Fake News

Last week, two bills were introduced in the California State Senate and Assembly to address the “fake news” phenomenon that has plagued our digital landscape in recent months.

AB-155 Pupil Instruction: Civic Online Reasoning proposes adding Section 51226.8 to the Education Code, to read:

(a) The Instructional Quality Commission shall develop, and the state board shall adopt, revised curriculum standards and frameworks for English language arts, mathematics, history-social science, and science that incorporate civic online reasoning.

(b) For purposes of this section, “civic online reasoning” means the ability to judge the credibility and quality of information found on Internet Web sites, including social media.

SB-135 Pupil Instruction: Media Literacy, proposes adding Section 51206.5 to the Education Code, to read:

(a) For the purposes of this section, “media literacy” means the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via electronic media and the ability to synthesize, analyze, and produce mediated messages.

(b) In the next revision of instructional materials or curriculum frameworks in the social science for grades 1 to 12, inclusive, the state board shall ensure that media literacy is integrated into social science curricula. Components of media literacy may be designed to include the ability to measure 21st century skills of teachers and pupils using the international standards defined by the International Society for Technology in Education so that teachers may effectively use technology and digital resources within their instructional day, measure and teach the critical 21st century skills pupils need to succeed on California’s next-generation online assessments, and prepare pupils for college and career objectives.  The skills to be measured may include, but are not limited to, all of the following:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Research and information fluency
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Digital citizenship
  • Technology operations and concepts
  • Information, media, and technological literacy

(c) The department shall make available to school districts on its Internet Web site a list of resources and materials on media literacy, and shall ensure that approved media literacy training opportunities are made available for use in professional development programs for teachers.

One of our Teacher Librarian Credential candidates brought this article and these bills to my attention, asking, “Isn’t this what TLs are already doing in CA schools?”

She is correct!

The California State Board of Education already has standards in place that address media literacy and “civic online reasoning” – the Model School Library Standards.  In addition, there are teachers specifically trained and authorized to teach information and digital literacy and digital citizenship to both students and staff in California schools – teacher librarians (California Code of Regulations, Title 5, §80053-80053.1)! A teacher librarian’s job is to collaborate with classroom teachers of all subject areas to design curriculum that integrates the Model School Library Standards (MSLS).  MSLS Standard 2 clearly outlines how students at each grade level learn to evaluate digital sources of information.  For example, students in Grades 9-12 learn to:

Assess the comprehensiveness, currency, credibility, authority, and accuracy of resources:

  1. Verify the authenticity of primary and secondary source information found online.
  2. Identify bias and prejudice in historical interpretations.
  3. Analyze media for purpose, message, accuracy, bias, and intended audience.
  4. Determine whether resources are designed to persuade, educate, inform, or sell.
  5. Use systematic strategies and technology tools to organize and record information (e.g., anecdotal scripting, footnotes, annotated bibliographies).

Revising subject-area standards and curricula will only duplicate what already exists in the MSLS.  In addition, most classroom teachers are not equipped to effectively teach information and digital literacy concepts, nor is it likely that they wish to add yet another topic (one that is quickly and continually changing!) to an already overwhelming set of subject-area standards.  The best option is to foster partnerships between an expert on digital literacy (teacher librarian) and the classroom teacher to flexibly integrate these concepts into the existing curriculum.  Since there are less than 900 credentialed librarians currently employed in California’s K-12 public schools, the Senate and Assembly might better serve our students and teachers in this “fake news” era by proposing funding dedicated to placing a teacher librarian in every school.