What Does it Mean to be Literate?

When we discuss literacy we often think about reading and writing.  However,  there are other ways that we can be literate.  Common Sense Media states that media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending.  We are all exposed to forms of media literacy, TV, internet, radio, newspapers, text messages, memes, videos, social media, video games, advertising.

Furthermore, we can view literacy as Christine quotes Couros and Hildebrandt in her video What are the New and Emerging Challenges of Literacy in a “Fake News” World?

“If we difine literacy as the ability to read (or interpret) the world around us, then digital literacy should not be thought of as requiring a separate set of skills. Rather, digital literacy adds a layer to traditional literacy, enabling us to read or interpret the connected reality we live.”

Media Smarts highlights its definition of media and digital literacies. Media Smarts believes that digital literacy involves enabling youth to participate in wise, safe and ethical ways.  Whereas, media literacy focuses on youth to be critically engaged consumers of media. Media Smarts has an interesting graphic that shows the blending of the two literacies together.

Rob highlights in his video New and Emerging Challenges in a Fake News World the differences between misinformation and disinformation.  Misinformation is inaccurate information that is spread intentionally or unintentionally. Whereas, disinformation is inaccurate information meant to mislead.  This is important for students to understand.  Society often is becoming duped to believe false information.

Common Sense Media provides some key questions to ask when teaching media literacy:

  • Who created this?
  • Why did they make it?
  • Who is the message for?
  • What techniques are being used to make this message credible or believable?
  • What details were left out, and why?
  • How did the message make you feel?

Rob shared an interesting photo found on First Draft News discussing the different types of Misinformation and Disinformation.  These different types of information we need to teach students to recognize. Students need to be wary of the types of information and know the skills to decipher some of these tricky situations.

In my colleague Nancy’s video, New Challenges of Literacy in a Fake News World she states, ” What you see in your feed is very likely different than the person next to you”.  Social media is set up to filter news based on AI.  Furthermore, Nancy highlights, social media companies will try to share relevant, engaging content to try to get as many impressions as possible such as likes, comments, and shares.

Due to the recent events that are occurring in our world (COVID-19), we must be practicing media literacy skills, modeling for our students (when we can). Dean Vendramin as part of his major project is highlighting the importance of these media literacy skills. Dean has created some fact-checking tools and a CRAP Navigation Information Sheet.  Dean highlights many of the different pieces and resources within his major project that supplement his major learning project.  These tools he highlights include Snopes, Polifactcheck, and CanadaFactCheck.

A few weeks ago Dean and I had a conversation around the importance of spotting fake news and how we teach students how to do this.  It is of the utmost importance that we are practicing and modeling these skills so that students can use these critical skills in society.

 *As I write this amid a Global Pandemic and a state of emergency over COVID-19.  I am fearful of the people who are spreading misinformation and disinformation over the virus.  This is not only harmful to the people who believe this content but also for those who take in the media, but for the surrounding people as well.  In the current state, Facebook and YouTube do not have the staff to keep up with the flagging and reporting of misinformation and disinformation and they are currently relying on AI to flag fake news.  Now it will fall on to the user to decipher what is true and what is false.

One thought on “What Does it Mean to be Literate?

  1. I have never even heard of the term disinformation – very interesting to see the difference on the two though! You’re right – during this pandemic it is super important for people to be able to identify both of these types of information and eliminate them from their social media accounts as much as possible! Spreading incorrect information really is a virus (no pun intended) because it just goes person to person to person, IF no one fact checks. How ironic that this is the week we have this topic anyways…ha!

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