How can we ensure our sources of information about contemporary debates and possibilities are accurate and fair?

The Illinois Civics Hub (ICH) at the DuPage Regional Office of Education was delighted to host Dr. Joel Breakstone, director of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), to explore resources and strategies to help teach students to evaluate online information that affects them, their communities, and the world. This #CivicsInTheMiddle webinar aligned with Theme 7 of the Educating for American Democracy (EAD)  Roadmap, “Contemporary Debates and Possibilities.”

A report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) highlights the importance of news literacy as a complementary stream to the proven practices of civic education embraced by the civic course requirements for in the state of Illinois.

Kei Kawashima Ginsberg and Peter Levine, co-authors of the report titled, The Republic is (Still) at Risk- and Civics is Part of the Solution, explain that, “young people are increasingly empowered to influence the topics and stories that are widely shared. At the same time, they are deluged with unreliable information and actual propaganda, and research shows that most young people perform poorly at distinguishing fake news from reliable news. This skill can be taught effectively in schools, and students can learn to be effective producers of news (p.5).”

The proven civic practice of current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom has explicit ties to the need for students to acquire the knowledge, dispositions, and skills associated with media literacy. In addition, the Illinois Social Studies standards require that students be healthy “consumers” of information as they evaluate sources and use evidence to address essential questions facing their communities. The inquiry arc of the standards ends with students communicating conclusions and taking informed action with an authentic audience in mind, creating the need for helping students be wise producers of information.

In a previous blog post, Dr. Shawn Healy, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy at iCivics,  remarked that, “daily integration of these (media literacy) practices into our classrooms, will help to rebuild trust in and consumption of the high-quality journalism that is arguably more abundant than ever before. If successful, we will better inoculate ourselves and our students against the competing misinformation campaigns that are truly fake.” 

SHEG is a valued civic learning partner of the Illinois Civics Hub and was featured earlier this year in a webinar on Civic Online Reasoning Across the Curriculum that highlighted how SHEG worked with teachers at Neuqua Valley High School, an Illinois Democracy School, to provide scaffolded supports for teachers across grade-levels to lay a foundation for civic online reasoning skills through freshman social studies and science courses.

For more tools to help students to be wise consumers and producers of information, visit the Illinois Civics Hub Media Literacy Toolkit for resources from SHEG and other civics learning partners.

If you missed this week’s or any of the previous webinars, visit the ICH Webinar Archives to design your own #PoolsidePD.

It is not too late to register for the rest of our Illinois Civics Hub summer Professional Development series. There are two strands of professional development. On Tuesday mornings, powerful pedagogy will be the focus to help with summer curriculum projects. Wednesday morning webinars will put the spotlight on some of the leading civic learning providers in the nation. Each session begins at 9:30 a.m. CT. Educators can join live to interact with participants or watch a recording. The webinars are free, and Illinois educators can elect to earn PD credits for attending the webinar and completing a brief, post-webinar application activity.

A description for each webinar and information to register for professional development credits through the DuPage Regional Office of Education is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development Calendar.