Schools Can Access a Wealth of Free Resources That Support Media Literacy

By Mary Perry, California State PTA Communications Commissioner

Do you know how well your local school is doing at addressing media literacy? It may be hard to tell if you just look for middle and high school courses with that title. Instead, the consensus among most researchers, educators, and media professionals is that the skills needed for media literacy can and should be incorporated into subjects across the curriculum. 

That means media literacy “lessons” are likely to look different, depending on the subject matter. To support that kind of flexibility and diversity, both public and private organizations have been working to provide high quality resources across all age levels and subject areas that teachers in local schools can access.

One of the most recent and high profile efforts is from the Google News Initiative, which they say is in response to a growing need for students and adults “to be able to spot a fake story when they see it and stop it in its tracks.” The Google News Initiative is providing financial support and building partnerships with three existing initiatives aimed at strengthening media literacy. 

PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs  (SRL) was started in 2009 and today operates in more than 160 classrooms and after-school programs across the United States. Teachers use SRL’s journalism, civic engagement and video production resources “to train students on the ins and outs of producing reliable news, learning journalism ethics, fact checking and engaging with their communities.” 

The News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan national education nonprofit, “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 equal and engaged participants in a democracy.” Their free resources include a wealth of instructional materials for middle and high school teachers, plus professional development opportunities. They also offer a variety of resources, such as a regular newsletter and game-style skill building, that can support the efforts of parents and PTA leaders to improve their own news literacy.

The Google Initiative specifically supports a Poynter MediaWise program that provides resources in Spanish andt geared toward older adults. MediaWise has a huge number of initiatives and resources for teachers, students, and the general public. Among those, MediaWise has worked with The Stanford History Education Group to create a free high school and middle school Civic Online Reasoning Curriculum (COR). The COR curriculum provides free lessons and assessments to teachers so they can help students learn “to evaluate online information that affects them, their communities, and the world.”

Resources recommended by the California Department of Education

As required by legislation, the California Department of Education (CDE) has built a rich collection of resources devoted to media literacy. The choice of materials and professional development resources were based on the state’s Model School Library Standards. The CDE webpage provides resources teachers can incorporate into their instruction, including a wealth of new items added to support distance learning. The site also provides ready-made curriculum such as the following:

The site also has a wealth of resources, under the “Resources/Lessons” tab that are worth exploring. They offer everything from tools for students undertaking media production to links to professional organizations that support teacher learning.

As explained in a previous blog in this series, California does not require instruction in media literacy. However, with increasing recognition of the importance of these skills (see this blog for more background), individual schools and teachers have many options for incorporating them into their work, thanks to the availability of these resources.