It looks like anti-vax misinformation, promoted over the last several years on social media, is suddenly the focus of the robust challenges that will be needed to help people understand the dangers of going without immunizations.
The challenges to the scientific information on vaccinations and scientific knowledge offer a real-life learning opportunity, one that parents and educators can use to help young people understand the perils of distorted information, the power of social media to distort facts, and the need for reliable digital sources. The video below, Fool House Rock, is a resource to help people learn about some of the reasons why individuals believe vaccination misinformation on social media. Continue reading “Misinformation Does Not Have to Rule”→
In this age of fake news, one of today’s challenges for educators and parents is guiding young people toward an understanding of what it means to be an informed citizen.
An important responsibility is helping children, pre-adolescents, and teens learn how to identify news sources and writing that come from responsible journalistic sources.
Months before the 2016 election former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton penned a thoughtful commentary, Social Media Challenges Democracy, considering what is required of an informed citizen, and predicted — intentionally or otherwise — some of the questions about news consumption that citizens have asked since November 2016. It’s an excellent discussion resource for educators and others who work with youth groups.
Teachers all over the country are sharing ideas about how to help their students identify news that is made-up, unsubstantiated, or just plain false. Now Google has added a feature that identifies false information that comes up on user searches. An April 7, 2017 article at the Pointer Journalism site describes Google’s new fact check in detail and explains how the company went about developing its new feature. You can also read the CNET article about Google.
It happens to me all the time on social media. I see something interesting that connects with what I like or want to believe, start to read it, and then I immediately start to share it with my friends. I’m learning, however, to think more about it first. Now I’m spending more time considering whether what I see and read comes from a reputable news source or if some of the details in the article can survive a fact check.
Several weeks ago I wrote Why Wikipedia: The Questions that Parents Keep Asking, published over at the Platform for Good blog. I wrote about the challenges that adults face when children use the giant online encyclopedia, the activities that are occurring to make Wikipediabetter, and the concerns that adults have with sourcing. Now I share a situation that illustrates Wikipedia at its best — an example that the parents of digital kids may want to point out to their children.
The New York Time recently published Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information, an October 26, 2014 article which describes the steps that medical professional are taking to edit and vet Ebola information on Wikipedia. Written by Noam Cohen, the Times’s piece says that Wikipedia’s Ebola article had more than 17 millions views last month and profiles some of the medical professionals who are writing and editing the information about this terrible epidemic.
Wikipedia is cool, Wikipedia is filled with information, and Wikipedia is great fun to visit.
That said, reminding children about the authority of references and the expertise of authors — whenever children begin research — is an important part of teaching and parenting. A critical 21st Century and life skill is understanding how to go about judging the quality of references and especially learning how to figure out when information is not up to snuff.
If students start out a project by looking up a topic on Wikipedia, and many of them do, they should hear — over and over at every age — about the importance of seeking out and reading other resources to confirm the facts. Adults, too, need to make this a habit.
A new book, Wikipedia: 3.5 Million Articles and Counting, offers parents and educators a great opportunity to read together and learn more — lots more — about Wikipedia. Author Heather Hasan writes in detail about the history and philosophy of this mammoth open-source encyclopedia, explaining how Wikipedia works and describing how the editors keep track of new entries, edits, and re-edits.
Hasan points out the ways that Wikipedia writers occasionally argue over topics, and she notes that editors often decide to lock down a subject or entry. Other short sections of the book share Wikipedia facts and myths, a glossary, and several pages of bibliographic references.
If you read this book with children in your family or students in your class, be sure to have continuing conversations, both while reading the book and afterwards, about the importance of expertise and authority, pointing out that another reason to confirm the facts — aside from worrying about misinformation — is to learn whether even the experts disagree.
An excellent Wikipedia documentary, Truth in Numbers, is available at Amazonand includes interviews with many of the people who have helped the Internet to develop and grow — the movers and shakers of the World Wide Web.
Parents and teachers of digital kids should make it a habit to evaluate media for authenticity and reliability rather than automatically sharing dramatic images with children. Evaluating media is a critical 21st Century skill — for adults and children
The other day a friend sent me a link to a storm picture. The image featured a familiar ocean pier with huge waves about to crash onto its farthest end. (The photo at left is the pier long before the storm). While the drama of the image intrigued me, on reflection I was bothered because I could not learn anything about the website that hosted the image. Other than labeling the town and the storm, the photograph offered no other identifying narrative.
With its ethereal quality, the image looked as if the pier was superimposed over a dramatic ocean scene — the waves and spray crashing at one end while the rest of the structure was clear without any water or spray obstructions. Moreover, since I was familiar with the location, I could not figure out where the photographer stood to take the picture. Perhaps I was wrong, but since I could not discover anything more about the picture, I decided not to send it to anyone else, and I am not even posting it here.