Wisconsin Educators Work Toward PBS Media Literacy Certification

October 26, 2020 Jessie Nixon Leave a Comment

According to Common Sense Media, teens spent an average of nine hours a day online even before COVID and the start of our mostly virtual world. Even as adults, our time online has increased dramatically over the last few months. No wonder I’ve been receiving daily emails offering discounts for blue light filtering glasses. 

As much as we might want to step away from our screens, we know that we also thrive online. We have access to information from all over the world at our fingertips and can find out anything we want to know. Will blue lenses really reduce eye strain? Do I just need more sleep? Whatever I want to know I can find someone who wants to give me an answer. 

Therein lies the conundrum. How do we know that the information we find online is accurate and honest? How do we know if the words coming from a talking head on our screens are their words and not a deep fake video used to spread misinformation? 

These questions are at the driving force of a nationwide movement toward improving media literacy, which the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) defines as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication. Media literacy is an increasingly important tool for our young people and it will take work from all of us to improve media literacy skills for our students. 

Media Literacy Week

From Oct. 26-30 people from all over the country will participate in Media Literacy Week, hosted by the NAMLE. From attending virtual presentations from scholars like Renee Hobbs who will talk about her book, Mind Over Media: Propaganda Education for a Digital Age to hearing from youth as they talk about the importance of civic engagement in the digital age with PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs, NAMLE provides opportunities for educators, students, researchers to join together for this important cause. 

Yet the importance of media literacy does not begin and end in a week. As citizens bombarded by news sources that often contradict each other, fake news and a world of websites that claim to be legitimate, we need to think about media literacy each day. 

Wisconsin Educators Working Toward Media Literacy Certification

In Wisconsin, there is a cohort of educators doing just that. In September of 2020, 13 classroom teachers and library media specialists embarked on the journey to become PBS Media Literacy Certified with support from PBS Wisconsin Education. The PBS Media Literacy Educator Certification by KQED, which received the 2019 Award of Excellence from Tech & Learning magazine and was a finalist in the 2020 EdTech Awards in the Badging & Credentialing category, recognizes PreK-12 educators who demonstrate their ability to teach students to think critically about media consumption and creation. 

The cohort of educators are passionate about making media literacy a priority in their classrooms and schools, and were selected from a statewide call for applications. 

Gwen Fiecko, a teacher from Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, explained the importance of becoming certified saying “now, more than ever, we need citizens who are able to read, dissect, and comprehend how and why media shapes and controls our opinions. I want to cultivate new knowledge and skills in media literacy so I can more effectively impact student learning in both my digital communications classes as well as my English classes.”

Similarly, Moon Villalobos, a teacher from Metcalfe School in Milwaukee explained why he wanted to become PBS Media Literacy Certified. “I think future-adults need to know the power of media literacy. I would like to model to students, staff, and community that we are never done improving ourselves. Improving my skills as a leader in helping the community think critically about media usage is vital”.

Gwen and Moon, along with eleven other Wisconsin educators, will work for eight months to complete eight credentials demonstrating their expertise in teaching PreK-12 students to think critically about their roles as media consumers and creators. The credentials, which require educators to submit lesson plans and reflections on their learning, span eight topics related to media literacy such as the ability to critically evaluate online sources and media, create a code of conduct for students to follow when they are online and make audio and video media for use in their classroom.

Each month, the cohort of educators and PBS Wisconsin Education staff will meet virtually to hear from Wisconsin experts in the field of media literacy, to share their classroom experiences and to work collaboratively through the certification process. This October members of the cohort will submit their first credential, creating a code of conduct for student use of online resources to create a positive school climate and support responsible technology use.

Please join me in celebrating the efforts and passion of the first cohort of Wisconsin educators working toward PBS Media Literacy Certification: 

Lisa Biber, High Marq Environmental Charter School, Montello School District

Peg Billing, Lakeland Union High School, Lakeland Union High School District

Melanie Curti, Shawano Community Middle School, Shawano School District

Gwen Fiecko, Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools

Gina Follstad, Maryland Avenue Montessori School, Milwaukee Public Schools

Jaclyn Jecha, New Berlin West Middle and High School, School District of New Berlin 

Rose Helm, Plover-Whiting and Kennedy Elementary, Stevens Point Area Public School District

Mary Maderich, CESA 12

Kris McCoy, Mineral Point Middle & High School, Mineral Point Unified School District

Tammy McVeigh, Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools

Kristin Staver, Mineral Point High School, Mineral Point Unified School District

April Vach, Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools

Moon Villalobos, Metcalfe School, Milwaukee Public Schools

Educator’s responsibilities are increasing everyday and it takes extreme dedication and passion to add even more to an already overflowing plate. Thank you to the educators of the PBS Wisconsin Media Literacy Cohort for all that you do for our students! 

If you’d like to learn more about the PBS Media Literacy Certification or view media created and produced by Wisconsin Youth visit our Click Youth Media website at pbswisconsineducation.org/click.