Media Analysis: Choosing Materials

Criteria for Designing Media Literacy Units

The News Literacy Project’s Checkology Course cited above takes a standard school curricular approach, building its activities and evaluation instruments around learning standards and aligning them with state and organization standards, like this crosswalk between its units and lessons and the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework.

It should go without saying that coverage depth is not the primary reason why teachers choose one curriculum implementation over another.

In Checkology's case, its strength (media-rich, standards-based eLearning) is also its weakness: it is not teacher-mediated. While teachers can pick and choose which elements to do as full-group activities and which to assign individually (generating individual assessment data), Checkology is not designed for student collaboration, project-based learning or the production of high quality work products.

But Checkology's depth and individualized approach makes it a perfect supplement to lessons that are more teacher-centered, and its content depth, integration of expert videos and focus on artifacts from current events make it a perfect companion to more classroom-based approaches (standards-based lesson plans), combined with experiential interventions like engaging movies (The Social Dilemma, Trust Me) and games (Agents of Influence, Troll Factory).

The Challenges of Selection

The Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), made up the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), works to support democratic development. Its US AID-funded project, Countering Disinformation, has created an annotated, filtered database of informational interventions - see video below. (The database is made with Drupal, FNF 1.0's platform, btw).

It is both inspiring and overwhelming to browse this list: inspiring that so many are attempting to address the problem from all over the world, and daunting to try to choose one or more. For example, once identifying an "intervention" that seems to have the coverage depth and approach needed, all lessons within a curricular intervention might not have the same quality, and the catalog data might either be copy/pasted from the provider, or convey archivist's subjective understanding and bias.

Good teachers would not likely adopt a product solely based on a review in a catalog. They would take time to test-drive it first, considering which activities best fit their classrooms and approach, in what ways. There can be no one-size-fits-all recommendation: instructional approaches vary and suggest different choices, and a given teacher’s preferences and needs change with experience.

One can appreciate the complexity of such considerations by consulting the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) developed by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology. Of similar scope to CEPPS' database, the TIM "incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal-directed.” Try it: click on one of the row headers to a grid of descriptors for a second grid of linked examples activities that fit a teacher's evolving approach and readiness.

In practice, one imagines few teachers internalizing such considerations as they employ such rich instruments as the TIM or the CEPPS' Countering Disinformation Guide and database. Rather, teachers generally rely on the recommendations local colleagues or members of their "professional learning networks" who seem to talk the same language and share concerns.

FNF is offered as a set of teacher-to-teacher recommendations.

Technology Integration Matrix (TIM): Authentic Learning

A Model for Mix 'n Match: iCivics

iCivics, as the name suggests, is a collection of games, videos, lessons and activities for civic education. Media literacy is a component of Civics, and in Massachusetts' curriculum is included as one of 10 "Guiding Principles". Positioning misinformation response as civic duty is fully in line with Fake News Fitness, and media literacy learning resources with that additional advocacy are a great fit.

That said, "Misinformation Literacy' teachers need to build our own "Scope and Sequence" collections, perhaps inspired by the iCivics categories and philosophy:

"There’s no “right” way to use iCivics....Most of our resources stand alone and don’t require teaching another lesson first, so you can feel free to mix and match to meet your needs and the timing of your curriculum."