Are People Well-Informed if They Only Consume News that Suits Their Point of View?

Lee Hamilton served for 34 years in Congress and was Vice Chairman of the 9-11 Commission.

Lee Hamilton served in Congress for 34 years in and was the Vice Chairman of the 9-11 Commission.

In this age of fake news 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.

Lee Hamilton heads The Center on Representative Government at Indiana University.

In his commentary he asks:           Continue reading

How Are You Helping Kids Learn About MediaLit & Fake News? Progress?

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 9.30.15 PM

Check out Google’s new fact check feature.

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.

I’ve been delighted by the articles, such as Five Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News, an NPR education article that describe how three teachers are incorporating media literacy activities into their curriculum.  Plenty of other similar reports have appeared in various the media. I hope that, somewhere, there is an organization that is archiving as many teacher ideas as possible.                          Continue reading

Triple-Check For Fake News on Social Media — Learning Resources

Watch the embedded CNN video below.

Watch the embedded CNN video below.

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.

Anyone can set up a catchy name on Facebook and send out news, but these authors don’t necessarily check or even care about the facts. Here’s an what Brian Stelter on CNN has to say on the subject on his Oct 30, 2016 broadcast.                  Continue reading

Wikipedia as a Trusted Source for Ebola? Yes!

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 Wikipedia better, 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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 8.06.16 PMThe 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.

Continue reading

A Book About Wikipedia to Read With Children

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Wikipedia is cool, Wikipedia is filled with information, and Wikipedia is a 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.

truth in numbers

Image from Amazon site.

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 Amazon, and 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.

7 Questions to Ask Before Sharing Hurricane Sandy Media With Kids

The Pier Before the Storm
Photo by Marti Weston, 2008

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 etherial 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.

When a huge emergency like Hurricane Sandy occurs, digital pictures and videos circulate all over the web and via social media. A fair amount of these digital materials mis-represent the situation. To avoid focusing too much on the misrepresentations we need to apply some 21st Century common sense. Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: Finding Reliable Information That Helps You Learn as Well as Look

When a super storm event like Hurricane Sandy occurs, digital kids and their families get a good, and sometimes sobering opportunity to learn a lot more about the work of journalists — professional and citizen — as well as first responders. Much suffering, as well as amazing feats of service to others, occur during these events, so it’s important to view and consume the most authentic of resources available.

Hurricane Sandy damaged the
Ocean Grove Great Auditorium.
Photo by Paul Goldfinger  and Blogfinger.net. Used with permission.

Lots of Hurricane Sandy coverage can be found in newspapers, blogs, and other social media, offering us opportunities learn together as families — as we share the content about the storm, the terrible damage it caused, and the ways that people responded. Children and adults will also use these resources in the coming days to figure out how to help, and in the process we all strengthen our media literacy skills (important in today’s world) by identifying the best and most reliable sources of information.

The other day I discovered an amazing blog as I searched for coverage of the storm and its effects on Ocean Grove, New Jersey (where I spent many happy summers as a child). Run by Paul Goldfinger and colleagues, Blogfinger.net offers me on-the-scene hurricane reports from the little beach town, so dear to me and my family, and now without its own newspaper.

Blogfinger — I discovered it thanks to my cousin, also know as Sandy — turned out to be a terrific resource. It has solid  information, great pictures, and well-written narrative. The picture to the right, shows the damage to the Great Auditorium, a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a place where I’ve attended dozens of worship services and concerts. You can check out many other Ocean Grove photographs at the Blogfinger site.

One does not need to look far, however, to find examples of unreliable sources.                 Continue reading