In our media-saturated world, students need to analyze the messages they receive. Previously, editors stood sentry over most messages communicated to the public, sorting fact from opinion from nonsense.
No longer. The Internet in general and social media in particular have democratized the production and distribution of information. This change broadens freedom of expression, but with new freedom comes new responsibility. Without editors to sort information, students need to learn these skills for themselves.
Sadly, they do not seem to be. A recent study from Stanford University found that 70 percent of students from grade school through college cannot distinguish fake news from real news.
How can we help our students gain the media-literacy skills they need to sort information?
We can start by teaching skills for questioning media messages. These two minilessons can help:
- Analyzing Point of View in Media: All media messages have a sender—the person or organization that originated the content as well as anyone who is distributing it. That means that every message represents the point of view of a person or group of people. This minilesson will help students think about point of view.
- Detecting Media Bias: Sometimes the point of view of the sender makes for a biased message: It does not provide a balanced view of the topic. This minilesson will help students detect media bias.
Analyzing the Communication Situation
Students who can analyze media have a first line of defense in recognizing manipulations in messages. However, students should also learn to analyze the deeper structure of all media messages—the communication situation:
From Inquire High School, page 68
A set of video minilessons can help you teach each part of the communication situation:
- Analyzing the Sender of a Message
- Understanding a Message's Subject and Purpose
- Analyzing the Medium of a Message
- Analyzing the Receiver of a Message
- Thinking About the Context of a Message
Critical Thinking and Questioning
Of course, each of these strategies requires critical thinking. We need to help students think critically not just about media messages, but about everything they study throughout their school day. These final three minilessons give students concrete strategies for critical thinking and questioning:
- Using 5 Critical Thinking Strategies
- Asking and Answering the 5 W's and H Questions
- Asking Bigger and Better Questions
Media Literacy, Learning, and Life
By teaching our students strategies for critical thinking, analyzing communication situations, and questioning media messages, we make them better learners and citizens. We also sharpen our own skills along the way.