Colorado Senate May 3 passed a much-debated bill to provide media education to K-12 schools across the state.
The legislation comes as states across the country attempt to make media education part of the school curriculum to teach students to think critically when consuming media, to ask where the information is coming from. and to differentiate reality from fiction.
“This is a critical and urgent issue. We need to stop thinking about it in terms of partisanship and really focus on what our country and our children need,” said Erin McNeill, President and Founder of Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization that strives to achieve media literacy in K-12 schools across the United States.
McNeill, a former Congressional Quarterly reporter, said her organization’s proposals include students learning to examine different types of images and videos from different forms of media.
âThere are many different persuasion techniques used (by content creators) in the world today, especially with video,â she said. “It’s getting more and more sophisticated because there is more of it.”
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She argues that media literacy has become an essential part of education because people will need it to survive in the 21st century.
Media Literacy Now worked with Colorado state lawmakers, pushing them through and enactment of the bill. With Senate approval, the bill is now awaiting a final vote in the House before going to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk.
Push lawmakers to act
McNeill first heard Colorado Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, in 2019 propose media literacy legislation.
“She recognized that it was up to the legislature to set priorities for public education,” she said.
His organization presented Cutter with his proposals to create a Media Literacy Advisory Committee whose job would be to write a report on making recommendations on how to implement the curriculum in schools across the state.
The legislation was finally enacted in June 2019.
The report concluded with recommendations for things like Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) revisions.
Some of the revisions recommended by the committee include “ensuring that the principles of media literacy are clear and specific to reading, writing and civic education, enable students to become consumers and creators of critical media and include elements of digital citizenship and cyberbullying prevention in grade levels and appropriate areas of Standards. “
In response to the committee’s recommendations, state lawmakers proposed another bill that would require the Department of Education to create an online source to provide materials and resources, as provided by the committee report, for school districts to follow.
Resource types include curriculum, lesson plans, interactive lessons, activities, and videos. Schools will have the opportunity to determine what is included in the program.
Republicans in the state legislature have criticized the bill, arguing that it would suppress conservative ideas and not offer different perspectives.
âThat’s not what real media literacy is, it’s really literacy,â McNeill said. âLiteracy doesn’t tell people what to think. It is teaching them to read, learn and think for themselves.
What Pueblo School Districts Said About The Legislation
Pueblo School District 60 supports the bill and thinks it is of great value. Last year, D60 introduced new classes in its schools similar to Media Literacy.
âWe have implemented a new program called ‘Common Sense Education’ to introduce kids to what digital citizenship looks like,â said Dalton Sprouse, communications director for D60.
The program has been implemented at each grade level. The district has asked every primary school teacher to integrate media education into their classes.
The social studies teachers of the D60 colleges and high schools are responsible for implementing the âcommon sense educationâ program.
At the elementary level, students learn to find a media balance, understand what news is and know what clickbait is and how to avoid it.
âThey also learn about cyberbullying and how to read news online,â Sprouse said.
The lessons also include comparing newspaper articles with sponsored content or advertisements.
In colleges, students’ courses include reacting to the latest news and detecting false or incomplete information. They are then taught the potential consequences of reacting immediately to the latest news.
âIn high schools, students learn about filter bubbles. When you walk into this bubble, you only associate with like-minded people and it’s harder to be fully informed,â he said.
If the bill passes, the district plans to monitor the legislation and accordingly plans to start media education in schools.
As for Pueblo County School District 70, the district plans to wait for the final passage of the bill and see what revisions the state school board will make to the media literacy program within the standards of reading, writing and civic education.
âWhile this is an area that allows education to keep up with the changing technology and rapid information cycle, we are curious to see what policies and procedures will be adopted at the level of the State to create the proposed âresource bankâ and how materials will be added to or subtracted from that area, âsaid Ginger Andenucio, deputy superintendent of D70, in an email.
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Chieftain Education reporter Joe McQueen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcqueennews