the previous posts that school librarians have been teaching evaluation of the written word in whatever form it is presented.
    School librarians are uniquely positioned as qualified teachers of media literacy.

  11. jscott

    November 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    California State School Board recently passed School Library Standards that will address the need for media literacy.

    1. Students Access Information
    The student will access information by applying knowledge of the organization of libraries, print materials, digital media, and other sources.
    1.1 Recognize the need for information
    1.2 Formulate appropriate questions
    1.3 Identify and locate a variety of resources online and in other formats using effective research strategies
    1.4 Retrieve information in a timely, safe, and responsible manner

    2. Students Evaluate Information
    The student will evaluate and analyze information to determine appropriateness in addressing the scope of inquiry.
    2.1 Determine relevance of information
    2.2 Assess comprehensiveness, currency, credibility, authority, and accuracy of resources
    2.3 Consider the need for additional information

    3. Students Use Information
    The student will organize, synthesize, create, and communicate information.
    3.1 Demonstrate ethical, legal, and safe use of information in print, media, and digital resources
    3.2 Draw conclusions and make informed decisions
    3.3 Use information and technology creatively to answer a question, solve a problem, or enrich understanding

    4. Students Integrate Information Literacy Skills into All Areas of Learning
    The student will independently pursue information to become a life long learner.
    4.1 Read widely and use various media for information, personal interest, and life long learning
    4.2 Seek, produce, and share information
    4.3 Appreciate and respond to creative expressions of information

  12. jscott

    November 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    California State School Board recently passed School Library Standards that will address the need for media literacy.

    1. Students Access Information
    The student will access information by applying knowledge of the organization of libraries, print materials, digital media, and other sources.
    1.1 Recognize the need for information
    1.2 Formulate appropriate questions
    1.3 Identify and locate a variety of resources online and in other formats using effective research strategies
    1.4 Retrieve information in a timely, safe, and responsible manner

    2. Students Evaluate Information
    The student will evaluate and analyze information to determine appropriateness in addressing the scope of inquiry.
    2.1 Determine relevance of information
    2.2 Assess comprehensiveness, currency, credibility, authority, and accuracy of resources
    2.3 Consider the need for additional information

    3. Students Use Information
    The student will organize, synthesize, create, and communicate information.
    3.1 Demonstrate ethical, legal, and safe use of information in print, media, and digital resources
    3.2 Draw conclusions and make informed decisions
    3.3 Use information and technology creatively to answer a question, solve a problem, or enrich understanding

    4. Students Integrate Information Literacy Skills into All Areas of Learning
    The student will independently pursue information to become a life long learner.
    4.1 Read widely and use various media for information, personal interest, and life long learning
    4.2 Seek, produce, and share information
    4.3 Appreciate and respond to creative expressions of information