Students study media literacy

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, December 6, 2018

Is there one truth or variations on truth?   With all the tech savvy of the younger generations, it may seem like kids have become the media experts. But there is a big difference between being informed on current social, cultural, educational and political issues and using social media for fun. It may or not involve social media these days since there are endless opportunities to interact with sites claiming facts. Kids in Kevin Connors’ history class said they study media literacy to help them determine what’s true in print and online.  They find it a helpful tool to sift through the mass of conflicting media reports.

Teacher and President of the Association for Media Accuracy, Neil Anderson says in “Making a Case for Media Literacy in the Classroom” (, “If we want our students to be able to confront and overcome the problems of today and tomorrow, we have to give them the tools they require. Media literacy can help them engage and solve many of their problems, both personal and social.”

With so much and so many forms of media these days, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what form of media to choose and how to view each platform. Young people, use media literacy to differentiate between news reports that are accurate, those that are biased. If reports are found to be biased, they learn how to have a balanced perspective by looking at other report sources according to Connors. The choices they make in seeking out and accepting media information may be crucial in forming their own opinions.

Dr. Ann Ewbank, of Montana State University, Bozeman, runs the Library Media Program including media communications. 

Ewbank told CCN, “Although it may seem like fake news is a new phenomenon, it is something that has been happening since before the United States became a country. However, with the ubiquity of social media and internet communication, fake news can spread more quickly than ever before. Therefore, it is incumbent upon our K-12 educators to equip students with the skills and knowledge to identify fake news. School librarians use a number of approaches to teach media literacy, such as the CRAAP test ( or websites such as and to teach students how to identify fake news, and to evaluate other news and media sources for accuracy. Librarians and other K-12 educators recognize the importance of teaching students these valuable skills, and MSU-Bozeman’s teacher and school librarian preparation programs ensure that graduates are prepared to teach these concepts to students.”

Are readers being manipulated today as never before?

In an article in Education Weeks, educator Benjamin Herold states, “Some interventions are designed to teach students to be more savvy about consuming media show promise—but the fragmenting media landscape is a far bigger problem than students alone can address, no matter how well-educated they are, argues a new report from the New York City think tank Data & Society.

Among the issues raised: the need to better understand the modern media environment, which is heavily driven by algorithm-based personalization on social-media platforms, and the need to be more systematic about evaluating the impact of various media-literacy strategies and interventions.”

Anderson states, “The necessity for and methods of media literacy education are often absent or unclear for many teachers and parents. Teachers are struggling with many problems already: illiteracy, new educational technologies, and students from dysfunctional families. We deal with drug problems, poverty, minority underachievement, and even violence.

Why should media literacy be added to our challenges? Didn't we get along without media literacy for 75 years of radio, 50 years of television and centuries of newspapers and magazines?"

Anderson says the answers to these questions are intertwined. “Media literacy is no longer separable from education. If we train students in basic skills such as reading and arithmetic, if we teach them about their native languages, and the history of their countries, if we do all these things so that they may be useful adults and productive citizens, then we must teach them about the media as well.

The spectrum of communications technologies that we encounter in our everyday lives is much greater than the one we are educated to encounter in our schools. If schools intend to prepare people to function with efficiency and pleasure in the 21st Century, they need to catch up to this larger spectrum.” 

So how does he as a teacher approach this problem? 

Anderson says, “As a teacher, I have a need to assimilate this cultural content, deal with media-created problems, and pass the means for understanding both on to my students. Media awareness can help.” 

He recommends teachers: “Teach techniques to counter marketing programs that use young people's insecurities or low self-esteem to promote the use of tobacco, alcohol and other negative behaviors; Explode stereotypes and misconceptions so they don't poison attitudes and interpersonal relations; Facilitate positive attitudes toward learning and help provide an effective means of conveying ideas and information; Help young people learn how to absorb and question media-conveyed news and information and Show students how to use the media as a tool for life-long learning.”

Dr. Patricia Fioriello provides professional development guides for teachers k-12 ( She states that “Children and youth that are media literate are better to understand the complex messages which are being passed on through the internet, television, newspapers, radio, books, magazines, video games, billboards, music and any other forms of media out there. It will enable them to better understand what news is true and false and therefore make decisions in multiple areas of their lives that are better informed and educated.” 

Anderson concludes, “Reading is still an essential skill, but proficiency with print has become only one aspect of literacy in our society. Functional literacy, which must include media literacy, could well bring about greater self-esteem and achievement in many students-even a decline in drug use and other behavior problems. It can also help strengthen the social fabric by helping minorities into mainstream culture.”

Media Literacy

According to Teacher Neil Anderson:


Here are some suggestions for teachers, parents and students: 



How is media important in the lives of the young people in your life? What are they learning from the television programs, video games and popular music they're excited about?


In what ways are media part of your classroom or church group already? Don't stop with "educational" programming. Think about additional ways to use news programs, videos, MTV and entertainment programming as lessons in behavior, popular culture, stereotypes and economics.


In the U.S., the National Catholic Educational Association has identified media literacy as a "competency for the future." What does this mean? Make a list of positive steps toward media awareness that can be taken into your group or classroom. How will they help empower young people who will live all their lives in a media world?



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