A recent survey by the Informed Citizen Project shows that media literacy is being done on campuses across the country, especially in those that are active participants in the American Democracy Project.
The survey, conducted in mid-2012, collected responses from 39 ADP member institutions, and the results suggest media literacy education has the opportunity to develop into a more significant element of civic skills building at American universities.
Almost every respondent said they believed media and information literacy skills are important, and more than three in five institutions surveyed indicated that their college actively provided some form of media literacy education to their students, while more than three quarters of the respondents said they were providing active information literacy skills to their students. Less than a fifth of respondents to both questions indicated they were not sure about their campus’ efforts, supporting the assertion that respondents’ roles made them well-qualified to understand the efforts at work on their campus. However, more than half of respondents to the survey indicated they were not sure that their students were leaving their institutions with the skills they believe to be so important.
The survey then asked what kinds of media and information literacy education efforts were taking place at their institutions. The possible efforts were divided into seven different categories: news consumption, recall, print and online media, web 2.0, source differentiation, critical thinking, and polling. More than half of all institutions responded by saying they were doing each of the seven different activities, with the most indicating that critical thinking was embedded in their curriculum at a rate of 90%. Least of all was polling and data criticism, where only 65% of all respondents said they had a dedicated course or course element that trained students in the particular skill. Co-curricular efforts were wider-spread throughout the institutions than curricular efforts, meaning there is an opportunity to embed more skill-building into the college curriculum.
The final section of the survey asked respondents to reflect on their own use of media, specifically online sources. To see what sources faculty use in civic engagement efforts geared to media and information literacy skills, we asked respondents if they had used online materials such as video sharing, collaborative documents, e-mail, social media, course management tools, wikis, social bookmarking, microblogging, and instant relay communication in their courses. Most respondents indicated regular e-mail usage, along with video sharing (YouTube videos in class, for example) as well as blogs and newspapers. Relatively few used social bookmarking sites like Digg or Reddit, Twitter, or synchronous communication methods like Google Voice. Roughly half of respondents used social networking such as MySpace or Facebook, suggesting a developing use of media that is separated between ‘power users’ and more traditional users who rely on readily available tools such as YouTube and e-mail. The lack of student-focused Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter stands out as user-content creation is not widely present among coordinators at respondent institutions.
Institutions interested in expanding, reflecting on, or collaborating with other universities on media and information literacy efforts are invited to contact the Informed Citizen Project at email@example.com.
I rely heavily on blogging as a teaching tool in my Political Science courses at Fort Hays State University. Teaching a mix of in-person and virtual courses, I believe that students are best attuned to be critical media consumers when they are immersed in daily analysis of mediated content.
I require students in my American Government, Current Political Issues, Internet Politics, and Political Communication classes to blog. Every blog post must be related to a news article from a legitimate source that is available linked online. Each blog post must contain the following elements:
- A link to the original article
- A statement explaining the legitimacy of the news source
- A summary of the article
- The student’s analysis of the article, which can include one of the following: source bias, veracity, completeness compared with other articles on the same topic with other sources, or another element consistent with the topics of media literacy covered in the course.
Started in 2011 as a new initiative of the American Democracy Project and the New York Times, the Informed Citizen Project seeks to build media and information literacy skills among college students. We invite you to join us as we share our media literacy efforts and develop new and exciting ways to help students become critical consumers of news.