Data-driven research partnerships advance media literacy at the local level – URI News

KINGSTON, RI – September 16, 2022 – A new partnership between a University of Rhode Island professor and a national nonprofit organization will give schools and communities across the country access to a tool that measures how students are well equipped to spot false or misleading information.

The Media Education Lab, led by URI Professor Renee Hobbs, partners with national non-profit organization Media Literacy Now provide free access the Media Literacy Implementation Index (MLI), a validated survey research instrument that measures the prevalence of media literacy in schools and communities.

“School and community leaders can finally get a clear picture of how many students in their community have media literacy learning opportunities,” said Hobbs, professor of communication studies at Harrington School of URI’s Communication and Media, which developed the survey. “Once school and community leaders know what is happening on the ground, this data gives them a good picture of areas of the school curriculum that represent current strengths and where continuous improvement is needed.

Schools across the country are beginning to bolster media literacy programs, Hobbs says. This school year, for the first time, high schools in Illinois are required to offer a media literacy unit. In other states, including California, Washington, Utah, Ohio and Florida, media literacy is a priority, thanks to strong support from educators, parents and community leaders.

Media literacy teaches students to apply critical thinking to the media messages they receive, as well as to use media to create their own messages. Media literacy is essential to the health and well-being of American children, says Hobbs, as well as to their future participation in the civic and economic life of our democracy. The rise of COVID-related disinformation and extremism has fueled interest in media literacy, and media literacy teaching is often initiated by school librarians, English teachers, health or social studies.

But gauging how many students in local schools and communities are actually receiving media literacy training has been a problem, Hobbs says. Until now, there has been no reliable way to measure the likelihood that students will have the opportunity to learn and develop media literacy skills. No national study on the implementation of media literacy in US school districts has yet been undertaken. The MLI index helps solve this problem. And this new partnership makes it freely available for use with students and community stakeholders.

“By establishing data that serves as a benchmark and benchmark against which to build a strong academic program, school leaders can measure their progress over time,” said Erin McNeill, Founder and President of Media Literacy Now. “The MLI Index offers school leaders a systematic way to measure the inclusion of media literacy in the curriculum at primary and secondary levels.”

When school districts using the survey agree to share their data with researchers, they gain access to a digital survey that allows them to easily collect data from students as well as community stakeholders, including school leaders. institution, librarians, educators, parents, community members and elected officials. For an additional fee, researchers will analyze data to identify areas of strength and areas of growth needed to provide a comprehensive approach that integrates media literacy into the curriculum. School and community leaders can also receive professional support from Media Literacy Now to help inform the local community about the media literacy implementation initiative and use the data to assess their progress in implementing the program.

In the spring of 2022, Professor Hobbs and his colleagues at the University of Rhode Island published a report on statewide implementation of media literacy in Rhode Island with support from URI’s Institute of Social Sciences for Research, Education and Policy. Their research will be published in a scientific journal in 2023.

Lucas Jacobs, director of writing, communications and media education at La Jolla Country Day School in California, is one of the first school leaders to embrace the use of the MLI Index. In Maynard, Massachusetts, a high school student worked with Professor Hobbs to adapt the MLI index for students in grades 4-12 and its efforts help school leaders identify opportunities and gaps in their implementation of media literacy.

“Media literacy is central to many programs at the Harrington School for Communication and Media,” said Ammina Kothari, Principal of the Harrington School. “We are thrilled with the innovative work that Dr. Hobbs is doing in schools and communities.”

Learn more about the program here: https://mediaeducationlab.com/research-0

Contact information

Media Literacy Nowbased in Watertown, Mass., is a nonprofit organization that advocates for a public education system that ensures all students learn the 21st century literacy skills they need for health, well-being, economic participation and citizenship.

Contact Erin McNeill, email: [email protected]

Media Literacy Lab, founded and led by Professor Renee Hobbs, provides public programs, educational services, community outreach, and multimedia resources targeted to the needs of educators and learners in school and after-school settings. Their multidisciplinary research program explores the educational impact of media and technology, with a focus on digital and media literacy as a broad conceptualization of literacy.

Contact Professor Renee Hobbs, email [email protected]


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Donnie J. Milburn