Teaching discernment of information and media in times of crisis

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Technology literacy is based on the concept of discernment: the process of evaluating technologies, data and information to ensure that what and how we learn with technologies is accurate, appropriate, and supportive of learning.  This resource is appropriate for use with 14–19-year-old learners.

Discernment of technologies, data and information also supports effective teaching and leading in any school context. In times of crisis, understanding how to discern what is true or supportive of learning, teaching and leading is critical. It can be challenging to discern and analyze information when learning through or about a crisis. There are times when information shared is actively disseminated from false or biased perspectives to support certain positions over others.

Media and information literacy are both key to proper discernment. These literacies fall under multiliteracies that encourage learning, teaching, leading and librarianship. There are many approaches to teaching and promoting media and information literacy, but schools can choose approaches that are:

  • Inclusive of multiple perspectives as much as possible.
  • Derived from verified, corroborated, trusted sources
  • Shared widely across the school community to create common understandings or to identify differences in perspective and opinion on the crisis at hand.

Schools can use less trusted sources as examples to teach about disinformation, fake news and similar strategies used in media to help discern what they see, hear, and discuss.

The following chart with guiding questions can help schools think about how to use discernment when designing learning and teaching through or about a crisis:

Through a crisis

About a crisis


Are there circumstances and infrastructure to support learning and teaching through the crisis? How are the people going through the crisis getting resources and support to continue learning?     
Is the safety and well-being of the school community endangered by seeking information?  Are there members of the school community who are directly affected by the crisis, and how are they receiving information about it?  Has learners’ well-being been considered in a plan to address the crisis? How is the entire school community supporting them?    
Are there competing sources of information disseminated across the community? Are any sources restricted or limited?     What ranges of sources and information are available for the school community to understand more about the crisis?     How much does the school community know about the region, people or events affected by the crisis?   
    Is there data and information available, and does it help the community to understand the crisis and how to take action?   
Is there a functioning library system or working librarian who can support learning?   How has the library system or librarian been involved in teaching about the crisis?      

Once a school has determined how to proceed with learning, teaching and leading through or about a crisis, several resources from the IB and in the wider education community can help.