Media Literacy and Responsible Civic Engagement Go Hand-in-Hand

Media literacy skill-building aids us in being civically active, informed, and responsible. We’re using play to do that in a way that’s meaningful for teens.

By iThrive Games
June 10, 2021

We know that media literacy is essential. Misinformation and disinformation campaigns from various entities have influenced everything from our elections, public sentiment, and individual decision-making. Media literacy is part of the solution to combat misinformation. Educators who teach media literacy are helping students contend with important questions. How do we detect biases? What sources of information can we trust? How do we apply critical thinking to the information that we take in through written and visual media?

We think it's imperative that teens have the opportunity to practice media literacy in the classroom. Young people are curious, consume tons of media, and are more than equipped to think and talk through these hard questions. So we created iThrive Sim: Follow the Facts to assist educators in exploring media literacy in their classroom. In this role-playing simulation, students play reporters sifting through information and sources to find and share the truth about a mysterious illness and an impending storm in New Orleans.

iThrive Sim: Follow the Facts was created in collaboration with subject matter experts such as Elizabeth Smith, Assistant Professor in the Communications Division at Pepperdine University. We asked Ms. Smith to share her thoughts about the power of media literacy in the lives of young people. 

Q: Why do you believe media literacy is such an important topic for high school students to learn?

A: I believe media literacy is an important topic for people of all ages because, like it or not, we are surrounded by media all the time. The more literate we can become, the better we will be at understanding the origin, nature, and effects of our media consumption. More specifically, I think it is critical for us to invest in news literacy education with all learners, starting in kindergarten. High school students show us that they are not uninformed about news topics but find that many news outlets do not cover topics that they find relevant to their lives. Additionally, many high school students are confronted with news being shared on social media but aren't always clear what makes credible news, how news information evolves (especially in breaking news simulations), and what to think of the work of journalists. However, as high school students grow into adulthood, they will be asked to make informed decisions that will rely on credible, rigorously vetted information as news is. Knowing who and what is high-quality news information will help these emerging adults make informed decisions and understand others better. 

Q: What element did you think was most important or transformative in iThrive Sim: Follow the Facts?

A: I think the most transformative element in iThrive Sim: Follow the Facts is making decisions about what information to share. This pushes students to make relatively quick decisions about what is correct. Sometimes the details that differentiate two different pieces of information are subtle, which means students have to pay close attention to make quick, timed decisions. They talk about these decisions with their teammates. I think two elements are important: 1) The decisions are timed, so they are making decisions about information to share in real-time, just as a journalist does but also just like they do when they are more casually using social media in their personal lives; 2) Discussing the decisions helps them to share and build knowledge. 

Q: How do you see media literacy supporting responsible civic engagement?

A: Media literacy, but more specifically, news literacy, helps individuals understand what the news is and what questions to ask about news information. News literacy does not promote that individuals or communities should blindly trust the news. Rather, news literacy should empower individuals to ask good questions and understand the process behind reporting and news production. 

Q: What's your favorite part of the game?

A: Honestly, I love the whole thing! My favorite part of the game is watching teams work together and hearing the way they support each other to make solid, informed decisions. 

Bring Media Literacy Skill-Building To Your Classroom

If you'd like to bring Follow the Facts to your high school classroom or summer program, let us know! You can sign up here to learn more information or to request a time slot for your class. The "news office" opens on Friday, June 25, 2021!