This week we had the opportunity to hear from Mary Beth Hertz, author of Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet. I really enjoyed the topics she presented and could have reflected on many things that were discussed. One area that provided me with a few “ah-ha” moments was her comment about how students are used to trusting. In the past, teachers were the knowledge keepers and would present and share information with students. There was no need for a student to question that information, it was true because it came from a teacher. This trust and acceptance of truth has changed and we teach students that not everything they read is true. However, as Mary Beth pointed out, we now face a new problem. People are not trusting facts. The mentality of “I don’t believe that so it must not be true” exists in our fake news world.
I have explored digital citizenship and online safety with different groups of students and spent time teaching them the “how to”. How to protect their privacy online and respect others’ privacy, how to avoid scams and schemes, how to build a positive digital footprint. Mary Beth spoke about how she teaches students to recognize bias. Light bulb moment for me! This is a “how to” in media literacy I have not taught. But why haven’t I? Mary Beth explained that it can be difficult to teach as students have to have context to understand bias. She shared that she asks her students, “When you read this what do you think the person is thinking?”. I found the discussion around bias and how important it is to teach students really connected back to the earlier comments about trusting and accepting facts. Not only are we teaching students to examine the information and accept it as facts (or not) but they need to also understand the author’s bias and understand how that relates to their own bias.
All the discussion around trust, facts, and bias led me to affirm the importance we have as educators and parents to teach our students how to be critical thinkers. This is a skill that is crucial to help them be successful in the world we live in. I came across this CBC article this week which I found connected to these thoughts about being a critical thinker. It was interesting to read about a Kiona Osowski, a student in grade 12 who has done some research into why her peers are so accepting of the new societal norms that exist. Kiona examined the current curriculum in New Brunswick and acknowledged that while many of the topics were good they need to be updated. Her goal is “to get students thinking more critically about the media messages”. I found this article different than others because it was interesting to hear from a student and her observation of what she sees happening with her peers. We as adults see can see the advantages and disadvantages of media and do research into the effects of screen time, the impact on mental health, etc. However, we don’t experience media the same way our younger generation does. It was enlightening to read that Kiona has identified:
“Once we start challenging the views that we’re being brainwashed with and that the media keeps feeding us, then we can fix the relationships with ourselves and we can fix the relationship with each other as well.”
Not that any more evidence is needed but this article definitely demonstrates the power of critical thinking and the vital role it plays in media literacy. I am looking forward to further examining this as topics come up in future weeks.