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

Is Hate Speech in the Connected World Here to Stay?

Expressing hate is so easy with just a few taps on the keyboard.

Expressing hate is takes just a few taps on a keyboard.

Hate speech has been around for a long time, but the connected world has amplified it. Sometimes hateful and threatening comments on social media and in comment sections feel like they are run-of-the-mill daily events. Sadly, Twitter, an awesome social media communications platform — one that I and many educators use and adore — has offered one of the easiest pathways for hate speech amplification. Twitter makes it easy to be “sort-of” anonymous.

For a good overview of Twitter’s online hate problems, take a few minutes to read Jim Rutenberg’s New York Times article, On Twitter, Hate Speech Bounded Only by a Character Limit. Rutenburg shares some of the hateful accusations he’s received and talks about the the challenges that Twitter faces with so much hateful, accusatory, and threatening speech. He notes that Twitter, which is no longer growing its subscriber base, is now for sale. Gutenberg speculates on who might purchase it. “You have to wonder,” he writes, “whether the cap on Twitter’s growth is tied more to that basic — and base — of human emotions: hatred.”                                                    Continue reading

StoryCorps’ Great Thanksgiving Listen – Check It Out!

Great TG Quote 2Every Thanksgiving I write a post on each of my blogs listing the digital opportunities in my life for which I am thankful. In this age of constant worry about the various problems and challenges that technology presents for growing children, I like to remind myself that the connected world has given me and young people much to enrich our lives.

Visit the StoryCorps website.

Visit the StoryCorps website.

This Thanksgiving one more item will definitely be added to my list. StoryCorps, the  storytelling feature that we listen to on National Public Radio (NPR), is featuring The 2015 Great Thanksgiving Listen. The goal is to:

… work with teachers and high school students across the country to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend.

Listen to a National Public Radio report about the Thanksgiving StoryCorps event.

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Let’s Teach Children How to Comment

Knowing how to write a comment that is appropriate for different online settings is a critical literacy skill for 21st Century children (and also for many of their parents). Too often young comment writers end up fervently wishing they had thought a bit more about what they posted.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 8.53.29 PMEducators and parents need to pay serious attention to the commenting lives of kids. While the World Wide Web and social media offer young children, pre-adolescents, and teens nearly unlimited opportunities to comment and express their opinions, problems occur when young people do not possess the impulse control skills for such unrestricted access.                             Continue reading

Encouraging Digital Kids to Write Polished Comments

commenting sprialPart of becoming a strong 21st Century digital learner is mastering the art of writing and sharing comments online.

If you read comments at the end of articles or blog postings — even at some of the respected newspapers and magazines — you have surely discovered more than a few inappropriate and sometimes distasteful remarks. Sometimes people leave these comments anonymously — individuals who do not understand why websites invite visitors to share thoughts and ideas. Sadly, many unfiltered remarks are permanently attached to websites — personal indiscretions (digital footprints) waiting for the whole world to discover. Even leaving an anonymous comment is not particularly secure, though many people — kids and adults — think they are off the hook and hiding when they leave comments without a name attached.

Read a short post and watch a video on newspaper comments, uploaded by the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Some newspapers sites, such as the Boston Globehave updated their policies and now post a short and succinct comment policy that tells users what the publication expects from comment writers.

Helping your child avoid public website blunders, not to mention future humiliation, is one reason to discuss commenting etiquette on a regular basis. Children don’t know or they forget that all comments leave digital footprint trails, little paths of information that last much longer than a child’s pre-adolescent and even teenage years.

Confusion arises because many children first encounter commenting opportunities in places where adult supervision is scarce. As a result an impulsive idea can beat out good common sense even when a child knows better. Bottom line — response and commenting areas are not places to leave nasty, sarcastic, rude, or hateful conversation.

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The Public Forum, Facebook, and Democracy

Visit the U.S. Capitol — a symbol of our democracy.

Read Social Media — The Public Space on Steroids, a May 4, 2012 opinion piece in the Seattle Times.

Today, as everyone is talks about the public stock offering and it’s worth, writer Taso Legos examines the value of Facebook as a societal public space that enables people to share ideas and speak up. Without a doubt, face-to-face communication is occurring less and less in coffee houses and community centers, but we are all aware of that aspect of our 21st Century virtual world communication bargain.

I wonder, though, about what is the best balance between face-to-face and electronic communication — the best to ensure a vibrant democratic process. It’s up to parents and teachers of digital kids to help identify the right balance.

Most Interesting Quotes

We engage more in the public sphere because it has never been easier to do so.

… the new electronic public sphere offers instantaneous dialogue with little time for reflection. Democracy is thus now on steroids and this speeding up affects how we make decisions.

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read, Conversations on Commenting.

Removing Racist and Hateful Comments: A Simple Relevancy Test

Click to hear Tyler’s dad reading a statement after the jury returned its verdict.

After the jury announced its verdict in New Jersey I watched Associated Press video statement read by Tyler Clementi’s father. Sad and clearly with a heavy heart, he nevertheless looked to the future in a way that most of us could not have done had we lost a child the way he lost Tyler. Then I glanced down at the YouTube comments — just about every one included a gay slur or offensive language, and I was disgusted. The comments were not relevant.

Racist and hateful online comments demean writers, video-makers, and people who thoughtfully share digital content. It’s becoming tiresome. Masquerading as run-of-the-mill responses at the end of articles and videos – they are actually cyber-bullies’ remarks left here and there with the goal of offending and hurting others. The time has long past for comment and blog editors everywhere  — but especially at Google’s YouTube — to set up and enforce guidelines.

I know that the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech; however, it’s not freedom of speech we are observing but freedom to run off at the mouth and bully others in ways that are not relevant to the content. As a result we are teaching all sorts of silent lessons — the kind we don’t really intend to teach to young people as they grow up.

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