Media literacy in early childhood

Media literacy

First grader's drawing of a smiling dinosaur standing on 4 legs (2 legs visible).“Dinosaurs aren’t alive anymore” is a statement that may be spoken by young children as both a statement and a question. Do they really know that dinosaurs are no longer alive? Do they use evidence to support this idea? I asked small number of educators and parents to discuss with their children and yes, the children are certain that dinosaurs are not alive any more and they learned this from trusted sources—at school, from a sibling, and from books. Children may see images of dinosaurs in books, cartoons and documentaries about dinosaurs. They may view large models at museums and play some of the many apps featuring dinosaurs on digital devices. (There were almost no apps when I searched for “isopod” or “pillbug,” one of my favorite animals!) Some children become dinosaur experts as they learn from many resources and remember information about specific species and time periods. How do adults help children figure out what information is based on scientific research and physical evidence and which aspects of what they view may be embellished for entertainment? 

Making sense of any kind of media resource means being able to understand what we want to get from it, and the intentions of those who created the resource among other goals. Many thanks to the Technology and Young Children interest forum of the National Association for the Education of Young Children for holding Quarterly Meet Ups online, and bringing resources and conversation about “media literacy” to the attention of early childhood educators. In the May/June meet-up and Q&A follow-up session, many aspects of media literacy were discussed based on a talk by Faith Rogow, PhD. Rogow, founding President of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), and founder of Insighters Educational Consulting.

 APPENDIX H – Understanding the Scientific Enterprise: The Nature of Science in the Next Generation Science Standards NGSS.  As a science educator I appreciate the focus on using evidence to support our claims, that is, telling why we think an idea is generally true. One of the basic understandings about the nature of science is “Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence.” See the overview matrix on page 5 of the APPENDIX H – Understanding the Scientific Enterprise: The Nature of Science in the Next Generation Science Standards NGSS.  We want children to be able to distinguish between statements that are not supported by data or are based on limited data (“worms have eyes because all animals have eyes”) and those that are based on observed and researched evidence (“I looked with a magnifier and didn’t see any eyes”).  We, and children, may still have some misconceptions but we have a path for learning that allows us to accept alternative explanations when we use critical thinking. Rogow talked about including discussion of the illustrations as well as the words while reading aloud to help children become media literate. She describes “the “ABC”s of media literacy—the foundational skills and knowledge that are the building blocks for the complex capabilities we want children to develop as they grow.” 

Read her description of what a media literate five-year-old can be expected to do and understand. These skills and understandings about asking questions and having evidence for ideas also support scientific learning.

I am just beginning to learn about “media literacy” and invite you to use the resources I list to learn along with me. Please list additional resources as comments!

Faith Rogow, PhD, Founder and Media Literacy Specialist, Insighters Educational Consulting

National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Technology and Young Children (TEC) Center at the Erikson Institute

Please add additional resources and your experiences as comments!

A lightning bug on a hand.

For me, an hour spent outdoors in an interesting and pleasant-if-somewhat-challenging environment is satisfying in a unique way and cannot be compared with an hour spent learning through any kind of media, including listening to a book being read aloud, reading a book, viewing photographs, participating in a webinar, watching a video, or listening to a music recording. But I really appreciate having access to all these experiences and would not want to give up any of them. 

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1 Response to Media literacy in early childhood

  1. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Very interesting tips on how to discuss (and use) media while exploring outdoors, on Faith Rogow’s blog, TUNE IN Next Time. One is, “Ask children how they could share the feeling of a special outdoor spot. Have a conversation about how people use selfies and emojis to indicate that they like something and then help them think beyond just liking or not liking a place. What is it about the place that makes it special?”

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