NEW BERLIN, WI – A teacher in New Berlin last month earned a national certification to teach students how to think critically about the media they consume every day.
Jaclyn Jecha, a social science teacher at New Berlin West Middle and High School, achieved PBS Media Literacy Educator certification in June.
The certification recognized educators who have helped K-12 learners to think critically about media consumption and creation. The program included workshops that taught educators how to strategize their students to be better equipped when dealing with the media.
Jecha worked as a media literacy educator for the Newseum in Washington before becoming a teacher. After entering class six years ago, she felt the need for it more, she told Patch. She signed up for the PBS program when the opportunity hit Twitter last summer, she said. “And I’m really glad I did.”
Jecha currently teaches US history and government to high school students in New Berlin West. In her classes, she immediately applied the PBS lessons she learned about media analysis and creation, she said.
The program focused on critical analysis of the media, Jecha said. The lessons included spotting whether or not the videos were edited, teaching students how to verify information from sources, and giving students tools on how to assess and verify media, she added. .
How can people approach the media more critically? One method is the break. If someone sees a questionable post on social media, for example, they should pause before sharing and researching it, Jecha said.
Another example is side reading. Every time a student opened a news article, they were encouraged to open more tabs in their browser and find all of the items and every person and organization in a story.
Media companies that practice fact checking and are transparent about their political biases encourage consumers to seek out good information, she added.
Teaching media literacy is important because of its holistic nature, for both adolescents and adults, Jecha said.
“They are on the Internet. They are tethered to their phones and constantly consume media,” she said. “Because there is so much, everyone has to learn how nuanced it really is.”
As a professor of American history, Jecha follows the wisdom of the Founding Fathers with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; the enthusiasm of free and dynamic people. Education and open discussion are the antidotes for both.
“A lot of hatred and lack of communication comes from ignorance,” she said. “One way to fix this is to learn more, talk more and bring more people into a room with differences and encourage conversation.”
Jecha was also named a fellow of the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and will be pursuing a master’s degree in the fall. Her ultimate goal is to make sure her students are educated and vote when the election comes, she said.
“Of course, that comes with education, discussion and just learning to understand each other,” she said.