Spikes Discusses Illinois New Media Literacy Bill

Spikes Discusses Illinois New Media Literacy Bill

Mike spikes standing at a podium with a screen behind himLearning sciences graduate student Michael Spikes is an expert on media literacy.

Northwestern University's Michael Spikes stressed the importance of teaching media literacy in light of a new bill that would require Illinois high schools to incorporate media literacy education into existing curricula that targets understanding and evaluating news and social media.

“A really good media literacy class should not be indoctrination,” Spikes told Sasha-Ann Simons on the WBEZ program Reset. “That’s the furthest thing from what this is meant to be. Instead, we want to encourage students to ask smart questions. When they hear new pieces of information they should think, “How do I know what I know? How does this person know what they are saying?”

Spikes, a learning sciences graduate student at the School of Education and Social Policy and an advanced fellow with Northwestern’s Cognitive Science Program, 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.

Media literacy involves learning how to build critical thinking skills related to consuming and creating media. The so-called digital natives who have grown up with devices have technical skills, “but that doesn't always know mean that they know how to interpret what it is that they're seeing,” Spikes said.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, passed HB 2170, which mandates computer literacy pedagogy in elementary and high school. The proposed legislation requires Illinois high schools to teach students how to decipher and evaluate news and social media as part of that pedagogy which may be incorporated into existing core subjects, such as English, or social studies. According to the bill, students would learn how to access information across various platforms; analyze and evaluate media messages; create their own media messages; and social responsibility and civics.

Spikes stressed that an ongoing curriculum, one that is built over time and practiced, is more important than a one-off class. “It’s not just a one and done sort of thing,” he said. “It's something that we want to encourage students and teachers to use over time.”

He also acknowledged the importance of also training teachers, and the delicate balance the classes will require. “We want to encourage students to have a healthy dose of skepticism towards new pieces of information,” he said. “But what we don't want to do is turn them into cynics who say, ‘Well, you can't trust anything.”

HB0234 has passed in the senate and should be headed to the governor for signature soon. Spikes is working with colleagues and a legislative aide to Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) on crafting a set of standards and a curriculum guide on teaching media literacy to teachers over the summer.

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. 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.

Spikes, who is advised by David Rapp, Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Excellence in learning sciences and psychology, is 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.

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" is researching the specific cues that experts in news literacy use to assess whether a news story is reliable.

In addition to Reset, Spikes was interviewed by Steve Bertrand on the WGN radio program, Chicago’s Afternoon News.





By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 6/20/21