SOUTHERN COLORADO — With the constant flow of information on social media, it can be hard to navigate what is real, what is fake, and what is misleading. It can be especially hard for children, prompting Colorado lawmakers to create new legislation focused on media literacy.
House Bill 1357, presented by state Rep. Lisa Cutter and co-sponsored by state Rep. Barbara McLachlan, would create an online resource bank of materials on media literacy and provide technical assistance on policies and procedures to school districts that request it. The bill was first introduced back in 2019 where it passed the Colorado General Assembly.
"We had to do our homework first and make sure we were representing thoughtful legislation that was really needed and that there were a lot of resources already out there for people. I ran that piece of legislation and it created a robust committee of advisers to gather best practices and look at the situation and create a report," said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton.
As mandated by the bill, the Media Literacy Advisory Committee was created to come up with a list of recommendations that would help improve media literacy education in elementary and secondary schools. The committee included teachers, students, librarians, and journalists. Some of the key recommendations included:
- Systematically address teaching media literacy in all schools.
- Communicate the critical role teacher librarians play in both digital citizenship and media literacy education.
- Convey a consistent, coherent message around media literacy that will engage all stakeholders.
- Ensure media literacy principles are clear and specific in the Colorado Academic Standards across reading, writing, and civics.
- Share vetted and research-based resources for media literacy education and professional development throughout the state.
- Fund professional development, teacher and student recognition, and grants for programming in media literacy. • Form community partnerships to increase the effectiveness of media literacy education.
Paxton Decker, a former Grandview High School student, was among the few students chosen to be a part of the Media Literacy Advisory Committee.
“What I wanted was an actual class plan, some sort of program, something that they were putting into class to reach real students. That was really important to me," said Decker. "The committee was like should we focus on internet literacy or traditional literacy, I said do it all. I want to see the depth and student involvement."
Decker said he wanted a plan that would touch on a lot of different areas of media literacy and encourage student involvement.
"I liked the online database and the policies and procedures for teachers. I think it's great as a supplement resource, and that's why I wanted that to sort of aid in something that would take up a lot of class time," said Decker.
With so much misinformation flooding the internet, he says his generation is finding it hard to identify credible sources.
"I was rather shocked when I was talking to people my age who should really know better about the internet," said Decker. "The issue is that media is an important institution that links people to politics so if they're not getting real information then you can't have a shared political space. It all starts with education, in a country where education has been sort of falling apart recently."
Marilyn Saltzman, a former educator, and Chair of Media Literacy for Colorado Press Women was also a part of the committee. She says with students being both consumers and producers of news, it's critical they have media literacy
“I think it’s critical in these times that students are able to access information, to analyze information, and to critically evaluate information so they know what is true and factual," said Saltzman. "Reading multiple sources, checking the source, checking the website and seeing if it’s an actual website. Is it factual, are they presenting both sides?”
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the legislation was tabled to make way for bills focused on helping those impacted by the virus.
“COVID took over pretty early in the session it seemed and swept a lot of things off the floor. We had to deal with the emergency right then," said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango.
This year, a new version of the bill is set to be introduced in the legislative session. The bill states the State Board of Education must review and adopt revisions to reading, writing, and civics standards that incorporate media literacy by June 30, 2021.
“We’re not mandating how they teach it, we’re just saying these things need to be taught and it's techniques and tactics for kids to understand at an early age what's real and what's not, what's an opinion and what's a fact," said Cutter.
School districts will have about two years to implement the new standards into the curriculum.