As with any learning goal, working towards becoming news literate is a self-propelled process that takes commitment and vigilance. Plotting out a strategy or to-do list can be a helpful guide to move through the layers of understanding.
Before you embark on this journey, however, understand that becoming news literate isn’t a simple skill that can be applied absent mindedly, like learning how to ride a bike or make a grilled cheese sandwich. Going though the process of becoming news literate will involve first facing the fact that, most likely, there will be a process of unlearning. Given how polarized Americans are, there is a good chance that some of the beliefs you espouse are biased. And that is okay. We all have been influenced in one way or the other over the last decade or so. Just know that while working to be news literate, you may have to face your own bias. Be ready.
Now that you know what you are going to face, how do you create a learning strategy to master news literacy? Well to start off, you need to know where you are to understand where you have to go. The first step would be to assess your current level of news literacy.
STEP 1: What is my current news literacy skill level?
When it comes to learning anything new, any teacher, tutor or coach will want to assess a new student’s baseline. They have to understand where the student’s current skill level lies in order to come up with a learning strategy. You will have to do this for yourself. Luckily, there is a neat online tool to test your current news literacy level. Take this quiz prepared by The News Literacy Project. It is a 12 question quiz that focuses on what reports and photo journalists are allowed to do, their sources, how to spot ads and other aspects of understanding digital information. Once you have your results the quiz will help you identify in what areas of interpreting digital information you can use assistance.
STEP 2: Where can I obtain more information?
Now that you understand where you are, it will be easier for you to know in which direction your self study needs to go. The good news is, many universities and non partisan organizations are working to fight fake and biased news and provide a plethora of information to review. Some of those organizations are outlined in a previous blog post Basic News Literacy to Combat Fake News. For the most part, each source provides steps to take when confronted with a information that seems outrageous or questionable.
The site on which you took the original news literacy quiz is another great resource: newslit.org. They have great articles, other quizzes, news and statistics for those learning news literacy skills. Also, be sure to sign up for their news letter, The Sift for current examples of fake, biased or misinformation. The news letter is a great way to stay up to date on the latest falsehoods sweeping the nation.
STEP 3: Classes
If you have come this far in your journey, and still want to continue, taking a class may be a good idea for you. Coursera.org offers a course that is developed and taught by professors from State University of New York and the University of Hong Kong. This is a 13 hour, six week course that dives into such topics as “Where can we find trustworthy information?” and “How to apply news literacy concepts in real life?”
The course can be found here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/news-literacy
You are able to either audit the course for free, or pay for the course in order to earn the certificate, and have your assignments graded by professors, etc.
Some other online learning options include the linked resources below:
STEP 4: Apply
Now that you have gathered all the tools and knowledge available at this time, it is time to apply what you have learned. To be accurate, application should be attempted after each news literacy lesson. Seek and Find.
This, quite frankly, can be the exhausting part at first until it becomes second nature. However, if you are committed to training your brain to strain the opinions, falsehoods and bias from the information you consume, it is necessary.