Partnership with Nelson Education to research media literacy among pre-teens

The virtual world can be confusing for parents and their children. It’s often hard to tell the accuracy, truthfulness and authenticity of information posted on the internet.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are attempting to navigate online learning platforms with their children while imparting the sage advice of not always believing what you read.

A research partnership between Brock University and Nelson Education Ltd.  is aiming to provide parents and their 10 to 13 year olds with the knowledge and skills they need to evaluate what they read.

“Today, parents need both digital technology skills and media literacy skills more than ever,” says Professor of Educational Studies Tiffany Gallagher, Director of the Brock Learning Lab. “Parents are responsible to not only support their children to learn from home, but also to understand the role that literacy plays in their lives.”

Gallagher and Associate Professor of Educational Studies Diane Collier are heading up the study “Building Knowledge of Pre-Adolescents’ Critical Media Literacy through Collaborative Parent Training.”

Professor of Educational Studies Tiffany Gallagher

Funding for the work comes from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)’s Partnership Engage Grants program.

Parents are at the centre of the study.

At the heart of the research is the concept of critical media literacy, which refers to the ability to discern what is reliable, objective and trustworthy, but to understand who is putting out the message and what that message is supposed to achieve.

“Parents need to be aware of the power structures and dynamics that shape media so they can have these conversations with their children,” says Collier.

The study aims to answer two questions:

  • How can parents be engaged in gaining knowledge and skills in the area of critical media literacy?
  • Does the teaching of critical media literacy skills to pre-teens increase their ability to consume and respond to messages in media texts?

Niagara community parents enrolled in the study will initially attend a series of workshops designed to build their awareness of, and knowledge about, critical media literacy while providing them with access to devices and resources.

Diane Collier

Brock Education Associate Professor Diane Collier

They will then learn how to engage their pre-teen children in critically analyzing media texts. Parents, children and the researchers will develop modules to evaluate the information and messaging in texts that appear on-screen.

As part of the study, Nelson Education is contributing its Edwin software, delivered on Chromebooks, for 40 parents and their 40 pre-teens. Nelson is an education and technology company offering products and services for educators and learners of all ages. Edwin, the company’s digital learning ecosystem, provides a rich library of digital and multimedia texts.

“This study is a natural fit for the Edwin team here at Nelson,” says Adam Rennie, Director, Edwin Classroom Experience. “Teachers and students across the country have loved our digital citizenship module as a way to introduce the concepts of digital footprint, privacy, security and media literacy.

“This is an area of education that transcends the walls of a classroom. It’s something that students, teachers, and parents can learn together,” says Rennie. “It is also an area that is rapidly changing. This project will help inform what kinds of supports students and parents need most, so we can help them thrive in an ever-changing digital landscape.”

The research will also identify barriers — diversity, language, culture, various points of view — that affect the teaching and learning of critical media literacy. Researchers and parents can then come up with strategies to overcome those barriers.

Research results from the collaboration are expected to contribute to creating future programs that will help parents to understand, and teach their children, media literacy skills.

Past research has shown that parents’ digital literacy skills can directly affect their children’s skills level that will lead them to become responsible digital consumers, and that parents need to monitor their children’s online learning and activities.

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