Using Digital & Media Literacy to Make Decisions

How can we use media literacy education to help students make positive decisions? We already know that incorporating digital and media literacy into our classrooms is vital. Before understanding how this is possible, one must have basic understanding of nudge theory. It is the claim that the use of positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions can positively influence the way people makes decisions. Nudge theory “proposes that that the designing of choices should be based on how people actually think and decide (instinctively and rather irrationally), rather than how leaders and authorities traditionally (and typically incorrectly) believe people think and decide” (Business Balls, 2013). Media literacy educators teach and encourage habits of mind, which can help to encourage these positive decisions.

In the above video, Dr. Joe Arvai discusses how to make better decisions. He notes that we don’t often see values when we make decisions, but that our decisions are like mirrors that reflect our values. When people are asked to pause and reflect prior to making a decision, the process often aligns better with values. By its very nature, digital and media literacy education teaches students to do just this. The analysis, reflection and creating that is inherent in DML education “is an example of a decision making tool that elucidates basic (and unending) steps that help individuals make choices- and whether one decides to act or not, one sees how a choice is made” (Center for Media Literacy, p. 10, 2015).

For example, using NAMLE’s Key Questions in the classroom when analyzing media messages is one way that nudge theory and DML education intersect. These questions relating to authorship, format, audience, content and purpose “allow students to gain a deeper or more sophisticated understanding of media messages” (Schiebe & Rogow, p. 37, 2012). The habits of mind encouraged through lessons such as these give students the opportunity to question, gain feedback and see the relevance of media to their daily lives and in turn to make decisions that align with their values.

Another interesting way to get students to stop and reflect before making decisions is to use optical illusions to show them that the brain does not always see what is right in front of it. In the example below, most students will read this sentence as “A bird in the hand” neglecting to see the second “the” in the last line.

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Ask students what they see in the image below and inevitably some will answer rabbit and some will answer duck. This image can be used to illustrate that core concept that some people experience the same media differently.

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Do you believe it is ethical to use nudge theory and digital and media literacy education to help students make decisions? How would you incorporate this in your classroom?



Center for Media Literacy. (2015). Heuristics, nudge theory and the internet of things. Connections, 73, 2-8.

Scheibe, C., & Rogow, F. (2012). The teacher’s guide to media literacy: critical thinking in a multimedia world. Corwin: Thousand Oaks, CA.

TEDx Talks. (2014, 8 December). How to make better decisions. [Video file]. Retrieved from



Social Media in the Classroom

This year, during my first year teaching fifth grade, I was shocked to learn that many of my ten year old students were using social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. Initially, I was concerned. I felt like they were too young to be using them- let alone using them safely. However, I quickly realized that there was no end to this trend in sight. The presence of social media is here to stay. As educators, we need to work to ensure that the classroom is a place that “mirrors the online lives of the students so that the students will not be distracted from educational goals” (Levinson, p. 2, 2009). So, how do we make this a possibility?

In Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, Frank Baker states that one of the benefits of media literacy education is that students can express or create their own messages through the use of different media tools. While some may balk at the idea, social media is a wonderful avenue to allow students to do this. Often teachers and parents are working to keep students off of these sites. However, by incorporating the use of social media in the classroom teachers can increase motivation and create learning experiences that students will find authentic.

There has been a plethora of research on the negative impact of social media on students, but not much on the positive effects. The Center for Media Literacy discusses the positives in their newsletter Connections, stating that “children can learn prosocial behavior from prosocial content and that effects are strongest when the behavior that is modeled is salient, clearly portrayed and can be easily incorporated into a child’s everyday interactions” (p. 3, 2013). Because students are already using social media, it’s the perfect avenue to use for moral development, empowerment and authentic learning experiences

In the video To Tweet or Not to Tweet, Marc-Andre Lalande describes the benefits of using Twitter in an educational setting. One of the things he mentions is that students could tweet questions and comments as the teacher is presenting. Students could also use Instagram to upload pictures of what is going on in the classroom to a shared account. Allowing students to create Facebook accounts representing the persona of a historical figure they are currently learning about is a great way to engage students. Additionally, they can use the accounts to interact with each other as the people may have in the past. When technology is available the possibilities are endless!

The question that remains is: How do we create a safe space in social media for students to use in the classroom? 

Here are some great resources to check out to help you incorporate the use of social media in the classroom:


Baker, F. (2012). Media literacy in the K-12 classroom. Washington DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Center for Media Literacy. (2013). Theme: Media, Morals and Empowerment. Connections, 49, 2-7.

Levinson, M. (2009). Schools and Facebook: Moving Too Fast or Not Fast Enough. Connections, 6, 2-5.


Digital & Media Literacy Responsibility

Each and every educator in a K-12 classroom is responsible for helping students develop digital and media literacy skills. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, we rarely ever rely solely on books to get information. Technology is a constant presence in almost every aspect of our lives. In order for students to be successful, they must have the ability and desire to navigate the digital world, as well as evaluate and understand media messages they encounter.

This might seem like a daunting task in an already too busy school day. However, teaching digital & media literacy skills is important because it “provides students with the tools they need to explore content in a wide range of subject areas” (Scheibe & Rogow, p. 20, 2011). So, regardless of what age, grade, subject area, etc. that you teach, you are responsible for teaching these skills to your students! While certainly easier said than done, it is possible. What challenges and issues do you foresee in integrating digital and media literacy skills into your classroom?

ipad pic

The main challenge that educators must overcome is the misconception that technology is the enemy in the classroom. Many people- both teachers and parents- may cringe at the above picture, claiming that kids these days are glued to their phones, tablets, and computers 24/7. However, we must teach children and parents alike the importance of using technology as a tool to take action, find answers and drive change.

Media Smarts recognizes that we must “Fight the perception that ‘it doesn’t matter’” (MediaSmarts, 2016). This refers to the idea that people will say, “it’s just a TV commercial” or “it’s just a song”. We must combat this idea in our classrooms so that students understand that media messages ARE important. Consumption of media messages can unconsciously influence how students think and feel about people or groups of people. Students must be media literate so they are able to analyze, understand and even create these messages.

looney tunesIt is never JUST a TV show.

A final issue that educators may face is the availability of digital resources in the classroom. In the environment where I currently teach, there is only one computer and one SmartBoard in my room. We share 30 Chromebooks among the whole school. With limited technology available in many classrooms across the nation, how do we prepare students to face our increasingly technological world? It’s important to create opportunities that allow your students to practice digital citizenship in an authentic manner. Invite students to bring their own forms of media to the classroom, and help guide them in analyzing this media. If you are just getting started with digital and media literacy skills in your classroom, here are some resources to explore to help get you started:



Baker, F. (2012). Media literacy in the k-12 classrooms. International Society for Technology Education: Washington, DC.

Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy. MediaSmarts. Retrieved from

Intel Free Press. (14 September 2010). Kids with education tablet computers [Digital image]. Retrieved from

Scheibe, C., & Rogow, F. (2012). The teacher’s guide to media literacy: critical thinking in a multimedia world. Corwin: Thousand Oaks, CA.