Synthesis of Resources: Self-educating to Become Savvy Digital Information Consumers

Resource review by Huan Gao, University of Florida

In today’s internet era, seeking information on search engines and social media has become commonplace in everyday life for people around the world. While we have easy access to vast quantities of information, the current information landscape in the age of algorithms is the most complex in human history, and the need for information literacy has never been greater. Particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an unprecedented production of online information from both organizations and individuals. While social distancing measures are in place, social media use has increased dramatically to substitute in-person social gatherings (Koeze & Popper, 2020), which, in turn, exposes people to more information without traditional gatekeepers. Hence, it is crucial to enhance our critical awareness in assessing the credibility of information while navigating the digital environment.

 

To empower graduate students and the community of applied linguists to be savvy digital information consumers, I reviewed six major organizations working on issues of digital, media, or information literacy. These resources are rich in ready-to-use educational materials that can benefit people of all ages, but especially educators, parents, and students, in becoming digitally literate individuals.

 

National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) 

https://namle.net/

NAMLE is a leading nonprofit membership organization dedicated to advancing media literacy education in the United States. It is a professional association for educators, academics, activists, and students who are passionate about understanding how the media we use and create affect our lives and the lives of others in our communities and the world. The organization’s mission is to highlight the power of media literacy education and its essential role in education across the U.S. 

  • NAMLE runs the Journal of Media Literacy Education, an online, open-access, peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal supporting the development of research, scholarship, and pedagogy of media literacy education. 

  • NAMLE hosts a biennial conference that brings together voices and creates possibilities to advance media literacy education. The information of previous conferences is available on the NAMLE website, and this years’ conference theme is “Media Literacy + Social Justice.”

  • NAMLE hosts an annual U.S. Media Literacy Week that calls attention to media literacy education by bringing together hundreds of partners for events and activities around the country.

  • Under its "Resources" tab, NAMLE lists rich resources such as a parents' guide to media literacy, ways to spot Covid-19 misinformation, and an international research initiative to assess the current state of media literacy education in the United States and Australia.

 

News Literacy Project  (NLP)

https://newslit.org/

NLP is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit. It provides programs and resources for educators and the public to teach, learn, and share the abilities needed to be smart, active consumers of news and information and to be equal and engaged participants in a democracy.

  • NLP hosts an annual National News Literacy Week that underscores the vital role of news literacy in a democracy and provides audiences with knowledge and tools to become more news-literate. Throughout the week, NLP will engage educators, students, and the public with quizzes, tips, and tools featured through its social media channels and NLP's landing page. A series of events such as professional development activities, Twitter chat, and edWeb sessions will be held.

  • Through informative conversations with experts working to combat misinformation, NLP’s news podcast informs listeners about news literacy issues that affect their lives.

  • NLP’s free mobile app, informable, tests one’s news literacy know-how. Everyone can practice four distinct news literacy skills in a game-like format, which include “Checkable or Not? Evidence or Not? Ad or Not? News or Opinion?”

  • Checkology, NLP’s e-learning platform, is designed for students in grades 6-12 to learn news literacy. There is also a customized version for the public. 

  • NLP offers a resources library that includes lesson plans, classroom activities, posters and infographics, quizzes, and more for educators teaching news literacy.

Project Information Literacy (PIL)

https://projectinfolit.org/

This nonprofit research institute conducts scholarly studies about the information literacy of college students.

  • PIL offers 12 groundbreaking research reports that examine how college students interact with information resources. 21,000 U.S. college students were surveyed and interviewed in the past decade to generate these reports.

  • PIL offers Smart Talks, an occasional series of informal conversations with leading thinkers about new media, information-seeking behavior, and the use of technology for teaching and learning in the digital age.

Civic Online Reasoning (COR)

https://cor.stanford.edu/

COR is a project of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), which is a research group based in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. COR seeks to measure civic online reasoning.

  • Based on their research studies, COR offers a curriculum with free lessons and assessments that help educators teach middle school and college students to evaluate online information. The three questions at the heart of the COR curriculum are: “Who is behind the information? What is the evidence? What do other sources say?”

  • COR offers short educational videos about their research findings that elucidate the information evaluation practices of factor checkers.

  • COR runs a blog that features the latest updates, tips, and new ideas around civic online reasoning teaching and learning.

Common Sense Media (CSM)

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

CSM is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all children and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive as media users in the 21st century.

  • For parents, CSM rates movies, TV shows, books, and more so parents can feel good about the entertainment choices they make for their children.

  • For educators, CSM supports K–12 schools with everything educators need to empower the next generation of digital citizens. They offer a free digital citizenship curriculum and EdTech ratings. Under the "Digital Citizenship" tab, there are ready-to-teach media literacy lesson materials for K-12 students that are backed by research and inspired by real life.

  • For advocates, there is a list of their recent work that advocates for children's well-being in the digital age.

Crash Course (CC)

https://thecrashcourse.com/courses/medialiteracy

CC produces educational videos to accompany high school and college level classes in a variety of subject areas, from humanities to the sciences. Their "Media Literacy" courses are a 12-episode, high-quality educational video series.

  • The "Media Literacy" course series explains how we should use media literacy to explore our media-saturated world. 

  • The episodes cover 12 topics ranging from the history of media literacy and different approaches to media literacy to the relations between media and the mind, money, persuasion, advertising, policy, or propaganda. 

  • The episodes provide essential skills for navigating the media landscape and discuss how technological change impacts the future of media literacy.

As we strive to reach our informational goals, these digital and media literacy resources can potentially equip us with the critical awareness and competencies necessary to manage the torrent of information flow. For example, scholars  associated with Stanford History Education Group (Wineburg et al., 2016) has indicated major practices that fact-checkers engage in when establishing the reliability and credibility of information, such as taking bearings (charting a plan for moving forward before diving deeply into unfamiliar content), lateral reading (leaving a site after a quick scan and opening new browser tabs to judge the credibility of the original site), and click restraint (evaluating the list of search results to understand the digital landscape before clicking on any one result). In addition to learning these hands-on strategies, it is also essential to develop the information-seeking identities of expert generalists, including the knowledge practices, habits of mind, and dispositions that motivate us to willingly fact-check (Kohnen & Mertens, 2019). It is hoped that these knowledge resources, strategies, and heuristics can help us combat misinformation and become wiser and more informed individuals in the digital age, which holds great promise for upholding a democratic society. 

References

Koeze, E. & Popper, N. (2020, April 7) The virus changed the way we internet. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/07/technology/coronavirus-internet-use.html 

Kohnen, A. M., & Mertens, G. E. (2019). “I'm Always Kind of Double‐Checking”: Exploring the information‐seeking identities of expert generalists. Reading Research Quarterly, 54(3), 279-297. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.245

Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2019). Lateral reading and the nature of expertise: Reading less and learning more when evaluating digital information. Teachers College Record, 121(11), 1-40.

Wineburg, S., McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., & Ortega, T. (2016). Evaluating information: The cornerstone of civic online reasoning. Stanford University. https://purl.stanford.edu/fv751yt5934

 

 

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Huan Gao is a doctoral candidate in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida, Gainesville, USA. Her research focuses on the digital information literacy practices of students with transnational backgrounds. She is also interested in exploring digital literacy education in migrant families, and information access and equity of children in rural areas.