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Originally Published By Janet Heck Doyle In The Canyon Courier

There is a bill wending its way through our state legislature that would require media literacy to be incorporated into the curriculum for pre-K and K-12 students. If House Bill 1103 passes, the State Board of Education would be obligated to adopt revisions to existing reading, writing and civics standards to teach media literacy and develop an online resource of materials on media literacy that would be available to all school districts throughout the state.

This is a skill that is sorely needed in today’s world of continuous access to global information through 24 hour “news” stations, talk radio, online resources and social media. Media literacy is defined in the precursor to HB1103 as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act through the various forms of media;” (ii) analyze the reliability of information, claims, and sources;” and “practice digital citizenship, including norms of appropriate and responsible behavior and discourse when engaging with media, and the prevention of cyberbullying.”

One of the goals of teaching media literacy is to ensure Colorado students of all ages can decipher whether what they are reading, watching and hearing is fact, opinion or something else and to evaluate the credibility and trustworthiness of the source of the material. To put it in today’s lingo, is it fact or fake news?

Other goals include teaching students to be open to and to respect diverse points of view, to understand the consequences of how and what they choose to communicate and how to build a positive online community. Underlying this is the idea of knowing all they can about news feeds, click bait and credible sources, so students don’t fall down the rabbit hole that can be created by misinformation or disinformation from non-credible sources.

Being media literate enables one to determine the validity of information sources, engage respectfully with people with different views than one’s own and use technology to make your community better by being more informed.

When I first heard about the media literacy bill, I was immediately struck by how our world would be vastly changed for the better if the bill could be expanded to require each of us, not just students, to become media literate. The political divide has grown into an enormous chasm that is increasingly difficult to bridge to a great extent as a result of the reliance on fake news, the inability to analyze and evaluate the vast amount of information we receive on a continuous basis and our reluctance to engage with people whose views differ from our own.

Think for a moment from where you get your news and information. Most of us rely on the same sources day after day, whether it’s a particular newspaper, a certain TV or radio station, online, social media or a combination thereof, without analyzing and evaluating the factual accuracy of the content or the credibility of the source before relying on it.

We don’t typically take the time to reflect on whether the information source is biased or whether we are filtering it through our own bias, conscious or unconscious. When we receive or pass on information from any source, we should be determining whether it is true or is misinformation or disinformation. Many of us may have shared or received information we didn’t realize was wrong or that was deliberately created false information intended to mislead.

Becoming media literate will help us each to be better informed, reflective and engaged participants resulting in a more harmonious and productive society.

I applaud the primary sponsors of HB1103, one of whom is Lisa Cutter, our own House District 25 state representative. Please take the time to inform yourself on HB1103 and try to increase your media literacy and ensure the factual accuracy of any information on which you rely, particularly before sharing it with others who may be relying on you as a credible and trustworthy source.


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