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Making Sense of Media

When I reflect on my own interpretations of information, media and the world around me, it is easy to forget how many years of learning and experience have gone into establishing the critical thinking skills I now have as an adult and professional educator. Growing up with the internet wasn’t always a walk in the park, as concepts such as digital privacy, security, and cyberbullying weren’t closely monitored. I relied on what I had learned from school, what my parents had taught me and what my friends perceived as right and wrong.

I very vividly remember sitting in my elementary school library at an Apple desktop computer (the orange, pink, green, purple and blue ones where you could see through the semi-transparent plastic- oh the nastalgia) and being taught how to enter keywords into a search engine and how it affected your searches. This simple, yet important lesson would expose me to the endless lists of results one can get when searching for information and how overwhelming it can be to decipher the grand amount of information. I remember thinking that this was such a basic concept, however little did I know that it would be just the beginning of my “Googling” journey that would set me up for the rest of my academic schooling.

Another memory that I have from this middle years time period is not understanding the ramifications of what “Copying & Pasting” meant. One of Shirsty’s articles that she shared “Ethical Issues with Using Technology in The Classroom“, discusses how students are confused that copying and pasting is plagiarism. My eleven-year-old self was absolutely guilty of this and it didn’t seem to be taken seriously by my institutions until my final years of high school and university years. I felt a rude awakening entering my first semester at the U of R and having no clue what is meant to create a citation in APA and MLA formatting. In part, this is largely due to the creation and utilization of online tools such as “Turnitin”, which allows educators to digitally screen for copyright and plagiarism within a student-created document. Now as a master’s student, I have an annual subscription to Grammarly which checks for plagiarism within your documents and also has the added benefit of grammar and spell checking my writing. This program alone has enhanced my academic writing and I learn more from it each and every time I use it.

Today, interpreting information and media has become a daily task of using critical thinking skills. One has to identify the source of the information, check the date of when the information was published, do background checks on authors and creators to see if they are a reliable source of information, compare facts and information, then make a decision on how to interpret it. It’s a lot! We are doing this at an alarmingly fast rate thanks to social media. It can be difficult to look through the lens of a critical thinker every time you open up a Facebook article or watch a Tiktok video. As a result, it is easy to fall victim to false information, and then share and pass on information that might not be entirely accurate, or even remotely true. We as both educators and parents have to teach children that just because they read or watch something online, doesn’t mean that they can always trust it. We have to teach these skills to them so that when they navigate the online world they can feel safe and make educated and responsible choices when consuming and creating content.

As a millennial, I was not only responsible for learning along the way when it came to my own personal journey with navigating the digital world and interpreting information and media, but I was also teaching the generations that came before me. My parents and grandparents relied on me to teach them how to use their first smartphones, laptops, Ipads and so many apps and programs. Yes, they had basic skills of typing, word processing and email, but that was the extent of it. I very often would get phone calls from my dad or my grandma because they needed help figuring something out on a device and I was always happy to help because it seemed to just come naturally to me.

Today as an educator, I often feel that because I grew up as technology was evolving, I just naturally learnt how to use these devices, navigate programs and decipher the information. But in reality, I was either taught formally or learned through trial and error. I have to remember that my students aren’t necessarily coming to school with a foundation of knowledge and skills that I expect for the classroom. I have to show them and guide them through the process of learning by experience. They will make mistakes along the way. That is inevitable. But, the more we can prepare them, the more successful they will be both at school and in their personal lives when making sense of this big complex world around them.


5 thoughts on “Making Sense of Media

  1. Hello Katherine,

    I relate to growing up with the technology, it really has evolved and changed. I don’t remember learning about security and safety online at that time, until I was in my teens, which by then was already late. I really liked how we previously learned about the myth of digital natives, because I agree I thought I learned it through trial and error when in reality it was explicitly taught to me. Do you find Grammarly worth the subscription? I had never considered it before.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your closing thoughts Katherine. I appreciated it all, but reading it made me feel older than you and I got bitter.

    Making yourself vulnerable and modelling learning from mistakes will strengthen your relationship with the students and provide an excellent learning opportunity. I feel the same way about my own adventure in digital literacy – PD or trial and error. Given the potential challenges and consequences of digital mismanagement (my own all-encompassing term for screwing up online), is school not a great place to make mistakes and learn from them?

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  3. In my school as well we were taught to use search engines, Microsoft office, etc. But we were never taught about the digital literacy aspect… We were just taught about how to use it and how easily we can grab the information that we need…
    “I felt a rude awakening entering my first semester at the U of R and having no clue what is meant to create a citation in APA and MLA formatting.” I also felt the same Katherine, I had no idea about these formats and how to do citation… what is paraphrasing… or do we cite the things that we paraphrase?? I felt so stuck, so I strongly think that this should be taught to students as early as possible…

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  4. I too appreciated your closing thoughts. Even though we grew up with technology, I too often forget that I was taught along the way by the people around me. In today’s world, we assume that kiddos should know how to do everything properly in the technology world because they have always had it. But in reality, if we aren’t teaching kiddos at home, or at school, we are assuming that they are learning how to properly conduct themselves without the explicit teachings like we received. Yikes! The more I think about it, the more I really think that we need this in our school asap.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Correct me if I am wrong, but I feel that in today’s world (in Saskatchewan, Canada) learning to use devices is as routine as learning to walk. Since technology is literally all around us, it is almost impossible for students to come to school without some sort of foundation. I think you are completely right Katherine, we were taught the basics growing up whereas kids nowadays learn by trial and error. Unfortunately, the trial and error process can be unforgiving and frustrating for kids, parents, and teachers. So whose responsibility is it to help kids make sense of media?! Schools are the obvious choice, but they also need to be provided with the resources and supports needed to implement consistent and effective digital education for students. I am thankful to be learning from so many people so I too can help better prepare students for the digital world.

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