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Freshmen in the suburbs are given crash courses in media literacy

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Illinois high schools are required to offer a media literacy course in 2022. It is the first state to require these classes, but some schools already provide the skills in all classes.

Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville has been working with media literacy researchers and experts from the Stanford History Education Group since before the pandemic to integrate them into their freshmen.

Adrianne Toomey teaches freshman biology at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. Little did she know when she first started incorporating media literacy that identifying misinformation about health and science in and out of the classroom would become just as important.

Some expect teens to be good at fact checking too because they’re social media savvy, but Toomey says it’s not at all, especially at the beginning.

“You didn’t do a good job at all. Even my smartest kids would say things like, ‘Well, they’re in smocks, they have to be a doctor.’ ”

The curriculum is called Civic Online Reasoning. They teach assessing media using strategies like “lateral reading” – where students open a new tab and leave a video to learn more about the source. Toomey’s students even recorded themselves fact checking social media posts using a tool called Screencastify.

“My favorite thing to do was watch the videos of them checking the facts on their various TikToks. Yeah, that was so great for me because I could see into her brain. It was a great example of metacognition. ”

Overall, she says, by the end of the year they were much more adept at spotting disinformation. But she adds that it will take a lot more practice in any subject to make media literacy second nature.

But she says it’s a lot smoother when every teacher buys in. Neuqua Valley is expanding media literacy to include other courses this year, including exercise and health.

Copyright 2021 WNIJ Northern Public Radio. To see more, visit WNIJ Northern Public Radio.

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