News and Social Media Literacy Pilot at Buzz

News and Social Media Literacy Pilot at Buzz
Posted on 01/31/2020
The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) in partnership with the Montclair School District recently launched a News and Social Media Literacy Pilot Program to introduce students in middle and high school to the concepts of misinformation and disinformation.  

Tweens and teenagers are inundated with news and social media on their phones, and they have a very short window of time to determine what is fact or fiction.

The News and Social Media Pilot Program teaches students to identify reliable sources and the hallmarks of quality journalism.

Approximately 85 seventh grade students at Buzz Aldrin Middle School participated in the first two-week trial in November and December. Approximately 85 eighth grade students at Buzz Aldrin Middle School will take part in the second trial group in February. The last two trials will be organized at Montclair High School.  

The curriculum for the program was developed and is being taught by Theresa Giarrusso, a journalist with 26 years of experience writing, editing and working with students across the country. Giarrusso taught digital media at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Her company, Who Says Media, is dedicated to instructing students, teachers and senior citizens to use the tools and techniques of journalists to discern real news from disinformation.  

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“Kids have the digital skills but they don’t have the context and understanding. They are already swimming in the digital world, hit by news media and online messaging all the time. We need to give them the valuable tools to understand it and not just navigate it to make smarter choices, but understand the massive amounts of information that is being thrown at them in order to be competent in that world,” said MFEE Executive Director Masiel Rodriguez-Vars. “The way in which Giarusso has developed the curriculum is very thorough and gives students the opportunity to look at print media and newspapers as well to understand that world. It gives them some real vocabulary that they should be looking for when digesting online news. These are critical, hands-on tools help them navigate in real time, how to check the authenticity of everything from news to images to memes.”

Currently there are bills before the New Jersey House and Senate requiring information literacy. After valuating this pilot initiative, MFEE looks forward to having the Montclair School District implement the curriculum broadly.

View the presentation to the Board of Education on the pilot program.

Read the Montclair Local’s article.
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