Coronavirus puts information literacy in curriculum spotlight

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • Information literacy has become increasingly difficult to teach in the coronavirus era, as the plethora of online platforms can make it difficult to sort fact from fiction, according to an EdSurge podcast.

  • The pandemic has shown misinformation can have serious health consequences, such as when unproven coronavirus cures and preventions are touted. Peter Adams, senior vice president for education at the News Literacy Project, urges educators to train students to check the authenticity and validity of information before sharing with friends or on social media.

  • Logic Check, a tool created by educational consultant Jonathan Haber, can also help analyze claims through critical thinking rather than fact checking alone, considering questions beyond the basic information presented, which can sometimes be misleading.

Dive Insight:

Information literacy, also known as media literacy, teaches students to question sources rather than simply accepting details as presented. The importance of teaching students how to critically analyze information is taking on new urgency in 2020 as misinformation about the coronavirus, Black Lives Matter and the upcoming presidential election spreads. 

Students are experiencing an “infodemic,” as one expert put it, of misinformation. To counter this, a variety of media literacy groups are developing lesson plans and resources related to coronavirus, as well as other issues.

Fourteen states have media literacy curricula in standards, with Florida and Ohio standing out as leaders in this area. In both states, media literacy must be included in all subjects and throughout the curricula. Texas is also considered a leader, while New Mexico offers media literacy as an elective, and Washington has instructional resources and funding for teacher training on the subject.

News literacy has become more difficult to navigate in the age of smart phones and social media, according to Adams. It’s not just access to information, but users’ abilities to post and share information, right or wrong. This creates challenges when it comes to knowing what to believe. But in teaching students to think critically and be skeptical, educators also have to find a balance that prevents them from becoming cynical and believing all news is designed to manipulate them.

Another challenge is that not all teachers are objective when it comes to the credibility of news sources. A study published in the journal Educational Researcher found high school social studies teachers’ political views impact how credible they find mainstream media sources.

Teachers who consider themselves “very conservative,” for example, believe Fox News is the most credible source of information, while liberal teachers said the network is the least credible. Both groups, however, considered BBC and NPR/PBS among their top three most-trusted news sources.

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