ISTE Standard for Educators 2.3.b. Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

Digital literacy has changed quite a bit since I was in school. I remember being asked to find credible sources online and being told that I should look for .org, .gov, or .edu and to always stay away from Wikipedia. Now though, I feel like my students are far more likely to look at an image or video search than try to find a credible website. I find myself doing the same thing too: I have a question about how to use a new app or why my calculator is in a different mode and I turn to videos before a website. Additionally, when I was having conversations about digital literacy it was always in the context of doing a report or solving an academic question because all of our entertainment was being sourced through at least somewhat verifiable sources like TV or Magazines. Now though, our students swipe through YouTube or TicTok, so how can we help them transition their media literacy skills to their other screen time as well?

Where’s the problem?

There have been dozens of reports of children being tricked by misleading or false information gone viral on Youtube or TicTok. Some cases are silly in nature, while others are downright deadly (Common Sense Media). Many groups and individuals are working to address the problem through policies and information from the content sources themselves (TicTok), through labeling content as “credible” as opposed to general content (YouTube), or by providing their own factual information to counter the incorrect but viral videos. All of these are wonderful, and I am grateful for the work so many are doing, however I want to be able to help my students be proactive. The biggest barrier I see my students face when they are bombarded with these viral videos is that they just don’t have enough life experiences to gut check the things they see on the screen. I want to help them develop patterns of thinking that will get them to consider what they are seeing, why it was created, and how their actions or ideas are changed.

As an aside, I am not particularly focused on the politics or health issues that have been most pervasive in the new cycles since about 2018: I have not found that my students, who are 6-12 years old, tend to spend much time on political or health videos. I am much more interested in helping them critique the crafts, cooking, science, and pranks or challenge videos they see.


LookSharp is a nonprofit in conjunction with Ithaca College that is working to improve media literacy and critical thinking in K-16 students. They have a website with hundreds of free resources such as demo videos, complete lesson plans, printable and posters, and tons of other great materials to help teachers and librarians help their students become more critical consumers. I created a free account on their site and was able to access tons of amazing materials that describe how to introduce the idea of critical thinking as a way of engaging with media online. Here is a poster that’s available for free on their website without an account, but I strongly encourage you to check the rest of the site out for yourself!

What’s my plan?

I have selected two lessons to work through with my K-2s and three lessons to work through with my 3-5s next year. I also plan on having the students write out 3 key questions they will ask themselves when they are watching videos for entertainment at home or at school. I will send these questions home to their families as well. Finally, I hope to work with my librarian and maybe a middle or high school English class on creating a family night at the library where we talk about credible sources and media literacy. I could see using some of these materials and demo videos as part of a game show type activity where families can play together.

One Reply to “Look Closer”

  1. Great post Samantha – and I really appreciated the information you provided on LookSmart. Never heard of it before, but very informative and very clear.

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