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Journalism Receives $285,000 MacArthur Foundation Grant

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journalismThe John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded a $285,000 grant to the School of Journalism’s Center for News Literacy to fund the creation and delivery of digital materials demanded by the rapid spread of news literacy courses.

“This is the rocket fuel we need to launch Stony Brook’s web-based news literacy education system in 2013,” said School of Journalism Dean Howard Schneider, “so that students can learn to separate legitimate news and information from propaganda, spin and uninformed assertion masquerading as fact.”

Under the grant, the Stony Brook Center will create timely video and interactive examples, “ripped from the headlines” that can be used by a growing number of university and high school instructors each week. The grant will also allow the Center to complete a searchable database of curriculum materials, lesson plans and archival material to make it easier for teachers seeking to adopt the course. More than two dozen campuses and dozens of high schools are currently teaching a version of the course first created at Stony Brook.

The MacArthur grant is the second major grant awarded to the Center in the past six months. In 2011 the McCormick Foundation awarded the Center $315,000 to accelerate the spread of news literacy teaching with digital services and materials, online teacher training and a variety of other approaches.

The projects funded by this grant arose from the second national News Literacy Conference, held at Stony Brook in March 2011. They include:

· Design/build/test digital infrastructure for national online News Literacy Teachers Resource Center.

· Curate existing materials, test new search system and begin to gather and curate new materials, emphasizing the location of best teaching examples from current events.

· Create new content weekly, by hiring a professional writer/educator to build curated examples into a weekly current events-driven news literacy lessons, classroom exercises and homework, including interactive games that use current events to engage students in civic practice.

· Build an advisory panel of classroom teachers to test and revise materials and methods and support colleagues in launching new courses.

· Create video tutorials on a battery of key concepts, targeting self-directed learners.

Some 29 colleges and universities across the country have adopted all or part of the Stony Brook model, a course aimed at teaching students how best to find reliable information for their lives as citizens. During the same time period, three dozen high schools have added the Stony Brook model as a stand-alone course or significant unit within an existing course. This fall Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Council approved a proposal to offer news literacy as a for-college-credit “ACE” course and two Long Island high schools have launched courses. Another is proposed for fall 2012.

“We have taken an open-source approach, sharing every element of the Stony Brook model, from syllabus to Blackboard™ documents at no cost,” said Dean Miller, Director of the Center for News Literacy. “The rapid spread of the course in four years demonstrates the effectiveness of that approach and now the MacArthur Foundation is giving us tools to keep up with the growing demand. They share our aspiration: News literacy courses in all 50 states by 2017 and a slew of new digital tools that make it possible to teach these essential skills for citizenship in the information age.”

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