This week, I had the opportunity to speak with Meaghan Sabatini, media specialist for Shippensburg Middle School. She shared with me that the title of media specialist is a more modern title for a librarian. Frequently, libraries are often called media centers or library media centers since they now deal with multi-media.
Meaghan spoke with me about the importance of media literacy in the middle school setting. She said, “I think it is very important and I think it’s overlooked. We’re trying to get the students to understand the importance of it… Even though we assume they are all technology literate, they’re not.”
The Shippensburg Middle School holds grades six through eight. Teachers bring their classes to the media center for project work and Meaghan helps and teaches them to utilize the resources available.
Meaghan has noticed that students need help with evaluating websites. She mentioned, “Even if a website looks good, they don’t understand that it might not be great information. So I think it’s really important that we show them how to do the searches online, because if everything is going to be online, they have to know how to navigate it.”
For sixth grade projects, Meaghan provides students with lists of links to aid in their research for projects, to ensure they are connecting with reliable websites. For seventh grade projects, students are provided with fewer links, so they start to discover the differences between credible and non-credible sites.
For eighth grade projects, to encourage independent research skills, Meaghan provides students with information to help in evaluating websites. She has them follow the acronym REAL:
- R = Read the URL
- E = Examine the content
- A = Ask about the author and publisher
- L = Look at the links
The purpose of this exercise is not only to aid in students’ research independence but also to educate them about the reliability and credibility of websites. There is a multitude of websites filled with false information. Using REAL, students can develop analytical skills to discern which websites are appropriate for research projects.
Meaghan also mentioned a few websites to give students to further the lesson. They are websites that look “real” but most of the information is false. It is up to the student to question the information and double check sources to determine credibility. For examples, visit:
Some other skills Shippensburg middles schoolers learn include: how to use a phone book, how to read a newspaper (which have become online subscriptions), and how to understand advertisements (body image, “Say No to Drugs” campaigns, etc).