“Fake news”, fake tweets increase the commitment to media literacy
Media literacy is suddenly a frontburner for schools, thanks to the recent presidential election, a spate of fake news reports, and new research showing how ill-equipped young people are critical of information they find online and on social media .
As a result, educators find themselves behind the eight ball, which is expected to help students negotiate everything from internet scams to partisan advocacy disguised as unbiased news to an elected president who used Twitter , aroundfrom unfounded conspiracy theories.
Much is at stake, claim Stanford University researchers behind a much-cited recent study.. “
“We fear that democracy is threatened by the ease with which disinformation on civic issues can spread and flourish,” the group wrote.
Such concerns are not entirely new. For years, researchers have documented the widespread inability of students to assess the reliability and trustworthiness of information online. For example, in 2006, University of Connecticut researcher Donald Leu conducted a study in which middle school students were unanimousabout an invented endangered species – an octopus that lives in trees.
Last year, Leu’s New Literacies Research Lab found thatwas able to correctly identify the author of online science information, gauge his expertise and point of view, and make informed judgments about the overall reliability of the website he read.
Educators and advocacy groups have responded by using the term “. ”The term generally refers to the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and produce information through various forms of communication, with the overarching goal of creating informed and responsible citizens. A coalition of nonprofits announced last month a to pass new laws that would encourage this teaching in schools.
Ultimately, experts say, a culture of critical thinking is the best antidote to free information online. They also want to disseminate specific strategies to help students spot fake news, consider sources of online content, weigh the evidence for allegations, and compare competing points of view.
But the “decimation” of school libraries, an overemphasis on standardized exam preparation, and the slow development of teacher preparation have resulted in the K-12 sector having difficulty keeping up with the communication technologies that dominate the lives of their students. said Leu.
“We’re nowhere near prepared to prepare citizens who can continuously evaluate online information to make informed decisions about their lives,” he said.
“Deceives and blinds us”
In the past few weeks, fake news stories have attracted a great deal of national attention.
Before the presidential election, for example100+ such sites (all supporting then-candidate Donald J. Trump) operated from a single city in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Two weeks later,that the top 20 top performing election stories from “hoax sites and non-partisan blogs” generated more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 top performing election reports from major news outlets like the New York Times and NBC News during the critical months of the presidential campaign.
Educators, librarians, journalists, and advocacy groups have developed resources to help schools understand and teach concepts and skills related to media literacy and digital citizenship. Some of the most popular resources include:
- , Common sense media
- , National Council for Social Studies
- , Center for media literacy
- from the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab
- , Frank Baker
- , FactCheck.org, a project by the Annenberg Public Policy Center
- , Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University
Source: Education Week
And last week, awith the aim of “self-investigating” an unsubstantiated internet conspiracy theory shared on Twitter by the son and chief of staff of General Michael Flynn, who was appointed National Security Advisor to the country by President-elect Trump. (Trump later from his transition team, and General Flynn pulled for sharing other incorrect information on social media.)
Still, fake news isn’t the most pressing challenge facing schools, said Sam Wineburg, a Stanford education professor who co-directed the university’s most recent study.
Much more worrying, Wineburg said, is the prevalence of private groups pushing their own agendas under the guise of unbiased news.
For example, as part of the Stanford study, the researchers presented middle school students with a screenshot of the Slate.com home page. There was a “native ad” on the page – an ad that was supposed to look like a news story, but marked with the words “sponsored content”. More than 80 percent of the study’s students thought the ad was a real news story.
High school students, meanwhile, have been asked to compare the headlines and graphics associated with two science-related pieces of content on The Atlantic news agency’s website. Both dealt with climate change. The first was a traditional news story, the second was sponsored by the Shell Oil Company. Nearly 70 percent of the study’s students argued that the Shell advertisements were the more reliable source of information.
“With every political issue that affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens, there are private interests working to influence public opinion by pretending to be something they are not,” said Wineburg. “It leads us astray and blinds us.”
Asking important questions
For schools, media literacy is an “ongoing issue” that precedes social media and the internet, said Lawrence Paska, executive director of the, a member association that supports social science education in the K-12 and in higher education.
Whether reading a printed book, newspaper article, or Facebook post, it is important that students are able to “ask key questions, compare competing claims, assess credibility, and reflect on their own reasoning process “Is the position of the group.
A first step, Paska said, is to ensure that both students and teachers have an effective framework for assessing the credibility of any information they come across. He referred to a series of questions developed by the National Center for Media Literacy Education: Who paid for this? When was that done? Who could benefit? What is omitted from this message that may be important to know? How was that shared with the public?
NCSS also believes that students learn to become critical consumers of information by researching, planning, and creating their own media messages.
This type of “constructivist” approach is also followed by Claire Beach, a seasoned teacher, filmmaker, and media literacy advocate who is a driving force behind a. wasRequire the State Superintendent’s Office of Public Education to develop and share best practices in media literacy and digital citizenship with schools.
“Once you start giving students the tools to understand when they are being manipulated, you are overwhelmed by the changes you see,” said Beach.
The same principles can be applied to magazine ads, reality TV shows, and viral social media posts. But trying to keep up with the sheer amount of media, information, technology, and platforms that are now available can leave even the most dedicated teachers weary, she said.
“It’s like moving from sitting to a marathon,” said Beach.
To keep up, Stanfords Wineburg and Leu of the University of Connecticut advised that students must learn and practice new skills specifically suited to reading new digital media.
For example, Leu suggested that when creating bibliographies of online information, students should be expected to include a brief written description of why a source was chosen and how they found it credible.
Students should be taught to distinguish between “verified” and “unverified” social media accounts, a technique that can be used to identify legitimate sources of information. (The Stanford study found that high school students seem largely unaware of such conventions.)
The bigger challenge
The bigger challenge for schools, however, is keeping up with the rapid – and often disturbing – changes in the broader news and media landscape, the researchers agreed.
Two weeks after winning the presidential election, for example, President-elect Trumpto his over 16 million Twitter followers. It said he “won the referendum if you subtract the millions of people who voted illegally” – a baseless claim originally made on websites promoting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that was from numerous news agencies.
Of course, politicians and celebrities from across the political spectrum have long been guilty of spins, misinformation and open lies.
But the example of Trump’s tweet (and others like it) helps show how different the current landscape is, emphasized Leu and Wineburg. The internet and social media have made it much easier for powerful companies to disseminate false or misleading information, directly and quickly, far and wide. If such entities also suggest that the factual correctness of public information and statements counts less than the emotions they arouse, democracy itself can be threatened, argue the two researchers.
The good news, the researchers say, is that the Internet is also the best fact-checking tool ever invented.
“We have a wealth of information ahead of us,” said Wineburg. “Whether it makes us more thoughtful or more stupid is a question of our educational response to this challenge.”