By Marcus Stallworth, MLN advisory committee member
As an educator and social worker, I believe strongly in the role media literacy plays in making sure youth make healthy and informed decisions. This motivated me to create the company Welcome2Reality alongside fellow educators Anthony Gay and Qur-an Webb. Together, we aimed to make media literacy education accessible to all youth. Our advocacy efforts have opened our eyes to similar needs for learning for families and the community as well. Additionally, we recently created Reality Based Services, our non-profit arm, focusing on providing similar services for adults and also creating opportunities for students to develop and create their media in a credible and responsible way.
We decided to further our work in media literacy by collaborating with Connecticut State Senator Terry Gerratana to propose a new media literacy bill, Senate Bill 949. This bill required that all public schools in Connecticut include digital citizenship and media safety education in their curriculums. SB 949 went to the Senate for deliberation and passed through a unanimous vote on July 1st, 2017.
Welcome2Reality founder Marcus Stallworth is a part of the Connecticut Media Literacy Advisory Council which was created as a result of the passing of SB 949.
One of the key effects of the new law was the creation of the Connecticut Media Literacy Advisory Council (MLAC). The MLAC was tasked with creating a set of recommendations that highlight the best practices for teaching media literacy education in the classroom, as well as specific methods for implementing these practices. The council consisted of a curated team of thirteen teachers, library media specialists, education policymakers, representatives from parent-teacher organizations, and media literacy professionals, including myself.
After months of meeting to determine and refine our recommendations, we developed the 18-page Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy Guidelines and Recommended Actions report. Our main recommendations for educators looking to effectively teach media literacy and digital citizenship in classrooms were :
- To include parents, students, and teachers in the media literacy curriculum writing process
- To explore different curricula and resources in use in other school districts nationwide
- To create essential questions tailored to each individual environment to guide the outcomes of the overall media literacy curriculum
- To identify existing practices in each school district and work to make those practices more comprehensive
- To create curriculum, lesson plans, and activities for different age groups using the resources in the report for guidance
We also developed a thorough set of recommendations for the roles different stakeholders – from higher education institutions to local school boards to families – can play in supporting media literacy in a systemic manner. The report also includes a curated list of educational resources separated into categories by topic, including digital citizenship, internet safety, and media literacy. Lastly, we added an appendix with checklists and curriculum samples to assist with the creation of comprehensive media literacy curricula.
The Media Literacy Advisory Council consists of thirteen members, including MLN advisory council member Marcus Stallworth.
These recommendations were officially accepted by Connecticut State Board of Education in early January 2020 and now await implementation through additional legislation.
Although our report has been completed, the MLAC’s work is far from finished. We are still meeting and continuing to discuss different strategies for promoting media literacy education in schools. During our meeting last month focusing on the intersection of media literacy and mental health, Welcome2Reality had the opportunity to present about the lesson plans we have developed to effectively address that exact issue. Ultimately, as advocates, we understand that the goal of making media literacy education accessible to all is a constant work in progress, but we are proud of the great progress we have made so far.
The process of passing and implementing state-wide media literacy legislation has taught me that the possibility of making structural change isn’t always out of reach. Often, people think making big change requires money, resources, and a whole movement behind it. I learned through this process that, above all, it requires perseverance. Embrace the journey and understand that there will be as many challenges as successes.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to other media literacy advocates and see what you can learn from their journey. I found so many people eager to help me along the way! There are also existing media literacy model bills that can serve as guidance for developing your own. It’s just a matter of finding what is right for your state.
Welcome2Reality founders Marcus Stallworth and Qur-an Webb teaching a media literacy workshop in a Connecticut high school
Lastly, I encourage you to look to young people for their input throughout your journey. Never underestimate the power of youth to hold unique perspectives that adults might not have considered.
As an educator, I have witnessed first-hand how powerful social media, marketing, and technology are in shaping (and even distorting) young people’s understanding of reality and their priorities. By pushing for media literacy education in all schools, we can all play a role in making sure our kids are prepared to navigate these messages effectively.
Our advocacy efforts have opened our eyes to similar needs for learning for families and the community as well. This is why we have recently created Reality Based Services, our non-profit arm, focusing on providing similar services for adults and also creating opportunities for students to develop and create their media in a credible and responsible way.
Marcus Stallworth LSMW is a professor, national training and development consultant, media literacy advocate, MLN advisory committee member, and non-profit founder. Marcus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the MLAC’s recommendations, how to get legislation moving in your state, or with any general questions you may have.