Believe It or Not! Information Literacy and Adult Learners: Part 1

Believe It or Not! Information Literacy and Adult Learners: Part 1

“Don’t believe everything you read.”  This reminder is truer today than ever before!  One of the outcomes of social studies and civics instruction is a more informed citizenry.  However, this goal is becoming a major challenge with the prevalence of fake news, deliberate misinformation, and the 24/7 flow of data from both print and digital media sources.  With this in mind, Adult Basic Education can take the lead by promoting instructional strategies to make ABE students, at all levels, into more critical readers, listeners, and thinkers in this age of mass information.

Information/media literacy

Luckily, there are a variety of adaptable information literacy curriculum materials that will inform students on how to confidently evaluate print and digital resources from a variety of sources.  In the end, being able to evaluate and distinguish between misinformation, opinion, and fact are skills that not only affect adult students, but also have an impact on their families and communities.

The prevalence of fake news is not new, but incorporating information/media literacy into curriculum planning is a critically important current trend.  While this type of literacy may be a bit unfamiliar, think of it as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and act using all forms of communication.

Information literacy is a necessary skill for academic and workplace success and is essential for informed participation in society.  If students cannot evaluate the quality of a source, how can they make good decisions on those matters that affect their everyday lives?  A very relatable example for us all is the ability to differentiate between the daily information and misinformation related to COVID-19.  In fact, the National Association for Media Literacy Education has a classroom-ready resource on this very topic that is worth exploring:

Slowing The Infodemic: How to Spot COVID-19 Misinformation

The How to Spot COVID-19 Misinformation website is a collaboration between the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) and Thomson Reuters, with the goal to “provide high school and post-secondary educators with classroom resources that will inspire a relevant and rich discussion about media literacy.” There are four components:

  • A 24.5-minute podcast that describes how professional journalists verify and debunk user-generated content (you can listen and also access the transcript)
  • A 2.5-minute video that gives tips for dealing with online misinformation related to COVID-19 (you can watch and also access the transcript)
  • A one-page infographic, “Can You Spot COVID-19 Misinformation?”, for supplementing the podcast and video
  • A classroom guide with pre-learning activities and vocabulary; discussion prompts about the podcast, video and infographic; and resources for fact checking and media literacy

In addition to this comprehensive COVID-19 lesson, NAMLE has curated a wide range of teaching resources and strategies for all levels that explore the media’s influence on issues of race, equity, social justice, and other timely topics. You will even find links to such resources as A Parent’s Guide to Media Literacy.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to evaluating the data that is being generated at such a rapid pace, ranging from deliberate misinformation to “facts” that cannot be substantiated.  How information is currently consumed can add to the challenge of adequate evaluation.  Gone are the days of news from three networks as we now live in an age where social media is a major vehicle for information sharing and consumption.

How do we address these challenges? Thankfully, there is a wide range of standards-aligned information/media literacy resources that ABE practitioners can use.  Next week, I will highlight of few of them that, based on the current reality, can be incorporated into digital, hybrid, and/or in-person classrooms of varying sizes.

Originally published 5/3/21

John Trerotola, Teacher Robbinsdale Adult Academic Program