PG Blog Header Developing Students' Media Literacy Skills while Encouraging Intellectual Curiosity

Developing Students’ Media Literacy Skills while Encouraging Intellectual Curiosity

August 25, 2022


By  Dr. Amanda Sullivan and Dr. Amanda Strawhacker


Children naturally ask questions about the world around them and have an innate sense of intellectual curiosity about why things happen and how things work. By fostering children’s intellectual curiosity, we are supporting their joy of discovery –  a key component in raising lifelong learners. If you missed our previous blog posts in this series, check them out to learn how curiosity is linked to K-12 academic achievement in areas like critical thinking and science engagement. In this post, we explore media literacy, and how curiosity connects with this 21st century skill set. It may be no surprise that media literacy–the ability to access, interpret, and create ideas using various media forms–is also closely associated with intellectual curiosity. Whether the media is books, newspapers, movies, television shows, or websites, they all provide children with a way to answer the questions they are individually curious about. In a previous blog post, we discussed all the ways that curiosity goes hand-in-hand with reading skills and early literacy development. We can think of digital and media literacy as an expanded conceptualization of traditional literacy. Therefore, developing media literacy skills can help to support intellectual curiosity the same way reading and writing does. 


Supporting Curiosity and Media Literacy

The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) defines media literacy as, "the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, CREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication," and says it, "empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators, and active citizens." The association further explains that media literate students are, “able to decode and comprehend texts, which allows them to analyze and evaluate texts for credibility, point of view, values, and varying interpretation.” 

Girl reading iPadGirl reading iPad

In short, being media literate is all about having the curiosity to look beyond face value when interacting with media. It means using critical thinking skills to deeply engage with the media and ask questions… two key elements of intellectual curiosity! Intellectual curiosity involves sifting through a variety of information sources to explore big “why” questions. This means that understanding and interpreting the information source can be just as important as understanding the information itself. For example, early exposure to books and libraries can help children learn the difference between what we might learn from a comic book vs an encyclopedia text. What are ways we can help children grow their media literacy and critical thinking skills through curiosity? 


Tips for Supporting Media Literacy and Encouraging Curiosity 

There are many ways that educators and caregivers can support students’ media literacy education, as well as foster their curiosity. Here are some simple ways that educators can get started:  


Support question-asking

Intellectual curiosity, at its heart, is about asking questions. As children get older, they ask fewer and fewer questions and are instead focused on finding “the right” answers. This may stifle a child’s natural curiosity while also limiting a child’s capacity to practice media literacy. Instead of focusing on using media sources simply to find “the right” answers, educators can encourage them to be curious enough to ask the right questions as they engage with the media! Common Sense Media, for example, suggests that children always ask 5 essential questions about any media they are engaging with: 1) Who created this message? 2) What techniques are used to attract my attention? 3) How might different people interpret this message? 4) Which lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented -- or missing? and 5) Why is this message being sent?


Understanding fact versus opinion

One of the first things young children need to discover to be media literate is the difference between fact and opinion. Many younger children have prior knowledge about a subject they are interested in that may not be 100% accurate.  Educators can guide these children towards finding credible sources to back up their beliefs using online content hubs like PebbleGo. With PebbleGo, for example, teachers can provide young children with a safe place to search through credible sources including pictures, videos, and articles on a variety of topics. 


Encourage critical evaluation of media

Today, anyone–including kids–can create and share media. This wonderful benefit of 21st century technology also comes with new challenges for media consumers, who need to learn who created the media, how, and why. Help children learn to recognize trustworthy and reputable sources by checking publication dates, authorship, and links to more information. Avoid getting distracted by new and fancy looking website interfaces, which don’t speak to the quality of information presented. Finally, avoid making blanket statements that no media can be trusted. With the right tools and questions, kids can be empowered to seek information through a critical lens.


Using PebbleGo to Support Curious and Media Literate Students 

Children need access to articles, videos, and more in order to hone their media literacy skills. This is where tools like PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next come in handy! PebbleGo is a safe and easy to navigate curricular content hub specifically designed for K-2 students. It is packed with informational articles, games, video content, and more. PebbleGo offers educators a way to encourage children to ask questions, and then satisfy their intellectual curiosity by researching facts about any topic they are curious about - from whales to presidents! At the same time, educators can support children’s media literacy skills by asking them to think deeply about the content they are reading and watching on PebbleGo, and encouraging them to ask the five essential media literacy questions posed by Common Sense Media. 

Boy in wheelchair with iPadBoy in wheelchair with iPad

After grade 2, students move on to PebbleGo Next which provides a natural next step for 3rd-5th grade students. PebbleGo Next includes articles that are aligned to state and national standards with a familiar, yet age-appropriate, experience and interface. As students get older and more familiar with asking questions and researching answers, educators can encourage them to compare facts uncovered on PebbleGo Next with other media sources, such as other websites, books, or newspaper articles. Students can compare their findings - and their individual interpretation of findings- with their peers as well! 


More Resources

Want to learn more about supporting media literacy and curiosity? Check out the following helpful resources:


Did you know this is the sixth post in a series on intellectual curiosity? If you missed one of our past blog posts check them out for more resources and tips:


Curious to learn more? Let us know what you want to see on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using @CapstonePub and #PebbleGo and  #PGCuriosity. Be sure to tag the authors of this blog post too!

Dr. Amanda Sullivan - Twitter @AASully, Instragram: @keikisullivan

Dr. Amanda Strawhacker - Twitter @ALStrawhacker, Instagram: @ALStrawhacker

Together: Twitter @theDrsAmanda