Fact Checking & Commenting Skills Go Hand-in-Hand

commenting sprialLearning to comment well, avoid chatter, and identify made-up news and comments — before sharing or forwarding them —  is a critical 21st Century literacy skill.

Each week I receive a terrific email on  fact checking, sent from the Poynter Institute, an independent group that promotes excellent and innovative journalism in our 21st Century democracy.  Poynter’s weekly email message contains all sorts of interesting tidbits, quotes, and information that can help people learn more about information accuracy.

Several weeks ago the Pointer email contained the following quote that can be used as a teaching tool with students in class or with the family discussions around the dinner table.                        Continue reading

Two Pithy Quotes on Social Media & Democracy

How can worldwide social media companies ensure that their digital tools are not used to promote chaos?

Social media and the digital tools that we use every day have transported us into a strange new era. As we use these tools to work and play we tacitly  allow them to collect incredible amounts of our personal information — content that documents our lives, likes, loves, and dislikes —  and we become sitting ducks for sham news and fraudulent information. Those who possess our information, good guys or bad, can use impersonal algorithms to assess and use our data.  Read my post about using Duck, Duck Go.

Fast Company’ article, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt On Fake News, Russia, And Information Warfare describes how Google and social media companies were caught off guard by the manipulation of their systems and the prevalence of divisive news. The October 29, 2017, article by Austin Carr contains two interesting comments by titans of digital industry, though neither of them testified at the Capitol Hill hearings.    Continue reading

Young Children, YouTube Kids & Learning: Thoughts to Consider

If you have preschoolers in your family, check out The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube, appearing in The Atlantic.

YouTube Kids splash screenWritten by Adrienne LaFrance, the eye-opening article describes how the YouTube Kids app works as well as the experiences of 21st Century preschool children who use it. The author also shares thoughts about the app (though not endorsements) from academics including Michael Rich, who directs the Center on Media and Child Health at Harvard Medical School and Sandra Calvert, who heads up the Children’s Digital Media Center at Georgetown University.

It appears that many older toddlers and preschool kids spend a considerable amount of time with YouTube Kids. They love the app, and the article in The Atlantic details many of the reasons why.

Continue reading

Virtual Reality Is Amazing & a Little Bit Scary

My virtual reality head-gear.

Many years ago, at a conference on the campus of Virginia Tech, I entered a virtual reality (VR) area — I think it was  called “the cave” —  with all sorts of things going on around me. I think I was expecting the holodeck from Star Trek, where they went through a door and suddenly found themselves on vacation in a beautiful and peaceful place (check out what Virginia Tech’s video that describes virtual reality and the holodeck). Instead during my first foray into VR I wore big goggles, and I got a bit dizzy. So I’ve been a bit hesitant to try again.

This past week I gave virtual reality another try, this time at the Newseum VR Lab in Washington, DC. I was handed a pair of goggles, put them on, and followed the instructions to start the show. Continue reading

News Literacy Skill Requires Knowledge About Evaluation and Credibility

Check out the News Literacy Project video below.

I’ve spent some time on this blog discussing the importance of credibility and evaluation — what I call 21st Century vocabulary words. Understanding how to evaluate and judge the credibility of content is digital life survival skill. Thus, when I discover a new resource that supports student learning I am always excited.

The News Literacy Project website features an excellent video with individuals — of all ages — sharing their thoughts about how news literacy skills can help people know what information to trust. It will be a useful tool for teachers who are developing student activities that focus on media credibility and evaluation. It can be well-paired with student activities that feature the online or app exhibits of the Newseum front pages

Watch the video.          Continue reading

What Do You Know About Artificial Intelligence & How It May Affect Your Life?

Ideas about artificial intelligence (AI) have tended to swirl around without offering me much to think about. I use Siri and Hello Google on my iPhone, I’m aware of the increasingly powerful social media algorithms, and I’ve watched, with some interest, the accomplishments of IBM’s Watson. Yet I haven’t really thought much about it.

The developments and decisions made about AI over the next couple of years may well affect our lives and the lives of our descendants. It’s best to get to know a bit about what is going on, especially when it comes to personal privacy, and also to ensure that our children learn about the positive and negative aspects of artificial intelligence.

Over the past several days I’ve read Maureen Dowd’s long and detailed report in Vanity Fair, Elon Musk’s Future Shock, describing the unbridled, and sometimes turbulent Silicon Valley debate about AI. This is the first detailed AI article that I’ve read, and it offers readers much to think about as Dowd circles, again and again, from Elon Musk to other AI researchers who oppose his views and back Musk again. I’ve realized that artificial intelligence is no longer something we see in science fiction movies. It may well affect our health and digital wellness. Continue reading

Classifying News Sources With a Venn-Diagram Mapping Strategy

tumblr_oi4gpt2iaw1qb05two1_1280-1

See larger image below.

How to scrutinize, classify, organize, and evaluate today’s media — as much as possible, online and off? That’s the question.

As we search for ideas that can help young people explore news sources, evaluate their preferences, examine how the media outlets identify and share facts, we mustn’t forget incorporating the the opportunity to talk with one another about the perspective that each source brings to its news-sharing. Recently I found Vanessa Otero’s interesting diagram that demonstrates how we can focus on media sources as well as consider their viewpoints and biases.

Evaluating 21st Century news is more complex than it’s ever was in the 20th Century. Reading the news is de-emphasized and watching the news is more prevalent, so we don’t interact much with information sources. The Internet and cable television channels allow opinions or made-up stories to masquerade as news sources — even when those opinions have no credible or factual source. Social media amplifies everything. Truth and expertise are incidental.                                                                             Continue reading