The wide availability of easily accessible content and information in the digital world means that users can potentially be reached by unreliable, unverified information disseminated for various purposes. Thus, strengthening critical thinking and being able to identify fake news remains an important aspect of developing media literacy at school, together with the responsibility for the quality of the content disseminated online. It is important to bear in mind that as the availability of information increases, so does the involvement of citizens in the social and political life of their country. Therefore, the ability to spot incorrect or manipulative information, and the development of a digital citizenship skills both become relevant and necessary tools so as not to harm society.
While the role of teachers in media literacy education is beyond compare, the focus here is on those who prepare textbooks and other teaching materials to be used by school teachers, as this can have an impact on the learning process of pupils as well.
Critical thinking skills can be developed with the help of textbooks and complementary teaching materials by providing examples of media outlets, social networks and other sources of information, and developing tasks focused on the selection and evaluation of the reliability of a source of information. For example, one exercise could require students to identify two or three attributes to check the reliability of the information and whether such attributes are found in the text provided. It is possible to differentiate these exercises and attributes to the different grades and abilities of students.
This sort of exercise should challenge students to distinguish reliable and unreliable information autonomously, so developing the necessary cognitive competencies to properly analyse media information and other online content. It is important to enable students to find additional or alternative information on the topic to better understand its context: finding additional facts, new arguments and counter arguments allows for a more comprehensive view of the topic in question. This way, pupils are encouraged to develop both information seeking and critical thinking skills.
Textbooks and other school materials should encourage students’ creativity through the creation or re-creation of informational texts, and the responsible dissemination of such content online. Content creation for social media and the world wide web has become a conventional activity nowadays. Writing for the web allows people to express their own creative capabilities and is, in its essence, a fairly democratic process. It is therefore important to create opportunities for creativity – instead of restricting it – when developing communication skills in school, while keeping in mind the ethical principles of communication and language culture in a public space. Students should be involved in the creation of social media content, as far as is possible, for example by being assigned tasks to create short, clear, engaging texts addressing a certain topic, while students of higher grades could be assigned the task of reflecting on their personal learning experience on social media as a whole.
Another important aspect that should be emphasised in textbooks and accompanying teaching materials is strengthening the ability to monitor the life and dissemination of online content once it has been published. Critical assessment and evaluation of other users’ feedback (including comments) and, in general terms, building a reputation on social networks is an important ability for every social media content creator. For this purpose, it is possible to offer pupils various case studies (both appropriate and inappropriate) to analyse the path of their visual and written content on social media and discuss online reputation issues.
Media and information literacy education topics are broad, diverse, and constantly changing, but include interesting new opportunities to be linked with regular school curricula across all levels of education. They allow for the creation of relevant and entertaining educational content for children and young people, while helping to develop important media literacy competencies.
Find out more about the work of the Lithuanian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Paris Agenda or 12 Recommendations for Media Education, Paris 2007. Reviewed 13 May 2021.
- Communication and information. Media and information literacy, UNESCO in Lithuania. Reviewed 13 May 2021.
- Global Media and Information Literacy Assessment Framework: country readiness and competencies, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 2013, p.p. 56-60. Reviewed 13 May 2021.
- Descriptions of competence and child development, version 3.0. Revised 7 April 2021. Reviewed 13 May 2021.
- Media and information literacy, Digital environment for teacher “Education Garden” (Ugdymo sodas). Reviewed 13 May 2021.