How Digital and Media Literacy Impacts Today’s Classroom
There are not many teachers complaining that they simply don’t have enough material to cover in their classes. Rather, the opposite is normally the case. So the call to add yet more material—this time, in the form of digital literacy and media literacy—is unlikely to be welcomed wholeheartedly by America’s teachers. And yet these topics are so essential to society at large as well as to each individual student that they demand attention.
What’s the Problem?
Teachers and other education stakeholders might assume that today’s students, as digital natives, know what they need to know in order to navigate the digital world. But this does not seem to be the case. Instead, recent research from Stanford University shows that students lack the most basic of skills necessary for vetting the information that they find online.
For example, a large number of middle school students were not able to distinguish paid content from editorial content on a news website. It is difficult to imagine that, when these students are adults, they will be able to assess the flood of information that will surround them in order to make wise decisions about their health, wealth, and civic well-being
What Happens in the Classroom
Most educational experts advocate for constructivism, an approach to learning that emphasizes the student’s own role in creating and disseminating information. Of course, if students are unable to vet the quality of information at the most basic level, then they are incapable of learning and communicating responsibly to others, and it is unlikely that constructivist approaches will be of much merit.
Teachers thus need to ensure that their students know how to interact with the information that they encounter online.
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, there are many resources available to teachers to teach media literacy and digital literacy. Teachers don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and they don’t need to develop their own materials from scratch. Instead, they can use professionally developed curricula that will cover the basic topics, such as privacy and security, digital footprint and reputation, copyright laws, appropriate communication, and cyberbullying.
No teacher is clamoring for yet more to cover in their classes. But at the same time, media and digital literacy are essential to a student’s success. Teachers can find ways to incorporate these topics into their current lessons by, for example, talking through the process of how they selected an academically sound video clip to show in class instead of just using the first hit for the topic on YouTube.