I recently had the privilege of participating in Vicki Davis’s show, 10 minute teacher. We talked about teaching students new Media Literacy skills in the era of “Fake News.”
America just completed an especially volatile and polarizing Presidential election. This was the first major election where both sides waged war not simply using traditional means (pounding the pavement, call centers, and mailers), but using online digital tools. On Facebook and Twitter, stories were shared, hashtags were created, and mud-slinging took on new levels. New research from PEW suggests that most American adults now consume news via Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit being the most popular). Television news (both local and national) is still the most prominent source of news, but it is quickly giving way to the internet of things.
This in and of itself is not inherently bad. I have given up my print subscription to various news and magazines sites in favor of their digital platforms. This fits with my desire to have the most up to date news, travel-friendly options, and to keep a lower eco footprint. However, what has sprung up and been the topic of much debate is the prevalence of fake news, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook.
The Guardian and Buzzfeed News have both posted investigative articles highlighting the proliferation of fake news websites and stories targeting America’s vitriolic Presidential election. The motives are less about changing political minds and more about cashing in on the election’s most passionate members. Clickbait headlines titled: “Hilary in 2013: I would like to see people like Donald Trump run for office; They’re honest and can’t be bought!” or “Mike Pence says Michelle Obama is the most vulgar first lady we’ve ever had!” These are fairly mild titles, others claim to reveal sex tapes of candidates (or their spouses), calls for a race war, or endorsements from the Pope.
These news sites set up pages on Facebook and encourage their users to share, share, share! The more shares and clicks, the more revenue these sites see from tools such as Google’s adsense. While Facebook, Google, and other organizations are working on ways to combat fake news, the process will be slow and users should not rely on these media to serve as filters for them. Instead, educators should focus even more on teaching themselves and their students to be more digitally literate and savvy. There are a few tools that are in your arsenal to use right away.
Is the Story & Headline Over the Top?
No matter how much you dislike (or even despise) your political opponent, you should immediately be suspicious of a headline that reeks of sensationalism. Claims that an arrest is pending, signs of devil worship, calls for genocide, or other topics that just sound outrageous, go into the story with a cautious attitude.
Is the Story from a Legitimate News Source?
If you are reading a shared story, be sure to check the source. In this day of news clamoring for clicks and ratings, it’s not unusual for them to use sensational headlines to get readers. However, check for the author and publisher. Established news sources (The New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, your local paper, etc) have systems in place to confirm sources and vet information. If you have never heard of the news organization publishing the article or they do not have an author listed, be suspicious.
Read the Article
This may seem a little obvious, but a lot of people share headlines rather than stories. Read the story yourself and see if it matches the headline. I recently read a story
entitled “President of Mexico contacts President-Elect Trump to Discuss Details of the Wall.” However, when you read the story, it simply said that the President of Mexico had contacted President-elect Trump to congratulate him on his win (a common practice by all foreign governments). Reading an article may also make it clear that the news information is suspect. If it contains a lot of typos and grammatical errors, that is a red flag. Legitimate news sources proofread and edit all articles prior to publication. While a typo or two make sneak through, it’s a rarity.
Check the Source Information
If the article claims that Wikileaks, public statements, tax documents, or other information “reveals” information, they should be linking or providing copies of that information. I have seen New York Times articles on the Clinton email scandal directly link back to the Wikileaks information dump. If the article contains no evidence or sources to back it up, assume the information is false.
Look for other Verifying Sources
While one news source may trump another on a story, they all will get to it eventually. If you read a story, confirm it with another source. If you see a sensational topic being covered by one outlet only, the information is suspect. The issue of media-bias is often cited as the reason one news outlet covers a story. However, there are numerous left and right leaning legitimate news organizations. No single outlet is the purveyor of the truth. Follow the journalistic mandate of “at least two independent, reliable sources.”
Perhaps the best way to avoid getting tricked by false news stories on social media is to keep yourself well informed by reading, watching, and listening to a variety of news outlets. The more informed you are of the current trends and cycles in the news, the more likely you are to immediately smell out a false story.
Common Sense Media has just announced that it’s Digital Citizenship textbooks are currently free via iBooks until September 30, 2016. After September 30th, the iBooks will go to $8.99 per device for the teacher edition and $1.99 per device for the student workbooks.
You can download the books via the iTunes store here.
PEW Research has released a comprehensive report on how teens engage with technology in the world around them. The information is a view into the private lives of “networked teens.”
The topics they tackle are online engagement, cyberbullying, teen romantic relationships, their relationship with parents, and more. Most of the information should come as a relief to parents and educators. For example, in spite of hyped cyber-bullying reports in the news, 69% of teens believe that people are “mostly kind” when they engage online. Also, when it comes to Romance, teens still prefer to engage with those they know in real life; retaining a healthy skepticism towards individuals they meet online. Social Media, however, does seem to be a forum for flirtatious exchanges. And breaking up? Doing it in person is still the most socially acceptable method.
You can read the comprehensive report and data at PEW Research: Teens & Technology.
As Digital Citizenship & Literacy becomes more important in schools, it’s necessary for educators to become more familiar with the current best practices, legal requirements, and lesson plans. iTunes U (one of my favorite tools) offers a number of books, resources, and free digital classes to help you become more informed and to craft effective lesson plans and strategies to share in the classroom.
Resources include a variety of books from Common Sense Media, courses from Saint Ignatius High School and University of Britain, as well as in class apps and tools. You can find the whole list of resources here
This year, I had the privilege of collaborating with other professionals in my field: Thelma Almuena, the Principal of Columbia Elementary, George Philip, teacher and technology integrationist at the Stanley Clark School, and Ana Albir, founder and CEO of Drawp Entertainment and creator of Drawp for Schools. We have put together a panel proposal for SXSWedu 2016 conference focusing on student privacy in the digital age. I hope you will support our session and vote for it to be accepted. You can vote for our session via this link:
If you do not have a SXSWedu account, you can create one here.
Our session summary is:
With ubiquitous classroom technology, students’ privacy is an increasing concern. Federal laws, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, are difficult to navigate but vital to protecting students’ rights. This panel will focus on demystifying the process, providing key strategies for lawfully implementing technology, and looking to the future of technology and education. Panelists include technology and school administrative leaders (at both public and private schools) as well as a software developer for PK-elementary tools.
- Gain an understanding of current Federal Privacy Laws that apply to schools.
- Understand how to vet and implement technology tools in schools.
- Understand the direction that privacy and educational technology will take in the future.
- Jennifer Carey Ransom Everglades School
- Ana Albir Drawp Entertainment
- George Phillip Stanley Clark School
- Thelma Almuena Columbia Elementary
Jennifer Carey Ransom Everglades School
This is a guest post from Amy Williams. Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.
What items come to mind when you think about classroom supplies? Do you envision notebooks and number two pencils? Your list probably included staples like erasers, crayons, and glue sticks, but did you consider how social media can be a powerful learning tool in the classroom?
Social media has the power to take what students enjoy and extend lessons that offer students real world applications. Instilling a love of learning is no easy task, especially in a world that is constantly changing with fancier and brighter screens. Our students’ fascination with technology makes it important for educators to integrate lessons and increase classroom participation by embracing our children’s favorite means of expression: social media.
The Benefits Of Social Media In The Classroom
Even though social media has gotten a bad rap in the news, it has the possibility to extend learning opportunities beyond the building’s walls. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are wonderful gadgets, but they can be a real distraction during instruction time. One way to avoid constant technology monitoring is to harness this love for social media and use it productively in the classroom.
Listed below are 6 benefits to using social media in education:
- Lower-income students will have access to technology and chances to build these skills. Social media has the power to help overcome the digital divide when it comes to different economic groups.
- It allows quiet or reserved students the opportunity to be heard.
- It offers relevant ways to check for understanding.
- Simultaneously fosters learning and technology skills.
- Activities are shared with authentic audiences.
- Content is meaningful to our younger generations of visual learners.
7 Tips For Integrating Lessons With Social Media
Integrating social media with our curriculums opens a world of possibilities for a teacher and the classroom. However, teaching with technology often poses it’s own set of problems from equipment failure, down networks, and dead batteries. Social media is no exception and often there will be a few kinks to work out before using it in a lesson.
Here are some suggestions to help bring social media into the classroom:
- Keep your professional/classroom pages separate from your personal profile.
- Know the school’s policy on social media and privacy.
- Get a parent or guardian to sign a permission slip allowing you to post student work or images on class websites.
- Make sure that students are well versed in social media etiquette.
- Create classroom accounts for students to limit personal distractions during class.
- Check the resources and beware of inappropriate pop-ups or advertising.
- Be familiar with the platform and understand the privacy settings, potential problem areas, and ways to troubleshoot.
Ideas To Bring Social Media To Life
After managing to successfully introduce social media into lessons: the real fun can begin. Here is a compilation of ways teachers have upgraded lesson plans to include social media:
Create a group or page for each class on a social media outlet. You can post assignments to keep students and parents informed about approaching deadlines or projects.
- Use Twitter to follow threads or current events by using hashtags to sort topics. Connect with experts, authors, classes around the world, and more by interacting with tweets.
- Set up a blog to take journaling to a new level! Help students hone their writing skills to create and display their works for a bigger audience. Blogging has the potential for feedback from peers, professionals, and people other than a teacher.
- Utilize sites like Class Dojo to keep parents informed on class behavior or for positive classroom management.
- Create concept videos using Vine or YouTube. This can be a group or whole class project that allows students take the reigns while getting creative, having fun, displaying their best work, and gaining a deep understanding of the topic.
- Use Pinterest boards to organize concept maps for any topic. This works great for biomes, animal classification, heritage studies, and more.
- Use quiz sites like Kahoot or trivia games to make reviewing topics fun. Students use computers or Smartphones to answer quizzes on various subjects while you are able to measure comprehension.
- Use Instagram or other photo services to host a scavenger hunt that requires students to post items that fit a certain theme. This can be adjusted to any grade level easily. For instance you can have them look for objects that start with a certain letter or post items that are related to a historical figure.
Educators are always on the lookout for new ways to use social media in the classroom. Do you have any tips for using social media with lessons?