More States Say They Are Teaching Media Literacy, But What That Means Varies

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A growing number of countries are requiring that their students learn media literacy–interpret and the skills required to critically examine media messages, according to a new report from the advocacy company Media Literacy.

In a report on state policies, the team found that 14 countries have addressed media literacy education in law, either by requiring education in the topic, making funds accessible to teachers, developing a media literacy committee, or enabling media literacy courses to rely on certain requirements. Of those nations, six and this legislation passed over the previous 3 decades.

The president of Media Literacy Now, Erin McNeill, said that recent national news events–for example, revelations about how Facebook objects advertising –have created a sense of urgency across the topic.
There’s also a larger public understanding that”deliberate disinformation” online is shaping political and civic discourse, said McNeill. “People are becoming more aware of what’s at stake,” she said.
McNeill said it’s difficult to understand where the field stands. “What I hear anecdotally is that we are still not seeing comprehensive media literacy education in these countries and others.”

Research proves that students don’t do quite well when they are asked to ascertain whether sources are precise and trustworthy. In a study this past year from Stanford University, higher school students completed six media literacy exercises, such as differentiating between ads and news, assessing political messages, and analyzing a tweet from an advocacy group. Across the board, students performed at every task of pupils were rated as the skill level.

Both mandate media literacy education has had these requirements in place for over a decade and at all grade levels, and be taught across the curriculum.
But in both of these nations, McNeill said she has heard from students and educators who said it wasn’t covered in classes. And when societal literacy education is a priority in the classroom, it’s difficult to understand precisely what pupils are studying.

In a study this past year, the RAND Corporation found that the goals of present media literacy education tools vary–some request pupils to vet the quality of advice, by way of example, while others instruct them to investigate the financial motives of certain messages or know how media shapes civic life.

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