Media Literacy & Data Literacy Skills

Developing media and data literacy skills is crucial for navigating the complex media landscape and making sense of the vast amounts of available data. When learning about media and data literacy, people need to understand how they work together better. I argue that teaching media and data literacy should be taught so the student can learn how to navigate through them without concrete courses devoted completely to that topic. Instead, already existing courses can assign work that can help improve one’s knowledge of media and data literacy. The student should be taught the overall understanding of media and data literacy so they can understand how to make decisions and identify misinformation.

To effectively teach media literacy and data literacy in schools in Massachusetts, teachers should have small assignments that help build media literacy and data literacy. Students with no knowledge of media literacy and data literacy would gain more information on the topics due to the small workload that is provided. In the process of these assignments, students and teachers can be more understanding and share their knowledge to further gain information. Massachusetts has also passed a bill that makes education for media literacy a high school graduation requirement. This also requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop instructional guidelines in media literacy. The Department of Education has a working group to access and recommend revisions to policies and procedures on media literacy aligning with K-12 standards. This working group will consult with experts in media literacy including but not limited to academic experts and non-profit organizations. In the development of teaching and learning media literacy and data literacy, the Department of Education will assist in resources to aid and will provide and make sure media literacy and data literacy training opportunities are available.

Educators can incorporate these skills into various subjects, such as English, social studies, science, and math. Teachers can use real-world examples to demonstrate the importance of these skills and can provide opportunities for students to analyze media messages and data sets. Additionally, schools can offer classes or workshops specifically dedicated to teaching media and data literacy and can provide access to resources and tools that allow students to practice and develop these skills.

An example of how media literacy and data literacy could be taught is by engaging students in an interactive discussion about media and data topics. One example is encouraging students to share their perspectives and asking questions and then critically analyzing different media messages and data sets. Another example of how media literacy and data literacy could be taught is by doing a media analysis assignment. In doing a media analysis, students will evaluate and critically analyze different types of media. Further, the assignment can require students to identify the intended audience, the message it is sending, and any biases that may be presented. It is important to adapt the teaching methods to a specific audience, group, education level, and learning style of the students.

Incorporating media literacy and data literacy into the curriculum of schools in Massachusetts is essential for preparing students to be critical thinkers and responsible consumers and producers of information in our increasingly media-saturated and data-driven world and preparing students for their future career opportunities. Employers increasingly seek individuals with these skills to work in various industries, including media, marketing, and technology. Some other opportunities that focus more on data literacy are data science, data engineering, business intelligence analysis, and data journalism. These are just a few jobs that focus on their employees having data literacy skills. The demand for these roles continues to grow as organizations recognize the value of data in decision-making and innovation.

According to a 2021 report by Burning Glass Technologies (Bursin, 2021), a labor market analytics firm, media literacy skills were listed as a desired competency in job postings across a variety of fields, including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, and social media management. The report found that jobs requiring media literacy skills were growing at a rate of 6.5% annually. Equipping students from underserved communities with these skills through K-12 education can help level the playing field, potentially leading to a more diverse and equitable workforce. As these communities often face systemic barriers to employment in these growing fields, early media literacy education can be a step toward economic empowerment.

Additionally, having a solid foundation in media and data literacy can empower students to analyze and interpret information from multiple sources, leading to more informed decisions in their personal and professional lives. This is particularly impactful for marginalized communities, as being better-informed consumers and citizens can lead to more equitable access to opportunities and resources. Schools should also collaborate with experts in the field and consistently update their teaching methods to ensure students remain on the cutting edge of media and data literacy education. In turn, this comprehensive education will better position students to make valuable contributions to their chosen industries and communities, potentially leading to societal benefits such as a stronger, more diverse workforce and more equitable community development.

There can be many viewpoints on how we should teach media and data literacy, and many people might think there are better ways to teach literacy than what I have argued so far. Various opinions and criticisms exist regarding how these literacies should be taught. Below I consider a few of them and how they can be addressed.

Some argue that media literacy and data literacy are not essential skills and should not be a priority in education. They believe other subjects like math and science should take precedence. However, with the rise of fake news and misinformation, individuals need to be able to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources. When getting information from an unreliable source, it can cause the work to lose credibility. It also may cause insurrections due to the fact that misinformation or fake news is dangerous and can cause people to act violently (Ho‘oulu Staff, 2017).

Additionally, data literacy is essential for making informed decisions in various fields, including business, health, and politics. Critics argue that media literacy and data literacy are too complex for the average person to understand. They believe these literacies require specialized training and should be left to experts. While media literacy and data literacy can be complex, it is possible to teach them in a way that is accessible and understandable for the general public. Teachers can use real-world examples and hands-on activities to make these skills more tangible and relevant to students. While media and data literacy may require different approaches, they are interconnected skills. Understanding how to analyze and interpret data is critical in evaluating media sources and vice versa. Teaching these literacies in conjunction with each other is essential to provide students with a more holistic understanding of the information.

While there may be differing opinions and criticisms regarding how media and data literacy should be taught, it is essential to recognize the importance of these skills in today’s information age. Teachers can use various strategies to make these skills accessible and relevant to students, including using real-world examples.