The “fake news” problem is all over the news and all of the sudden everybody wants to be “information literate” and “media literate.” This is a good thing in the scheme of things because maintaining a functional democracy with a populous that is information or media illiterate is … really, really hard.What follows is not intended to support a political party or “side,” but rather is my effort to grow in my understanding in order to be able to implement and support effective information literacy and media literacy efforts in our school community.
Following the epic failure of our media apparatus on election coverage, one of the thoughts that crossed my mind on November 9th was that my job got exponentially harder.
Other then the credibility issue illustrated above, that’s not really true.
The real truth is actually that for a long time my job was exponentially harder than I realized. Confronting the truth of your professional failure is painful, but if you ever hope to get better you need to look at your truth. All of it. Even the ugly parts.
Just to be explicitly clear, the professional “failure” here is not the outcome of the election, but the revelation that one-half of the populous of the United States (myself included) was completely out-of-touch with the thoughts, feelings, and proclivities of the other half.
In wrestling with my new insight on the media ecosystem I think I have come to three conclusions:
- If we say there is a “fake news problem” it’s someone else’s fault. If it is a media literacy problem, we (the media illiterate, all of us, “we”… ) have to take responsibility.
- When we abandoned traditional journalism sources we lost the main way we grasped context, equivalence, and proportionality of the stories populating our information ecosystem.
- My pre-election paradigm for “information literacy” and “media literacy” did not allow me to empower my faculty and students with the frameworks, concepts, and skills necessary to adequately navigate the information ecosystem that is our reality.
I love my work. A huge part of what makes my work meaningful to me is my belief that our work MATTERS. The realization that I had so grossly misunderstood implications of the changes in media and publishing has been one of the most disappointing experiences of my professional life–it’s depressing, actually…
I really do not like not knowing how to do my job well so I set out to read a lot, and to start figuring some of it out. What follows is, basically, a long and growing list of links to articles and posts that I’ve been reading, exploring, and weighing as I try to figure out what it means to be “information literate” and “media literate” in today’s world–and to how to help kids get there…
Note: Apologies as a number of these links have been shared previously in various places and on various lists.
School librarians and information and media literacy:
- Setting the Stage for Literacy Education by Joan Lange
“… Characteristics of New Literacies (abbreviated from Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, & Henry, 2013) … The Internet is this generation’s defining technology for literacy and learning within our global community. The Internet…(requires) additional new literacies… New literacies are deictic (constantly changing). Critical literacies are central to new literacies. New forms of strategic knowledge are required with new literacies…”
- How to Develop Strong Source Literacy: Practice! by Nora Murphy
“… Most of our students are source illiterate. This is not their fault. They haven’t had the exposure we’ve had to quirky friend’s reading habits. They haven’t wondered whether anyone might have discovered, collected and published first-person narratives of the Dust Bowl. They probably haven’t heard of the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian, and they are bombarded with content from The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed. This means that they make classic mistakes when they are looking for, and looking at, information… “
- Reading News Across the Political Spectrum by Tasha Bergson-Michelson
“… Ultimately, it comes down to a real question of what my professional values — and my human values — really are. Just as journalistic ethics require not neutrality but that conclusions should arise from fact-based evidence, every time I work with students I drill into them that research is not about starting with something you believe to be true and cherry-picking evidence to prove it. Rather, we look at a range of rigorously supported viewpoints and draw evidence-based conclusions…”
- New: Librarians Being Proactive In a “Post-Truth” World by Courtney Walker with contributions from Cathy Rettberg and Erinn Salge
“… In this “Post-Truth” climate we have the potential to reinvigorate our lessons of information literacy, sources awareness, and website evaluation skills. There are several layers of information literacy to delve into around the recent media buzz calling attention to the recent “fake news”; I see an opportunity to collaborate with subject area teachers on topics like identifying bias, analyzing authority, evaluating websites,and fact-checking etc. There is a way to reach every subject area and share the librarian lens of critical and discerning approaches to sources…”
- In the War on Fake News School Librarians Have a Huge Role to Play by Kaitlyn Tiffany
“… It seems like there are two different types of literacy to talk about here. There’s the academic literacy, which is about looking for the academic sources and peer-reviewed sources that are necessary for your formal education, and then there’s this citizen-training which is more about being savvy about the type of information that you see around you all the time. Is that second type of literacy actually a part of written curricula or do you just have to hope individual librarians consider it important enough to teach? …”
- New: Sample Syllabus | Social Media Literacies: An Online Course by Harold Rheingold
“… A syllabus for the benefit of other college/university level instructors. I am beginning to develop a high school version. (If you are a high school teacher, and want to work on making the syllabus more suitable for high school students, contact Howard Rheingold)…”
Read on about the scope of our media literacy challenges below:
“…Some of his Trump stories are true, some are highly slanted and others are totally false, like one this summer reporting that “the Mexican government announced they will close their borders to Americans in the event that Donald Trump is elected President of the United States.” Data compiled by Buzzfeed showed that the story was the third most-trafficked fake story on Facebook from May to July.”
“…The most dangerous intellectual spectre today seems not to be lack of information but the absence of a common information sphere in which to share it across boundaries of belief.”
“…On a social network like Facebook, three factors influence the extent to which we see cross-cutting news. First, who our friends are and what news stories they share; second, among all the news stories shared by friends, which ones are displayed by the newsfeed algorithm; and third, which of the displayed news stories we actually click on. If the second factor is the primary driver of the echo chamber, then Facebook deserves all blame. In contrary, if the first or third factor is responsible for the echo chamber, then we have created our own echo chambers.”
“…I’m not worried about the future of our nation based on the election results. I’m worried about the future of our nation because we are incapable and unwilling to check for facts, especially when they conveniently fit and affirm our already-held beliefs.
“…’The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction,’ Coler says.
He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it. He wrote one fake story for NationalReport.net about how customers in Colorado marijuana shops were using food stamps to buy pot.
‘What that turned into was a state representative in the House in Colorado proposing actual legislation to prevent people from using their food stamps to buy marijuana based on something that had just never happened,’ Coler says…”
“…A majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In 2012, based on a slightly different question, 49% of U.S. adults reported seeing news on social media.1…”
“… Donald Trump is a political candidate unlike any other. But while his tactics are novel within the world of politics, June Deery, media studies professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, believes they should be very familiar to those who watch reality TV…”
“… A new report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy … Writing in the mid-1990s, the Washington Post’s David Broder felt the press was spinning out of control. “Cynicism is epidemic right now,” he wrote. “It saps people’s confidence in politics and public officials, and it erodes both the standing and standards of journalism. If the assumption is that nothing is on the level, nothing is what it seems, then citizenship becomes a game for fools, and there is no point in trying to stay informed.”
- New: How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study [Example of fake news from the political right]
“… The New York Times deconstructs how Mr. Tucker’s now-deleted declaration on Twitter the night after the election turned into a fake-news phenomenon…”
- New: No, Hilary Clinton Did Not Get More Votes than Any Candidate Ever [Example of fake news from the political left]
“… Many people associate the fake news epidemic with ultra-conservative websites, branded with shoddy design and names like Truth Eagle Report, which vomit out obvious hoaxes about Obama’s allegiance to ISIS and the like. But this incident provides a bizarre look at the way more reputable websites can unwittingly participate in disseminating inaccurate news on either side of the aisle.”
“… There’s large-scale, statistically significant research into the impact of search results on political views. And the way in which you see the results and the types of results you see on the page necessarily has an impact on your perspective….”
- New: Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning from the Stanford Education Group
“… Our “digital natives” may be able to fit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfe to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that fows through social media channels, they are easily duped…”
- New: Parallel Narratives: Clinton and Trump Supporters Really Don.t Listen to Each Other On Twitter [Very engaging graphics on the filter bubble/sorting issue]
“… All of this paints a bleak picture of online political discourse,” said John West, a data journalist at the MIT Media Lab who worked on the study. “It is one balkanized by ideology and issue-interest, with little potential for information flow between the online cocoons…”
Read on About Tools/Frameworks/Strategies/etc. for Addressing the Issue:
“… As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy…”
“…Stelter then provided the three “buckets” that the sites fall in — hoax sites with fake news, hyper-partisan sites with misleading info, and “hybrids” with a mix of fact and fiction…”
Get on a computer and go to : clickclickclick.click and get a demonstration of just how much data you give away about your online reading and browsing habits just by visiting a site.
“… I collaborated with NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting to develop this script describing who is tracking you throughout your day. The video shows how your digital trail can be assembled into a pretty complete picture of who you are. Some of the script may seem pretty far fetched, but every example was vetted by yours truly and occurs every day (in the US)…”
Direct link to: Hot on Your Trail: Privacy, Your Data, and Who Has Access to It via Youtube
“…To demonstrate how reality may differ for different Facebook users, The Wall Street Journal created two feeds, one “blue” and the other “red.” If a source appears in the red feed, a majority of the articles shared from the source were classified as “very conservatively aligned” in a large 2015 Facebook study. For the blue feed, a majority of each source’s articles aligned “very liberal.” These aren’t intended to resemble actual individual news feeds. Instead, they are rare side-by-side looks at real conversations from different perspectives…”
- Verification Handbook: A definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage (I have not read this yet, but it is recommended by a number of different sources. I believe that the Kindle download is free)
“Authored by leading journalists from the BBC, Storyful, ABC, Digital First Media and other verification experts, the Verification Handbook is a groundbreaking new resource for journalists and aid providers. It provides the tools, techniques and step-by-step guidelines for how to deal with user-generated content (UGC) during emergencies.”
“How I traced the falsity of one internet meme, and what that teaches us about how an algorithm might do it”
“A resource for assessing the accuracy or veracity of online information, organized under a number of headings. The objective of the resource is to improve the digital lives of individuals and to improve the quality of the online commons by increasing the number of people who know how to separate good info from bad information…”
- New: Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment Is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society
“… The problem with social networks as news platforms is that they are not neutral spaces. Perhaps the easiest way to get quickly to the nub of the issue is to ask how they are funded. The answer is clear and unequivocal: through advertising. The two biggest social networks, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp), are effectively “services with shareholders…
… It’s worth saying that it’s not just social networks that rely upon, and can be shaped by, advertising. Television and print media are often subject to the same constraints. However, there are two important differences. First, television and print media tend not to be interactive. This means that we receive the news in one context and discuss it in another…”
Perhaps the very best analysis of media literacy and information literacy education challenges I’ve seen so far are from Australian doctoral student Kay Oddone. Her entire Linking Learning blog is a great read, but you can read three posts which focus on information and critical literacy below:
“… previously content had to pass through extensive editorial processes prior to work being published, there is no such on the internet. Therefore we see just as much accurate as inaccurate information being posted online; a horrifying example being footage posted on Twitter, which was circulated as from the Brussells terror attack, but which was later revealed as footage from an earlier bombing in Belarus.
Disturbingly, it’s not just the accuracy of assignments that are at risk by this spread of misinformation; at the height of the Ebola crisis, according to this article by the Washington Post, 84 people had self-published Ebola e-books on Amazon in just 90 days; and almost all of them include information that’s either wildly misleading or flat-out wrong.
We need to develop skills in what Howard Rheingold calls ‘Crap’ Detection – knowledge of how to find and verify accurate, useful information – or basic information literacy for the internet age…”
“… The ability to publish to a global audience is within the reach of anyone with a device and an internet connection. Identifying the signal in the noise is a challenge for anyone, and is a skill that must be taught. Fortunately there are many tools and tricks that make this easier…”
“… The Verification Handbook is a really interesting read (and free to download) which shares a range of tools and strategies for how journalists verify information, using real case studies.
Of course, students who are researching won’t necessarily go to the lengths that journalists go to to identify the veracity of information they find online, but it is good be aware of strategies which are easy to apply if they aren’t sure of the accuracy of information.
Three ways identified in the handbook to verify the accuracy of information on social media include:
Provenance – is this the original piece of content?
Source – Who uploaded the content?
Date – when was the content created?
Finding this information requires the use of a combination of tools…”
Finally, if you teach information literacy or media literacy, this is a seminal work that I recommend without reservation! [Seriously, if you are a middle or high school librarian and you do not have a copy of this in your collection. Order one! It is an incredible discussion starter for a deep dive into media literacy! Come to think of it, secondary teachers would be well served by picture books in MANY SUBJECT areas, but that post idea will have to wait for 2017!]
Happy holidays, all!