Tips for teaching information and media literacy

Have you heard of the CRAAP test?  Perhaps you have used one of the many other checklist options which claim to help students critically evaluate information sources and improve their media literacy?  Did you know that the CRAAP checklist was actually designed for librarians deciding whether or not to purchase a book rather than to help students evaluate online information?  The CRAAP test and many of the other checklists being used to help students evaluate information contain an overwhelming number of prompts for students, often leading to formulaic and stale responses and boredom for students.  They also overlook the sophistication of thinking needed to navigate the abundance and complexity of information available today.  There has to be a better way.

The aim of this post is to explore effective strategies for teaching information and media literacy.

Top tips for embedding information and media literacy into your lessons:

I’ve also created an infographic (see below) which summarises these tips further.  Blog post continues after image.

Image created by author.

I still think that some sort of checklist-style prompts are necessary as students develop their media literacy competence or fluency.  I really like the simplicity of Mike Caulfield’s Four Moves SIFT acronym:

Image created by Mike Caulfield. Shared under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

He has also added a habit to his approach: Check your emotions.  This encourages students to stop and fact-check before sharing with others online. His online book Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers and free, modifiable online course, Check, Please! provides a comprehensive discussion about how to adopt the SIFT approach with students.  I love the simplicity and practical application in the way that both these resources are presented.

I also think it’s a great idea to get students involved in competitions like the ABC News Diet Challenge which asks students to examine how and why they consume news and then create a short video to share how examining their news habits helped them “broaden their [usual] palate” of news consumption. A new digital literacy tool which aims to support Australian teachers of students at the secondary level to develop enhanced critical thinking skills and how to navigate news is also due to be released in early 2020.  It will be an extension on the existing eSmart Digital Licence which caters for junior primary, primary and secondary students (although this program is more about being cybersafe rather than explicitly media literacy).

Ultimately, media literacy, information literacy, critical digital literacy or ‘digital and media literacy’ or even media and information literacy (combining the terms to encompass the full range of cognitive, emotional and social competencies) – whatever you want to call it – is about more than evaluating online content.  It is also about understanding the internet’s production and consumption processes; its potential as an emancipatory tool as well as the structural constraints which can create highly fragmented, polarised narratives of questionable reliability.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash. Text by blog author.

Critical digital literacy of all members of society effects social inclusion (or exclusion) and public participation.  Media literacy is about more than abstract information literacy principles.  We also need to be mindful of equity issues in the teaching of soft skills – encouraging empowerment of students at one end of the scale and humility and recognition of privilege for students on the other end.  Users need domain knowledge (or disciplinary literacy) relevant to the subject being studied as well as technical knowledge about the way that the internet works.  By doing this, students can gather a bag of tools, processes and knowledge to make meaningful evaluations about the media that they are exposed to, instead of baseless, generic statements which merely answer evaluative checklists.  It is a complicated and overwhelming landscape, but also one with great potential and relevance beyond the school gates.

For additional resources on how to teach information and media literacy, please click here.


The brain is wider than the sky,

For, put them side by side,

The one the other will include

With ease, and you beside

10 Replies to “Tips for teaching information and media literacy”

  1. Thank you for this post! It’s so comprehensive, and the links are useful and extremely timely – I’m in the process of revamping some information literacy activities, and this is an excellent resource. You’ve made my current task a lot easier!

    1. Hi Margaret. Thanks for the supportive feedback. I’ve added a link to the resources that I gathered to help teach media and information literacy. There are some fun and interactive games and activities which I hope that you will find useful in revamping information literacy at your school. All the best!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience and passion for Media Literacy through this series of blogs. The five blogs all develop and grow upon each other, starting with a simplified and concise definition in Media Literacy blog. The hyperlinks are well embedded and provide the opportunities for viewers to explore in more detail. The successive blogs move from the broader definition to Media Literacy and Australian Schooling and then narrows to the topic of Uncovering Bias, then Fighting Back against Bias. It was an informative series of posts, which provided me with a developing sense and awareness of the roles that we play in supporting our students with these important skills. I particularly loved the video embedded in the Uncovering Bias blog, as it played to my nerdy Maths self. I also liked the summaries in your blogs, which provided tips for educators, with a link to more tips for further reading. The final blog, Tips for Teaching Information and Media Literacy was insightful and practical and benefited from the use of the infographic. I am still not sure how this series of blogs is particularly relevant to our unit title of Youth and Pop Culture, but maybe that is a blog that is still to come.

    1. Hi Julie. Thanks for your comprehensive feedback. I too loved the video in the Uncovering Bias post! It was a very clever way to present the topic! I found the Dylann Roof video that I mention in paragraph four of that post also quite insightful!
      Your comment about relevance to youth, popular culture and texts gave me cause for additional reflection. I have subsequently added an image and a metaphor to explain the link between media literacy and youth popular culture as I see it. In essence, young people’s perspectives on the world are increasingly being shaped by the media and news that appears on their social media feeds. Their interaction with popular culture media is the lens through which young people see current events and global discourses. I believe that media literacy provides the tools and strategies to help young people filter what they see. They can then critically evaluate the conscious and subconscious messages they are receiving and therefore see the world with greater clarity. Instead of being a passenger or spectator, it encourages young people to engage more actively with the content they are consuming.

  3. Hi Leanne, one of your fellow LCN639 peers here. What a wonderful and insightful post! I too struggle to embed moments of media literacy alongside the curriculum at times and you have outlined some really great strategies and tips. I especially like dot point number five, because I feel that as educators, we really need to be developing those critical thinking/capability skills in our lessons especially in today’s fake news climate. Additionally, we can use those lessons to help our students reflect on their own online media presence via social networking sites and platforms and fulfil our ethical requirements as teachers. I look forward testing out your tips in my own classroom soon. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Daniella. I agree that the personal reflection that comes from critically evaluating media is really important. I think that it can empower students to question the authenticity and accuracy of the claims being presented in the media they consume and even encourage collaborative thinking and dialogue with other like-minded people in society (beyond young people in their own age group).

  4. As a Teacher-librarian who has used the CRAAP Test in the past, your blog post has made me re-evaluate my use of the “checklist” approach. Your point about teaching students to think of themselves as investigators, detectives and fact checkers, really resonated with me.

  5. What an awesome blog to enhance our own research skills and further explore our wonderings! I love the authentic popular culture and media literacy summation quote. Ironically, there is not a lot of research that so strongly identifies with popular culture and media literacy. Until now. This blog fills this paucity and will be my go to for both enhancing pedagogy and igniting continuous learning pursuits. Thank you for providing such insight and guidance for your readers and emerging researchers.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Janelle. Creating and curating these blog posts certainly gave me cause to reflect and evaluate my use of youth popular culture to teach media and information literacy.

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