ABERDEEN, S.D. – In an age where information can spread around the world in the blink of an eye – or with one tap on a screen – it’s crucial to have the skills to evaluate the information we receive.
Two Northern State University librarians are here to help.
Kristin Echtenkamp and Lynn Klundt, both reference and instruction librarians at Beulah Williams Library, are serving as South Dakota Humanities Council scholars this year in the area of media literacy. They’ve presented the topic to NSU students and library associations, and will soon present at the South Dakota State Library Boot Camp.
For Echtenkamp and Klundt, media literacy is a crucial issue for everyone, including students.
“It makes them better information consumers,” Klundt said. “It also makes them better employees once they graduate – better able to research for their companies if they need to.”
Echtenkamp said one of the key components of information literacy is being an ethical consumer of information.
“That’s really important when we talk about Democracy,” she said. “It’s important that we have informed citizens who can evaluate information and find good information.”
Presenting to Students, Peers
Echtenkamp and Klundt have always taught information evaluation skills, but in the past it was geared more toward academics, such as finding journal articles. But after the fall 2016 election when the issue of “fake news” rose to the national forefront, the librarians started discussing how to incorporate media literacy into their classes.
They began teaching these courses on campus in spring 2017, offering more of a real-world application that deals with topics such as social media and Internet searches. Though some students have been uncomfortable when they’ve discussed how political parties can use fake news to push an agenda, overall they are more engaged than during more academic topics.
Echtenkamp and Klundt have presented off campus as well, including at the South Dakota Library Association conference and the Mountain Plains Library Association Conference last fall. Now on July 24, they will present for K-12 school librarians at the State Library’s boot camp in Pierre.
“We’re excited to talk to them about what they’re doing to help prepare the college students we see,” Echtenkamp said.
When presenting about media literacy, Echtenkamp and Klundt start by talking about the history of misinformation, which they’ve discovered has been around a long time.
“A lot of times they used it to make people want to go to war,” she said.
For example, the Founding Fathers would create fake news to make people want to revolt.
They talk about the different types of misinformation, including fake news, bias and satire. Then they discuss why it’s so much more of a problem now.
“Specifically, social media, the way people can share information, creates news that can travel so fast that the false information is shared around the world before the truth can be found,” Echtenkamp said.
They also discuss social media bots and the problems they create, as well as confirmation bias and how our brains affect the way we perceive information. Then they typically do hands-on activities, including viewing a website to determine its credibility.
Available for Presentations
As South Dakota Humanities Council scholars, Echtenkamp and Klundt are also part of a speakers bureau and are available for presentations. This fall, they hope to host a forum on campus to discuss how people find information in rural South Dakota. The event – planned to correlate with this year’s One Book South Dakota, “Informing the News” – might include newspaper publishers, online content creators and community members.
Both librarians stressed that they are more than willing to discuss the topic of media literacy with anyone – be it a professor, a group on campus or public organization.
“We truly are passionate about the subject,” Echtenkamp said. “We really do feel a calling.”
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.
Pictured: Klundt (left), and Echtenkamp