Spikes Helps Craft Adult Media Literacy Guide

Spikes Helps Craft Adult Media Literacy Guide

Illustration of two paths; facts. vs. mythsMichael Spikes, a Northwestern University doctoral student, served as a national advisor for the American Library Association’s new initiative to help library staffers respond to misinformation and other media literacy issues.

As technology has fueled the spread of unfiltered information, the need to help build critical thinking skills around news literacy has become increasingly important. In response, the American Library Association created a suite of free library resources and training materials for its workers, including a digital guide and related webinar series.

The tools are designed to help library employees–especially those on the reference desk– answer questions from the public about false or misleading news and explain concepts such as filter bubbles, confirmation bias, and news deserts.

The 30-page guide “Media Literacy in the Library: A Guide for Library Practitioners” also contains information, program ideas and conversation starters on topics like the architecture of the internet; civics; media landscape and economics; and media creation and engagement. It explores ways to “meet patrons where they are” by integrating media literacy into reference interactions and existing programs.

Spikes, a doctoral student in the School of Education and Social Policy's Learning Sciences program, authored a section on the economics of the current media landscape.Michael Spikes at a podium

He also helped write and edit a strategic report developed in conjunction with the practitioners’ guide and will host a webinar in April on differentiating between types of online media and building techniques to discern whether information is trustworthy.

“Always keep in mind the intended purpose of the media you’re consuming,” he wrote. “Your reasons for consuming it, and the meanings you take from it, may or may not match that of its creators.” 

Spikes has teaching, writing about, and developing curriculum around news literacy and its production for more than 15 years, Before coming to Northwestern, he worked in news media and information literacy with the Center for News Literacy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Chicago-area school districts, libraries around the US, and colleges and universities around the globe to develop, train, and produce curricular tools and facilitate research.

He also was the primary architect of Chicago-Area Teacher Training Programs for the Center for News Literacy during its work with the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition.

Spikes is currently a producer for the Kellogg Insight podcast at Northwestern. He also works as a speaker and practitioner in the field as an independent consultant on news media literacy education through MAS Media Consulting LLC.

In 2017, Spikes partnered with the American Library Association on the prototype Media Literacy @ your library project by training a cohort of library workers from around the country on media literacy issues.

Earlier this year, he received a Northwestern University Cognitive Science Advanced Fellowship to study and help others learn how to determine the credibility of a news story.

His interdisciplinary project, "Using Cognitive Apprenticeship as a Model for Improved News Literacy" will research the specific cues that experts in news literacy use to assess whether a news story is reliable.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 12/18/20