Intellect U Well Inc. (IUW), a Houston based non-profit that promotes media literacy and digital citizenship, collaborates with national education organization News Literacy Project to bring the best practices of navigating media and news information into classrooms.

The virtual event titled IUW Development: Media literacy Digital Citizenship for Educators sought to bring awareness to the history and cultural issues surrounding media literacy for K-12 educators and students.

In the era of “fake news,” the program was divided into different sessions on strengthening the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate and verify the quality of students’ news consumption. With the eroding trust in mainstream media and the increasingly politically polarized environment, navigating the information on the internet has become increasingly complex.

According to a study from the Common Sense Census: Media used by Tween and Teens:

19% of kids have their own smartphones by age 8

53% of kids have their own smartphones by age 11

69% have a smartphone by age 12

Educators teach some form of media literacy while incorporating creative ways to build activities into their academic lesson plans. There isn’t a national standard or curriculum to follow so organizations like IUW and News Literacy Project are created to provide resources to educators.

Here are some key takeaways experts at the event shared to help teachers improve the quality of their media literacy activities in classrooms.

  1. Meet students where they are. If you are interested in student engagement, you have to make concessions as to what you think is newsworthy to them.
  2. Explore what isn’t news. Help students understand the differences between propaganda, opinion and editorial pieces, primary sources, entertainment, memes and advertising. How are these mediums used in the platforms they use?
  3. Teach students to question what advertisements tell them. Give examples of popular films, music or news stories to illustrate what they might know and the accuracy of their knowledge.
  4. Foster computer and critical thinking skills. Introduce traditional print media to practice reading and comprehension skills and how searching and fact check on the internet.
  5. Consume media with children. Children often gather their information from friends and family they trust. Parents should filter through the kind of news that is being read and watched at home. Ask the child questions and have conversations around topics of the day, especially if there are certain values and beliefs a family has that impacts a child’s response to the information they receive (example LGBTQ right, critical race theory in schools, atheism and the Pledge of Allegiance).

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...