Information/Media Literacy: More Important Than Ever!

Information/Media Literacy: More Important Than Ever!

Artificial intelligence (AI) always seemed like something relegated to the world of science fiction. However, that fiction has now become reality and with its rapidly expanding presence, AI presents teachers and students with many potential opportunities and challenges. AI technology programs such as ChatGPT are now used to rapidly answer a myriad of questions, but these artificial intelligence tools can also add to the prevalence of fake news and deliberate misinformation in both print and digital media sources. To this end, it is more important than ever to incorporate information/media literacy instructional strategies into our ABE classrooms in order for our students to critically evaluate the constant flow of information coming their way.

What is information literacy?

Just as important as other forms of literacy, information/media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and act on all types of information, and there are simple tasks and more detailed resources that teachers, at all levels, can use to promote these skills.

A good place to start is with the “language” of information/media literacy and have students get comfortable with words like fact, opinion, reliable, credible, valid and relevant.  Knowing these, and other related words, will provide students with terms they can use when explaining if an information source is strong or weak, true, or false.

Looking for and evaluating evidence

It is also important to remind students that when a person provides a strong opinion about something, the reader/listener should always look for reasons and evidence that back up that opinion. After discussing what evidence is, find reading passages or listen to a debate and have students practice identifying the evidence that was presented.

After students get comfortable with what constitutes evidence, the more challenging task is having students evaluate it. Just because something looks like evidence, does not mean it is good, strong, or true.

A simple task is to introduce the “CARBS test” to students as an evaluation tool. Provide students with evidence examples related to a topic and have them determine:

  • Is the evidence CURRENT and up to date?
  • Does the evidence have AUTHORITY from someone that knows something about the topic?
  • Is the evidence RELEVANT and does it relate to the topic?
  • Does the evidence lack BIAS and is fair and neutral?
  • Is the evidence SPECIFIC or is it too general and broad?

Information literacy resources

Teachers can easily apply these strategies to any type of information sources, especially to those that relate to current events. However, there are also a number of free, standards-aligned information/media literacy resources that ABE practitioners can use in an online, hybrid, and/or in-person classroom of varying sizes.

  • For example, the many adaptable lessons offered by Civic Online Reasoning focus on exploring who’s behind the information, what type of evidence is offered, and what other sources say about the same topic.
  • In addition, and ideal for the online classroom, Nearpod has a variety of interactive lessons to help students analyze news media.  Especially useful is their current event lesson series where students can analyze news stories and assess news sources, biases, and information reliability.
  • Although there are many more, two other sites are worth mentioning. The lessons and videos from NewseumEd will boost your students media literacy skills while understanding more about the power of the press.
  • Additionally, the list of leveled lessons from Common Sense Education will help students become critical consumers of information.

Information literacy and AI

Hardly a day goes by where there is not an article about the positives and negatives of artificial intelligence tools on teachers and students. While AI can easily be a factor in misinformation, deliberate or not, it is the new “reality,” and it will have an impact on our classroom planning and instruction. On the positive side, teachers can use AI tools to create differentiated texts in a matter of minutes, and for students, those same tools can help struggling learners with all types of skills.

As noted in this article from Common Sense Education, don’t just use AI in the classroom, but rather make its application part of your information/media literacy curriculum.

By doing so, students will be mindful of how they can effectively use AI tools and recognize its impact on the information they are seeing and using.

John Trerotola, Social Studies & Civics Library Curator ATLAS