New digital media literacy tool teaches students how to navigate news

in News
Millions of Australian school students will benefit from an innovative new tool funded by Google Australia and delivered by national children’s charity, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, to help them navigate news and information online.

The new digital media literacy tool, which teaches students to critically analyse and navigate the online environment, will be available to secondary school students across the country from early 2020.

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation is developing a cutting-edge suite of interactive media literacy resources, complementing the Australian curriculum aimed at supporting teachers to develop enhanced critical thinking skills for students aged 12 to 15.

This is a new addition to the Foundation’s eSmart Digital Licence suite of online tools which teach Australian students how to become smart, safe and responsible online.

The digital resources, supported by $1.4 million from Google Australia, will help young people navigate different news and information sources online.

The Foundation’s CEO, Lesley Podesta, says that schools often struggle to keep pace with the rapidly changing online news environment and that curriculums are very crowded.

Research suggests that only one in five young Australians, aged 8-16, have received lessons at school in the past year to help them work out if news stories are true and can be trusted.

How students learn to tell what is real and what is fake is critical and we all have a role to play, Ms Podesta says.

“Studies of media literacy reveal that only 2 per cent of children in the UK had the skills to distinguish fake from real news. Fake news or misinformation can cause serious harm to young people by increasing anxiety, damaging self-esteem and skewing their world view.

“We want students to be able to question what they see, read and hear to determine if the information is trustworthy. Research suggests that while Australian teachers feel confident teaching media literacy skills, they wanted more curriculum-aligned digital resources to make it easier to teach media literacy.”

Students aged 12-15 are often using social media channels to self-select their news and information. They need the skills to confidently navigate this fast-changing environment, Ms Podesta says.

“Our media literacy resources will support teachers to embed these critical thinking skills and confidence more easily. We are delighted to have the financial support of Google Australia and a group of leading thinkers, researchers and respected media figures to advise us.” 

The Foundation has formed a Media Literacy Advisory Panel, consisting of experts spanning the media, education and academic sectors, who will be supporting content and advising on direction. 

Panel member and co-director of the Centre for Media Transition at the University of Technology Sydney, Professor Peter Fray, says that the importance for young people to understand the role of media and its links to democracy cannot be underestimated.

“Adolescents must be able to develop independent thought to be able to determine the origin of news and dig out any hidden agendas,” he says.

Panel member and Google Australia’s Senior Public Policy Counsel, Samantha Yorke, says delivering a digital product that teaches media literacy will provide clarity for schools in relation to media literacy instruction. 

“The internet has enabled access to a range of information, and it’s important that we equip young Australians to engage with these resources in a constructive way. We are proud to support this important project,” she says. 

For more information, contact Project Manager, Media Literacy Mandy Ross on 0459 615 506 or email mandy.ross@amf.org.au

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