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Media Literacy

Does your Rhode Island school district teach media literacy?


The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a question-and-answer session with innovators from Rhode Island creating new businesses and nonprofits, doing groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at alexa.gagosz@globe.com.

Most Rhode Island elementary and secondary school students do not receive media literacy training, according to a report from the Media Education Lab.

After surveys and interviews with more than 500 educators, parents, elected officials and school principals, researchers at the laboratory, located at the University of Rhode Island and headed by Director Renee Hobbs, found that most Rhode Island residents are aware of this Most schools do not include media literacy in their curricula.

Misinformation, or “fabricated” news – as is so often seen in elections – is viewed as a critical problem by most Americans.

Renee Hobbs is the director of the Media Education Lab, located at the University of Rhode Island.Renee Hobbs

Studies have also shown that hoax and poor media understanding can affect economic, political, and social well-being. Toxic social media can also deepen political and cultural divisions, according to the Pew Research Center. However, it has been proven in the US and elsewhere that digital media literacy can also improve the distinction between real and false information, according to a recent report by David G. Rand, professor of management and cognitive science at the. report co-edited by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“And it doesn’t just answer ‘can our kids read the news’ or not,'” said Hobbs, who is also a professor of journalism at URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media. “Outside of school, kids are their own YouTube and TikTok creators. Why don’t schools and educators use this option? This is a place for developing communication skills, self-advocacy, ethics and responsible media use. These are important, rich conversations that would prepare children for the world. “

The study was also conducted through a law passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 2017 that requires the state Department of Education to include media literacy in the state’s basic education curriculum. But the report clearly states, “To date, the Rhode Island Department of Education has made no progress in fulfilling this commitment.”

Pam Steager, director of Media Literacy Now Rhode Island, co-authored the report.

Q: What were some of your key takeaways?

Hobbs: Most of Rhode Island understand the importance of teaching media literacy because they see the consequences of fake news, political polarization, and disinformation spreading on social media. Respondents said the number one reason for assessing media literacy is for the ability to improve a person’s ability to analyze information and identify high quality sources, but only one in three students learn how to do one in Rhode Island schools News media understands and analyzes.

And most Rhode Island students have no media literacy experience that would help them understand advertising or the economics of the media industry.

Q: What surprised you most about the report?

Hobbs: The schools in West Warwick were a treat. A few years ago I was able to attend schools and saw that the pupils there are confronted with media skills in elementary, middle and high school. But in Warwick, which we rated ‘D’, or even in places like Coventry, Exeter-West Greenwich Schools, media literacy and basic teaching practices only reach a small fraction of learners. In addition, educators, school leaders and others in the community report a significant number of obstacles that children face that limit innovation (such as access to technology, student engagement and the school climate).

Barrington was also a surprise (the report gave the district a C +). There is a teacher and a few other educators who really devote themselves to media literacy in middle school, but there is a lack of high school and elementary school.

Q: What is your advice to teachers who do not know how to take the first step in teaching media literacy?

Hobbs: It can be incorporated into most classes but requires the dedication of a passionate teacher. School and district leaders could and should create an interdisciplinary map for the entire district to embed core media literacy practices in preschool through grade 12.

We also have a lot [free] Classroom materials on our website to help break down lesson plans, study guides and media resources on all sorts of topics (e.g., and we have webinars for educators and principals.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.


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