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Working with and learning from two very established organisations, Newseum and PBS.

Citizenship Teacher Sera Shortland reporting on day two of the Media Literacy Educators' Exchange Programme, working with and learning from two very established organisations, Newseum and PBS. 

The goal of the Newseum, which is located in Washington, D.C., is to increase public awareness of the importance of a free press and the US First Amendment and is an interactive museum that has live exhibits and a range of education resources and support. Teachers can sign up for virtual classes or browse through their extensive collection of material which includes lesson plans, digital artefacts and over 2,000 newspapers front pages in the section ‘Today’s front pages’. We participated in two workshops that were delivered by teachers Kim and Adam who delivered sessions on fighting fake news and teaching controversy. Through many activities we explored the complex digital citizenship landscape and just how important it is for young people to be equipped with skills to critically evaluate media sources so that they can navigate social media platforms more successfully and be the ones controlling the content and messages. 

Young people are engaging with media content daily and as such are engaging with society, if they understand how to decode messages and analyse the content they are looking at, questioning who has created the information and for what purpose,   they can participate with much more knowledge. The need for teachers to understand this area becomes even more urgent when considering that Fake News is spread 6x quicker than ‘real news’. Young people will always be exposed to misinformation, disinformation and online content that could potentially cause harm; it is not enough to simply teach about online safety and awareness, we must create a sense of urgency about teaching Media Literacy, so that they are fully equipped to the ever changing digital landscapes they participate in.


1. Fake or Real?  Engaging with some of the excellent teaching resources available from the Newseum training session
2. The first workshop, which is also available ‘virtually’ to UK teachers.

I got to fulfil a 15 year dream of visiting the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) headquarters, whose website I often find myself on, searching frantically for interesting topical news stories that can form the basis of a debate or a more dynamic lesson format for my students. My over-excited face below captures the moment perfectly. PBS is the most prominent educational television provider in the United States and for the last 15 years has been rated at the most trusted institution in America.  We visited the PBS NewsHour station and watched a live broadcast, Kristen Clarke, a Lawyer for a national civil rights organisation, was being interviewed about the ways in which hate groups use social media, this was not only relevant to our current learning but again demonstrated a need for us to take action in terms of teaching critical media literacy skills. 

Learning from extraordinary and passionate people who are committed to the highest journalistic standards and reporting on important social justice issues was a real honour for me, made even more special by meeting and discussing challenges that educators face with two other teachers from Washington. We quickly found that we had very similar concerns from our education systems whether in the US or UK. We talked at length about how much further ahead classroom practice is from policy, but that much more was needed to be done in terms of curriculum time and resourcing.  Our visit concluded with workshop from Victoria Pasquantonio at NewsHour Extra. Victoria is an excellent ambassador for PBS and guided us through some educational activities that she and her team have been working on under the umbrella of PBS Learning Media. For example, Student Reporting Labs have a curriculum online that is a project based learning programme to support young people to report on issues in their community. Young people taking charge of the information that is put out there! That is Citizenship education at its finest!

1. Excited Sera Shortland with teachers and hosts from PBS
2. ACT teachers from the UK exchange Programme and US teachers sharing experiences with PBS
3. Victoria Pasquantonio at NewsHour Extra

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