4 Games to Boost Media Literacy Skills

Critical thinking, healthy skepticism, fact-checking; in today’s information age, these three are more important than ever. On a daily basis, students are bombarded with information from multiple platforms that they must wade through, analyze and interpret, to make the most informed decisions on the authenticity and relevance. 

Media Literacy, according to NAMLE, is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication that are interdisciplinary by nature. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us. 

I am an advocate for the teaching of these skills in classrooms across the country. In fact, just last week I was speaking at a conference in Connecticut, and after my talk on Developing Healthy Skeptics, a  professor approached me and told me that starting this year, media literacy was going to be a part of all Teacher Education programs at his university. We are making progress!

From websites to extensions to games, there are many ways to talk about and use media literacy in the classroom. From single lessons, to longer units, I typically start off with a game that provides a launch into the inquiry. I have found that games in the classroom provide rich simulations in which students learn content and hone skills. In the case of teaching Media Literacy, this is no different. These games focus on the consumption of digital information and place students in a variety of situations to evaluate epic headlines, analyze misinformation, or even use strategies to gain influence and followers just as an online troll would do.   

4 Games to Get Students Thinking Critically:

Factitious – Factitious, developed by the American University Game Lab and the JoLT Program, is a viral hit! Released in 2017, this Tinder-like game asks users to swipe left or right based on if the article is real or not. In its most recent updates, Factitious now has 6 game levels and 3 different reading levels making it accessible for a huge age range. Plus, it’s super fun! 

Get Bad News – Get Bad News has users take on the persona of a fake-news tycoon trying to make a social impact by spreading disinformation while trying to get more followers. This online game developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Dutch media group Drog, tasks players through six different tactics in an effort to understand this propaganda and fake news while actually creating and sharing it. As you advance through the game, users earn badges and increase their fake-news radar by walking in the offenders’ shoes. 

Cast your Vote – A recent update and release of Cast Your Vote, by iCivics is perfect for the upcoming election. Users discover what it takes to become an informed voter–from knowing where you stand on important issues to uncovering what you need to know about candidates. This new version offers ELL supports and educator guides and questions to deepen the learning! It’s a perfect way to help students identify issues that are important to them and evaluate candidates based on their qualifications, experience, voting record, endorsements, and messaging.

Troll Factory – Troll Factory, my most recent discovery, does come with a warning. Because of the authentic content and sensitive material, it is not appropriate for all students. With that being said, the insights and explanations at the end of the game are fantastic.  When placed in the right learning context, I could see this game as being useful for upper-grades and college-aged students. Troll Factory shows users how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their anti-democracy propaganda. Created by Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle’s News Lab, this game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence on social media through fear, bias, and propaganda.  

There are many more resources, tools, and games popping up as the need for media literacy increases. From chrome extensions to URL validation websites, using multiple resources to support student discernment of digital discourse should be a priority in every classroom. It is only through an ongoing effort by all teachers that we can best equip students for a life filled with digital information and the critical thinking skills necessary for life. 

Media Literacy Week: Teach Students How to Avoid Being Used by Social Media

Nothing pains me more than seeing my own children or other young people being duped by the information they see online or when a post on their social media account has the potential to adversely impact their immediate or future lives. 

We have all seen examples of students losing scholarships, or young adults getting passed over for a job because of something they posted online or from long ago. Most recently, a story from my home state erupted when a 24-year-old’s viral sign resulted in an avalanche of monetary donations, a beer company, a children’s hospital, and tweets he sent at the age of 16 were dug up by a local reporter and spiraled out of control. 

Teaching students and educators about media literacy have been passions of mine for many years, and while I do not expect all educators to have social media accounts that they use frequently, the absence of this critical conversation and the teaching of the skills needed to navigate the digital sea has dire effects on our students. As Media Literacy Week approaches, I ask you

How are we teaching students to avoid being USED by social media, and instead USE social media to benefit themselves and others? 

Shaelynn Farnsworth

Because of this question that drives many of the talks I give, and to celebrate the upcoming #MediaLiteracyWeek, I have created templates for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that you can use in the classroom in a myriad of ways. Here are some of my quick thoughts:

  • Consume and create social media posts. Analyze message, bias, authenticity and then have students respond in the same mode through questions, evidence, and arguments. 
  • Exit or Entrance Tickets over conceptual or topical learning during the week. Important takeaways to share. 
  • Create social media posts in the voice or lens of an author, politician, character, advocate, or historical figure.
  • Promote positivity and share for good! Create and share positive messages about the school, community, today’s youth, etc. to flood the internet with a different kind of message. 
  • Model and practice how to approach bias online, how to advocate for self, how to discern information with a critical eye and respond thoughtfully with messages they disagree with.
  • Model and practice how to deal with bullying, trolls, and bots online. 

The possibilities are endless! And I would love to hear your ideas as well, so drop them in the comments below.

The templates are editable for you to customize based on intent, objective, and audience. And if you share examples on Twitter, be sure to tag me in them, I would love to see what you created! @shfarnsworth