Two Action for Media Literacy (AME) board members were recently contacted by The 74, a “non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America” and a “voice for the 74 million school-aged children in America.” They wanted to learn more about what’s happening in Washington State, the first state to adopt media literacy into law.
The 74 interviewed Michael Danielson and Shawn Sheller for the article “Media Literacy Is Literacy.” Michael is a high school teacher who teaches a required one-semester media literacy class, and Shawn is an elementary teacher-librarian technology integration specialist.
Shawn, when asked how she became involved and why media literacy is important, mentioned a lesson on media messaging where her elementary students talked about a local political race that called an opponent “Dr. Tax” in political ads. Real-life examples enrich and deepen lessons, and show the everyday need for students to be more media literate.
Adults mistakenly believe that students, growing up in a digital world, have the skills to critically analyze and evaluate what they read and view. The Stanford History Education Group has done important work with this study from 2016 that indicates media literacy for our “digital natives” is still a critical need.
Since 1991, AME has advocated for media literacy as a fundamental literacy skill for students of all ages.
Here’s How Educators and Lawmakers Are Working to Set Students Up for Success Online
Michael Danielson gives students in his ninth-grade media literacy class a simple piece of homework each night: Pay attention.
The assignment is meant to prod them into thinking critically about the countless messages that bombard them every day. They report back to their teacher and classmates at the start of each class with “media literacy moments,” explaining how they discovered hidden motives and attempts to manipulate them or sell them products.
Seeing his students apply five core concepts about media to what they see on Netflix, at the movies and online is Danielson’s favorite part of his job. It’s how he knows he has altered the way they consume media.
“I’ve changed them for life,” he said.
Danielson teaches at Seattle Preparatory School, a private Catholic high school. In addition to the required one-semester media literacy class, he teaches yearbook and theology classes and advocates for media literacy as chair of Action 4 Media Education, a Washington state-based group.
Media literacy is a broad term that encompasses a wide set of skills ranging from thinking critically about news and opinion articles to dealing with cyberbullying to creating and sharing content online. The idea of media literacy is not new, but experts say it gained new momentum following the 2016 presidential election.
Across the country, lawmakers, educators and advocates are working to elevate the issue of media literacy in legislatures and schools. Washington state has been at the forefront of the movement.
In 2016, lawmakers in Washington state passed a bill with bipartisan support that created an advisory council to study media literacy and make recommendations to the legislature based on its research. The following year, legislators passed a law — based on the council’s recommendations — requiring the state superintendent’s office to survey educators and district officials about the state of media literacy in schools across Washington.
Now, lawmakers are considering a bill that would provide grants for educators to create curriculum for media literacy and to allocate money for the state Department of Education to hold two conferences on the subject.
The initial Washington measure to create the advisory council is now the basis of a model bill used by Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization that advocates for media literacy, to help lawmakers get the topic on the agenda in their states.
Other states have taken their own approaches to making media literacy a priority, some more forcefully than others. For example, Californialawmakers passed a law that requires the state Department of Education to provide a list of media literacy resources on its website by July 1. In a stronger move, Minnesota in 2017added “digital and information literacy” to its required K-12 education standards.
For the rest of the article and a Media Literacy Legislation map tracking 15 bills in 12 states: The 74