Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that mandates the California Department of Education provide media literacy resources on its website, to help teachers and students navigate information on the internet. Proposer Bill Dodd based his efforts on the Stanford University study in 2016, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. This study showed that 80 percent of middle school students didn’t recognize an ad that was masquerading as a news story despite it being labeled “sponsored content.” The study also found that high school students had trouble telling the difference between the real Fox News Facebook site and a fake account mimicking the conservative news outlet.
Originally Dodd’s bill suggested a media literacy curriculum for students, but lawmakers didn’t want to appropriate the funds. Dodd said he realized then that he was going to have to dial his ambitions back a bit, to a set of recommendations endorsed by the state. Senate Bill 830, coauthored by a bipartisan group of legislators requires the state Department of Education website to list instructional materials and resources on analyzing and evaluating media, including professional development programs for teachers, by July 2019. Resources for teachers’ voluntary use should address, but not be limited to, the instruction of students in how to:
a) Safely and responsibly use and consume media,
b) Access relevant and accurate information through media,
c) Analyze media content in a critical way, and
d) Evaluate the comprehensiveness, currency, relevance, credibility, authority, and accuracy of media content.
The model curriculum and resources may be designed to promote the development of students’ skills in:
a) Creativity and innovation,
b) Communication and collaboration,
c) Research and information fluency,
d) Critical thinking and problem-solving,
e) Digital citizenship,
f) Technology operations and concepts,
g) Information, media, and technological literacy, and
h) Concepts of media representation and stereotyping.
Donald Barclay, deputy librarian at the University of California-Merced, who published the book Fake News, Propaganda, and Plain Old Lies: How to Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age said that he believes the new California media literacy law is “a modest first step in the right direction.” Like Dodd, Barclay said he’d like to see more media and information literacy instruction in K-12 school curriculum, although he expressed reservations about letting lawmakers take charge of that. (VOA News)
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Washington state have also passed legislation on media literacy instruction in schools. Several others are considering it.