In class this week we had the opportunity to discuss the notion of Media Literacy in our world today. As an educator, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the term "literacy" is probably the one that most people are familiar with from their school days - Reading, Writing, and Numeracy. While this may be the most common form of literacy, this week's wonderful presentations by Daniel, Shelby, and Brad challenged me to broaden my understanding of what literacy can be. Terms like Digital Literacy and Media Literacy were terms that I was relatively unaware of before this class, but it's evident that with the way our world has changed, these are just as important as the traditional forms of literacy.
The more I thought about it, the term literacy is like the base of a tree, and its many branches represent the various types of literacies and skills that be applied to our students today. Foundational Literacy, Media Literacy, Digital Literacy, and Physical Literacy are only a few of the branches that are related to the term, and as Shelby mentioned in her post this week, there are many different types of literacies that all bear equal importance. With this in mind, when we were posed with the question, "What Does It Mean to be Literate Today?", my initial answer would have centred around balanced literacy in a classroom, but now understanding that there is so much more to literacy, I believe there are multiple forms of literacy that can be included in order for a person to be "Fully Literate".
A Stark Reality
Over the past few weeks, it's become abundantly clear that my students (and many adults) need is support in developing media literacy skills. With the recent pandemic of the COVID19, there is so much misinformation circulating the internet causing unnecessary panic and stress. In my own classroom this week, after overhearing some rediculous "facts" from my students about the virus, I asked where they were getting their information. I was shocked (well, not that shocked) to discover that the majority of their information was coming from Memes and TikTok. At this point, we discussed what reliable sources of information would be online and took some time to explore organizations like the World Health Organization and the John Hopkins University Map to learn the facts about the virus. While my students were certainly misinformed as a result of the information they received, they're not the only ones, and it's scary to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg. One visit to Twitter or any comment section on Facebook, would paint a much darker picture of many people in our society who are in desperate need of media literacy skills.
What Exactly is Media Literacy?
Media Literacy is defined by Common Sense Media as "the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they're sending." As I mentioned above, developing these skills is crucial in our world today as anyone with access to technology can create media, which can pose a significant problem for finding authentic information. As educators, it's so important to understand this and ensure that we teach our students the skills to determine what information (and sources) are credible when they are online. In the article shared by Daniel, Renee Hobbs outlines Five Critical Questions of Media Literacy that can be used to help identify the credibility of a media source:
So...Is That It?
When it comes to answering that question, "What does it mean to become fully literate", I don't think there is a definite answer. With so many types of literacies in our world (thanks to Shelby for finding this), it may not be possible to become "fully" literate in everything. However, I definitely think it's important that as educators, we find ways to incorporate a variety of literacy-building activities into our pedagogy and provide students with the skills to continue building these literacies long after they leave our classrooms. While we may spend more time building some literacies (such as Foundational Literacy) over others, even just spending part of a unit or lesson highlighting other literacies could have a large impact in the future.