“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.
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
- Media Literacy in Action in the Early Years: Activity Ideas for Reasoning and Reflection, Webinar by Faith Rogow. October 28, 2015. Sponsored by the National Association for Media Literacy (NAMLE) and supported by the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development & Early Learning with Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge funds. See Key Questions matrix
- Chapter 7, “Media Literacy in Early Childhood Education: Inquiry-Based Technology Integration” in Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning. 2015. NAEYC and Routledge
- Definition of media literacy
- Building Healthy Relationships with Media: A Parent’s Guide to Media Literacy
- Friedman, Arielle (2016) “Three-Year-Old Photographers: Educational Mediation as a Basis for Visual Literacy via Digital Photography in Early Childhood,” Journal of Media Literacy Education, 8(1), 15 -31.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8,” a joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. January 2012.
- Webinar on Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs presented by Chip Donohue (Erikson Institute), Roberta Schomburg (Fred Rogers Center, St. Vincent College), and Sabrina Burroughs (Erikson Institute) November 2017
- Donohue, C. & Schomburg, R. (2017). Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs: What We’ve Learned from Five Years of Research, Practice and Observing Children. Young Children, 72(4), pp. 72-78.
- Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning. Editied by Chip Donohue, PhD. 2015. NAEYC and Routledge.
Technology and Young Children (TEC) Center at the Erikson Institute
- Media Literacy in Early Childhood: A Critical Conversation
- Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice by Katie Paciga, PhD and Chip Donohue, PhD.
- Three Tips For Early Childhood Educators For Putting NAEYC/Fred Rogers Joint Tech Position Statement Into Practice.
Please add additional resources and your experiences as comments!
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.