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Kids are learning media literacy without much guidance. According to the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), media literacy is defined as knowing how to access, understand, analyze, evaluate, and create media messages on television, the Internet, and other outlets. Many of our states have not included the teaching of this literacy in their federally mandated content standards.
A report from The PEW Research Center indicates that most young adults use the Internet and television as their main source of national and international news. A quick informal survey of the news on television reveals a lot of commentating, shouting interviews, and special effects. Online news is not any better, plus there are blogs that make no pretense of being part of a news organization – it is not their purpose for existing.
For our students to be informed citizens they must know to apply at the very least the basic who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to the media messages that they are receiving. Students should approach media messages with the understanding that they are receiving a presentation with the agenda of convincing them to some kind of action.
I am currently working on a Health Care Reform Debate WebQuest. At this point it is still a work in progress. Health care reform is a national conversation that should be of great interest to everyone. The issue is complicated with far reaching implications that will affect all of our lives. The proponents of the many sides on this issue are trying to influence others into adopting the course of action that fits into their viewpoint.
How do we steer students through this maze of conflicting views? The first step is to teach them to be media literate. The second step is to not avoid the national discussion as too controversial to approach. And the third step is to allow students the freedom to determine the facts and formulate their own views.
It all reminds me of a story I heard recently. A priest, a doctor, and an engineer enjoy golfing. One day, although they were having a great game, a group of three men in front of them were taking forever and held up their game. When they got back to the clubhouse they decided to complain to the owner. “Oh, you mean the three blind firemen,” the owner interrupted. “They saved this clubhouse from burning down and can take as long as they want when they play.”
The priest smiled and said, “How remarkable, I’ll keep them in my prayers.” The doctor agreed and replied, “I’ve got a friend who’s an optometrist, and I’ll see what he can do for them.” The engineer looked at them and asked, “Well, why can’t they golf at night?”
Stansbury, M. (2007 August 01). Groups push for media-literacy education in
schools. eSchoolNews. Retrieved from
The PEW research center for the people and the press. (2008 December 23).
Internet overtakes newspapers as news outlet. Retrieved from