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

International Children’s Digital Library: Changing the World One Book at a Time

What if our children had instant access to a library with thousands of books from countries all over the world — a place that invited them to drop by, read, and learn about one another (and without driving)? Imagine what they could find out about the world’s cultures, celebrations, languages, differences, and also about what they have in common.

Click here to visit the library.

That just about describes the mission of the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), an online destination hosted at the University of Maryland. The massive website, with digitized books in 61 languages is the largest online collection of multicultural children’s literature, and everything on the site promotes reading and the love of diversity.

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Kids and Reading: Widening Digital Opportunities

Check out the app!

Recently NPR reporter, Lynn Neary, broadcast a report, Children’s Book Apps: A New World of Learning.  You can also listen to the story.

In her March 28, 2011 radio report, Neary describes the increasing number of children’s books that are available as apps, useable on smart phones and especially on iPads. These applications make reading children’s books into a multimedia experience.

Some added features of these digital books include:

  • Words that highlight as the story is read.
  • Object words that are spelled when a child taps an image.
  • Activities that relate to the story.

While many parents and teachers love these apps, some experts believe that the reading process is dramatically changed by the addition of other features.  One expert, a professor at Kansas State University, suggests that we need a new word to describe the enhanced reading that takes place in the app storybook environment, but he is hesitant to label these interactions as pure reading. Continue reading

Picture Books Help Digital Children Understand Images

Many years ago my early elementary school aged daughter met author Daniel Pinkwater in a bookstore. After listening to him read and getting his autograph, she offered him a suggestion about a picture in one of his books. My husband and I were shocked at first, but then we congratulated ourselves — our daughter was so experienced and comfortable with picture books that she felt right at home giving a suggestion to a noted author.

Visit Eric Carle’s Museum of Picture Book Art

Ensuring that picture books — lots of them — play a significant role in a child’s life is a required task for digital world parents, because all  children in the connected need the skills to evaluate the images — especially the digital pictures — that saturate their lives. The Google Answers site points out that an average American is exposed to huge numbers of commercial messages each day (note the wide range of estimates at this site). Unfortunately children probably encounter these messages as well, so they need sound media literacy skills that help them interpret what they see. Picture books help.

“There’s more to these books than meets the eye,” writes Appalachian State University Professor David Considine in a document, MEDIA MATTERS: Here’s How One College Professor Puts the ‘Me’ in Media. Dr. Considine describes how he wants to demonstrate that students can “…develop critical-viewing skills by using something they already work with – picture books…”  The process of reading picture books contributes mightily to the development of sound media literacy skills, building strong foundations that help children become astute image consumers.

Several recent articles have addressed picture books and young readers.

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Print Books or E-Books? What Do You Think?

What’s better — a real book that a person holds and cuddles, rereads or loans to a friend, or an i-book/e-book that is digital, portable, and much easier to lug around?  I’m often asked to take one side or another, but I think that different books are useful in different situations. Moreover, e-books provide well-written and absorbing digital reading experiences that counterbalance the typically truncated prose that kids find on most websites. The goal of every parent and teacher is to help a child love to read, so whether a child gravitates to one type of book or the other doesn’t really matter.

This week I read a great article in one of my magazines (the old-fashioned kind and my favorite), Multimedia & Internet @ Schools. Written by Stephen Abram, PBooks vs. EBooks: Are there Educational Issues? goes into some detail comparing and contrasting the two types of reading media. The magazine’s website makes some articles available for free, but sadly this isn’t one of them. Check back to see if it become free to view because the article is worth reading in its entirety.

Check out the table below to read more of the comparisons from Stephen Abram’s article..

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Digital Reading: How Much Does Your Child Trust Search Links?

If you enjoy this post, check out my August 2010 post about using online databases, Staying Ahead With Online Resources, about online data.

The next time you watch your child begin a web search for a school project or other academic activity, take a few minutes to observe more closely how he or she selects web resources. In Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content (this abstract site leads to a free PDF of the article), professor Eszter Hargittai and colleagues form the Web Use Project at Northwestern University, describe how students tend to place huge amounts of trust in the initial hits retrieved by search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

With first year students in a required writing course at the University of Illinois Chicago (chosen because of its highly diverse student body) researchers conducted a written survey of 1060 students enrolled in the classes. Next researchers selected a stratified random sample of 192 students to observe in person as each student performed 12 specific web-based tasks. Learn more about a stratified random sample.

Interesting Observations

  • To complete a web-based task, students usually went to a search engine.
  • After search engines presented links, students tended to follow the first few links, apparently assuming that the first links in a search were reliable resources to pursue.
  • When they looked at a list of provided links, some had difficulty knowing the difference between regular links and sponsored links.
  • As they followed these links, students did not appear concerned about who authored the sites that they found (only 10 percent of the students commented about a site’s authors or the credentials presented).
  • To complete tasks students relied on brand names, and corporate brands dominated.
  • SparkNotes, an online version of Cliff Notes, dominated.
  • For credible sources many students favored .gov and .edu sites as more credible sites.
  • Many expressed trust in .org, because they are all not-for-profit sites, although these days just about anyone can get a .org web address.
  • To verify information, less than half of the observed students consulted a second website.