Category Archives: Weekly Blog Posts

EC&I 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology

Let the educational technology journey begin!

“To understand their world we must be willing to immerse ourselves in that world. We must embrace the new digital reality. If we can’t relate, if we don’t get it, we won’t be able to make schools relevant to the current and future needs of the digital generation.” – Ian Jukes

 

The Post-Truth Era – Part 2

Click to read The Post-Truth Era – Part 1.

Image result for fake news meme

This week, our professor Alec, asked us to write about an average day (for us) in terms of reading and making sense of information, media and the world around you by discussing personal strategies for analyzing and validating information? After all, if we are going to teach others (especially our students) about being media literate and about being able to spot fake news, we must first analyze our own practices. 

I am finding more and more that my parents are talking to me about “news” they read on Facebook or wanting to purchase something off of ads they have seen on Facebook.

Signe Wilkinson – Philly.com

Trust me, I have tried to explain filter bubbles to them. I have tried to explain fake news to them. My mom is constantly phoning me asking if I have heard of this make up or fancy lotion that she has seen in an ad on Facebook. When I tell her that I haven’t heard of it before, ask her if she has checked out their website or read reviews and inform her about why she is likely seeing the ad in the first place, she scoffs and rolls her eyes. However, her generation has not previously had to critically examine news in the way that people are required to today. I am constantly emailing articles to her so that she can better understand the algorithms that are controlling what she sees online. She is learning though!

I recently sent this video to her:

Fake News often uses seemingly shocking headlines to get readers to click. This video asks readers to stop, think and check before sharing. This video also lists the variety of items on a new site that you should be skeptical about. I think about many of these items as I scroll through news articles daily.

Like most people, I receive much of my news through social media sites, in particular through Twitter. My first line of defense is looking at the web address. If it is an opinion piece I am looking at, I am a little more lenient because many opinion pieces I read are from personal blogs. However, if it is news I am looking for, I want a web address that I am familiar with like CBC. I have friends on Facebook that post “news” articles from the most bizarre web addresses and I never click if it doesn’t look like a legitimate web address. I also roll my eyes at them for posting without being thorough. I’d say my thoughts coincide with my classmate Kelsie, as she talks about not knowing what to say when other post obvious misinformation on Facebook. I often end up just scrolling past.

With Ideas from the video I posted earlier in this blog combined with a list of critical questions in my mind (similar to the ones in my classmate, Luke’s blog post A Day in the Life of a Media Consumer), I set out to explore my daily intake of news.

If I read something that seems a bit fishy I often see if I can corroborate one news story with another. I also always check the date and the source of the information. I often (but not always) check the background of the author to see what else they have written and if they are writing for/working for a reliable source.

One new idea that I am now becoming cognizant of is circular reporting which makes it more difficult for people to corroborate their news stories with others. Check out this video to understand how circular reporting works and how it creates an fertile environment for the spread of false information.

Recently, I have also learned about websites like Snopes.com and FactChecker which I will be starting to use now that I am aware of them!

What personal strategies do you use for navigating the (mis)information you see online?

 

The Post-Truth Era – Part 1

Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 was post-truth as defined as “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less  influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

This week’s class discussion focused on the new and emerging challenges of literacy in a fake news world or if you will, a post-truth world. Many of my classmate’s presentations this week discussed how fake news spreads rampantly compared to factual articles and that fake news stories tend to have some sort of flair or novelty, thus appealing to the emotions and personal beliefs of their readers.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, it isn’t just a big deal for journalism, fake news is attacking the foundations of democracy by hacking into the human psyche in a way that has not been done before. Fake news is eroding epistemological and ontological values and understandings in humanity’s worldviews. In his article How the Business of the Digital Age Threatens Democracy , Aiden White (2017) references the BBC’s Grand Challenges for the 21st Century where many experts “named the breakdown of trusted information sources as a primary threat” in the 21st century.

Aiden White (2017) writes about the business model of the digital age,

“Using sophisticated algorithms, bots and turbo-charged distribution systems and fed by limitless databanks providing personal access to millions of subscribers, this business model thrives on “viral information” that can deliver enough clicks to trigger digital advertising. It matters not whether information is true or honest or whether it has public purpose; what counts is that it is provocative and stimulating enough to attract attention. Digital robots are useful but they can’t be encoded with ethical and moral values. Clearly, the best people to handle ethical questions regarding online content are sentient human beings, however the digital business model eschews any significant role for journalists and editors to do this work. The development of business models driven by algorithms which put clicks before content has created a new culture of communications in which truth and honesty is obscured by fake news, bigotry and malicious lies; and it legitimises a political space that encourages ignorance, uncertainty and fear in the minds of voters. These realities raise bigger questions about fake news that not only concern the future of journalism but also the nature of democracy itself”.

It is a big job then, for parents and teachers to tackle the big business of the digital age. Anthony Golding (2007) in Fact or Fiction: Fake News and Its Impact on Education writes that “Students armed with a positive skepticism of fake news can become change agents rather than victims”. In The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News the author states “falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories”. In all elementary classrooms, reading comprehension is a big deal. But in this “post-truth” world, simply understanding what we read is not enough. Young people must be taught the necessary skills for not just understanding what they read but being able to interpret the validity, quality and credibility of the sources they read. They must be able to analyze the difference between real and mis-information.

Adam Zyglis / The Buffalo News (CagleCartoons.com 2016)

So, where do we start?

In Jaimie and Jocelyn’s vlog, they discuss a video called The Problem with Fake News on the 5 Cs of Critical Consuming (context, credibility, construction, corroboration and compare).

The video argues (and I agree) that critical thinking citizens are good for democracy and democracy is good for everyone. Jaimie and Jocelyn also included this infographic to help teachers, parents and students begin to spot fake news:

Last week on Twitter and in our EC&I832 Google+ Community, I posed this question:

My students are too young to analyze most news articles because it is above their current reading ability but I would like the opportunity to incorporate this topic into our discussions at school.

My friends and classmates came back with the following ideas/resources:

Other ideas welcome!

Media Literacy and Beyond!

Image result for media literacy meme

Wow! I learned so much from my EC&I832 classmates this week on media literacy. This topic fits well with an earlier debate in our class about the concept of digital natives. For further discussion on this topic, click here.

Generation Z which includes those born anywhere from the mid-90s to early 2000s. This crew is often lumped together under the title of Digital Natives. The concept of Digital Natives is frequently contested because it operates under the assumption that simply being born in that era somehow magically grants those young people with the “innate” gift of using, manipulating, and understanding technology. This is a BIG assumption to make. Children of Generation Z are part of a generation that won’t recall a time when the Internet did not exist. True. They are part of a generation with the most ground-breaking technological advancements. True. Although, so was every other generation before them at one point in time. They have technology at their fingertips and have been exposed to technology or portrayed on social media likely before they were even born. But does all this make them skilled users of the technology that is placed in their hands at increasingly younger ages? No.

I imagine that when the telephone was invented, the youth of that generation were using it more frequently. I imagine the same thing happened when the automobile was invented and frankly with all other major technological advances as well. It only makes sense that the younger people of this generation are quickly acquiring skills to be computer literate because they have been exposed to digitization for their entire lives.

But, as my classmate Dani points out in her vlog, digital literacy and computer literacy are not the same thing. She claims, it is not enough to be able to work with the programs (computer literacy) but that digital literacy requires critical thinking, awareness of behavioural standards (eg. Ribble’s Netiquette) and understanding of the social issues created by technology.

Most of the content catalysts this week first discussed the definition of literacy which is the ability to read and write or to have understanding in a specific field of knowledge. When we think about learning to read, kids need to be able to decode words, use clues to interpret meaning, understand the author’s purpose, among a variety of other skills. These too, apply to the relatively new concept of media literacy. As my classmate Nina describes in her vlog, media literacy helps students understand how words produce meaning and in turn, how people interpret these words which allows them to organize and construct their reality.

[By the way, media literacy seems like it should be a topic for the younger generation but I think it is just as important for my generation and people older than me to learn about digital citizenship and media literacy too. This learning is relevant for all ages! For the Generation X group to learn about it because most people in Gen X were teenagers and young adults when social media truly came onto the scene in the general public. Because it was so new, there wasn’t teachers and adults to help the Gen X crew navigate this new type of media.]

Ok, so what is digital or media literacy then? Well, Mike Ribble defines it in the following way:

This video also describes that while we are increasingly using media as a source of learning and information gathering, few people understand how it affects us and our society:

Media literacy is about the intersection of skepticism (as Erin explains in her vlog) and the act of deconstruction (shout out to philosopher Jacques Derrida on this one!) which meanings critically analyzing the relationship between the text itself (whatever media that may be) and the message (received, perceived and often replicated in some way) by the consumer of the media. Erin talked about the first line of defense in media literacy is a person who thinks before they click and that thinking comes from questioning.

In Media Literacy in the 21st Century, the presenter claims that media is hypnotizing; it is a construction and creatively and methodically captures our attention (in positive and negative ways). Teaching kids about their digital world through media literacy has the power to break that hypnosis. My classmate Jacque, warns in her vlog about “filter bubbles” which are personalized algorithms that allow the media you see to be curated to what the algorithm “thinks” you want to see. In Beware of Online “Filter Bubbles”, Eli Pariser suggests that algorithms are beginning to be the “gatekeepers” of our individual worlds and the problem is that they don’t have the same kind of human ethics or empathy that are required to do the job they do.
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In his vlog, my classmate Luke discusses an important quote. This quote is by Alvin Toddler who said “movers and shakes will not be those who can read and write but those who can learn, unlearn and relearn”. In a weird coincidence, on the same day I was watching his vlog, I was also scrolling through some old tweets and this Tweet popped up from 2012 (great minds think alike!).

The definition of literacy is constantly changing and teachers need to be at the forefront of that change. Teachers need to be the movers and shakers for their students. To guide teachers, Luke brought up was a list of questions to use when critically examining media (other catalysts from this week brought up similar questions):

  1. Who created this message?Image result for media literacy meme
  2. What creative techniques were used to grab my attention? (how did they hypnotize me?)
  3. How will different people understand this message based on worldview (empathy for minority perspectives)? (We have to do what the algorithms cannot which is use empathy to evaluate media).
  4. What lifestyles, values, points of view are included or emitted in the message? (searching for the story that isn’t being told as much as examining what is being told)
  5. Why is this message being sent?

In school, we are taught to critically analyze in the same way with books and other print media. We need to do the same with digital media. This is part of our changing role as educators.

Do you use these questions personally? Do you use them in your classroom? How do you integrate this teaching into your daily practice?

To conclude, I’d like to share two important messages heard during the content catalyst presentations/readings this week. First is a quote that Luke put in his vlog: “Today’s media allows the most hateful and most beautiful voices to be heard like never before”. Media literacy is about sifting through those voices in personally and collectively meaningful ways. Finally, in Parisers Beware of Online “Filter Bubbles”, he suggests “We need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives”. Media literacy allows us to use the Internet for the power of good, in the way we all dream it to be.