Tuesday, November 22, 2011

News Literacy: “We Need to Be Teaching This”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Professor Lyn Millner of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) reflects on a Nov. 2 news literacy workshop for high school educators. With a McCormick grant, FGCU is carrying out a news literacy program that helps connect classrooms with journalists via video conferencing. Teachers nationwide can apply to participate in the program here: http://www.newsu.org/tools/face-face-conversations-journalists.

Our news literacy night for high school educators went very well. The upshot is that most of the educators plan to institute at least some of the concepts in their classes immediately. I also learned that the new Lee County School Superintendent would be very receptive to learning about how we're teaching news literacy at Florida Gulf Coast University.

I gave the educators an intro to news literacy—what it is and why it matters—using much of what's in Stony Brook's introductory lecture. I told them how our course has made a difference with students. 

The reaction from the high school teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Lots of nods and "we need to be teaching this." Nearly all of the teachers said they planned to begin integrating some of these lessons in their current classes. All were grateful for Stony Brook's course materials. (Thank you, Dean and Liz!)

Jennifer Reed, a teacher at South Fort Myers High School told me: “My kids are 18, they're about to go into the world, and it scares me [that they don't have news literacy skills]. Instead, we're teaching them texts such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.”

Our discussion naturally broadened to how FGCU's new journalism program can help the high schools in other areas of journalism. Journalism faculty member Rick Kenney led a discussion about specific skills we might address in a spring workshop for high school students. Rick is teaching Journalism & Society (our news literacy course) this year, along with writing, and media law and ethics.

In addition to high school educators, several community members attended, including Paula Sklodowski, an outreach person with WGCU public media; Byron Yake with Write-on Sports; Tony Majeri, retired from the Chicago Tribune and keenly interested in helping FGCU set up a summer high school journalism skills workshop; and David Steckler, on faculty at FGCU and working with Byron to start a middle-school program.

Lyn Millner, Assistant Professor, Journalism, Florida Gulf Coast University

Stay tuned for more updates on FGCU’s  work in news literacy education.

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