Sunday, September 24, 2023

Illinois now requires lessons on media literacy


Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, every public high school in Illinois must teach a unit on media literacy. The new law (HB 234) also specifies the topics that must be included.

Students are expected to be able to:

  1. Access media (evaluating the trustworthiness of multiple sources)
  2. Analyze and evaluate media messages (fact vs opinion, target audience, author’s motivation)
  3. Create coherent media messages (blogs, print, videos, podcasts, apps)
  4. Reflect on media consumption (how the message triggers emotions and behaviors)
  5. Engage in respectful and inclusive dialog about issues (social responsibility and civics)

In general, “media literacy” refers to the ability to access, analyze, and evaluate information presented in multiple formats, such as print, video (TV), audio (radio), and online media (websites, apps, blogs, social media), and to create and communicate effectively using a variety of forms.

We are developing a course for our Moodle, which relies heavily on materials provided by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), as news has been called “the first rough draft of history.” Evaluating the trustworthiness of documents from our history, including newspaper articles, much as historians do, can provide great insight into how those documents were produced and help students evaluate media in the present day regarding world events.

Many Illinoisans rely on social media as their primary or even sole source of news and other important information, the Naperville Sun quoted Illinois Rep Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, a Democrat from Cicero, as saying. “Given this trend, it’s more important than ever that young people learn to discern truth from fiction and facts from misinformation.”

A former Naperville Central student, Braden Hajer, pushed an amendment into the bill that turned a suggestion on the part of the General Assembly into a requirement that the unit on media literacy be included.

It’s human nature to want to share an outrageous headline with friends or family, the Sun reported him saying, but it’s important to stop and consider what is presented before accepting it as truth.

The law makes Illinois the first state in the nation, that we know about, to adopt legislation requiring that a unit on media literacy be taught in the schools, although many states have adopted the C3 framework in social studies. This framework includes Dimensions 3 and 4, which outline the tools and practices historians and other researchers use when evaluating the trustworthiness of evidence, including evidence in the media.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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