Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

News Literacy: Not Just Another Education Buzzword, a guest post by Jamie Gregory

Remember that assignment in junior high to watch the nightly news and keep a journal of what you watched? That was pretty simple for me; all I had to do was turn on CNN and get my notebook.

But that was the 90s. Now as an educator, I wonder if my teachers ever encountered any student pushback about “fake news” or had trouble with students using less-than-credible news sources.

Currently, we have movements across our country to create media literacy legislation mandating instruction. But beware: don’t allow news literacy (a subset of information and media literacy) to become merely a buzzword in education. It indicates our young people’s need to learn how to navigate the rapidly-evolving information landscape. And within that, yes, #FactsMatter.

What’s at stake? Consider real-life consequences of mis/disinformation:

  • The Pizzagate conspiracy theory caused an armed man to open fire inside the Comet Pizza restaurant. Thankfully no one was injured.
  • How about determining whether or not an event actually happened? Alex Jones used his InfoWars platform to claim the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and has lost in court. But imagine the emotional impact of his “theories” on a family who has lost a child to murder.
  • A 4 year-old died of the flu after the mother sought medical advice from an anti-vaccination group on Facebook
  • In the fall of 2020, wildfires ravaged areas of Oregon. Rumors and misinformation caused funds and efforts to be diverted from the actual cause. The FBI and other local officials released statements debunking the false rumors (and utilized social media).

Teachers often feel like they don’t have time to incorporate information, media, and news literacy, mostly due to testing and the need to cover content. Others may feel news literacy is too political or polarizing. However, if teachers do collaborate with school librarians on these skills, news literacy education cannot fall into the traps of “drill and kill” instruction, or library “drive-by” instruction (e.g. practice involving only pre-selected websites; visiting the library one time a year for brief instruction). It won’t work.

How to avoid those pitfalls? Embed and integrate news literacy into what you’re already doing. Design activities requiring students to engage in critical thinking using real-world examples. Take the time to find out your students’ current habits. Meet them where they’re at. For example, they aren’t going to drop Google and solely use databases. They aren’t going to forego news apps and YouTube news channels to start watching news on television or purchase the print edition like “the old days.” And that’s okay. That’s the evolving information landscape.

Below are some ideas I’ve implemented in some form over the past several years. And like any librarian, I don’t think I came up with a single one of these on my own! Be sure that, as you plan programming, you plan for your own professional development. Librarians must keep their own skills up-to-date as well as frequently and honestly reflect on their own habits and biases.

  • Design activities for students to discover the differences among news aggregators, news media outlets, and user-generated content.
    • Show Google or Apple News, the BBC website, and a social media platform. Can students tell you that news aggregators do not do original reporting? Why does that matter?
    • Here’s an example of user-generated content. Can students identify it as such and take steps to debunk it?

  • Similarly, have students contrast news formats from a single news outlet.
    • Idea from News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News by Michelle Luhtala and Jacquelyn Whiting – create stations for students to analyze the format of the New York Times (or other publication) print edition, website, app, YouTube channel, and social media accounts on Facebook/Twitter.
  • According to the most recent report in October 2020 released by the Stanford History Education Group, two-thirds of students could not tell the difference between news stories and ads. Ninety-six percent of students could not analyze how ties to the fossil fuel industry might influence the credibility of a climate change website. Create a Google Form to administer the latest SHEG assessment to students/patrons. Analyze results and share. Then share national results.

  • Design an event for a Q&A panel with local journalists. Help students learn how professional journalists follow a code of ethics and why local journalism is vital to communities.
  • Replicate this Common Sense Media teen news consumption survey. I did that with my journalism newspaper class, and the students compared their class answers to the results of the national survey, which I condensed into this infographic.
  • Quick quiz or trivia questions – show headlines from a variety of credible and satirical news outlets. Can students distinguish what’s credible and what’s satire?
  • A great beginning activity is to use the Infozones infographic from the News Literacy Project. Either give students/patrons an example of each information type to sort on their own according to the infographic, or have them find their own examples of each.

  • Memes are not news! Show examples of people sharing memes purporting to be news and how to use lateral reading to debunk them. Have students/patrons make their own examples of social media posts which accurately reflect a news article to model digital citizenship.
  • I love interactive bulletin boards! Create a lift-the-flap display titled “Is It Trustworthy?” and post an image or headline with the debunked information under a flap.
  • Host digital scavenger hunts for examples of types of mis/disinformation so we go beyond using the blanket term “fake news.”
    • There are many infographics available for showing students the nuanced categories of mis/disinformation.

  • My students enjoyed a virtual visit with Greta Pittenger, fact-checker with NPR. She did this activity with my students: hand out a straight news article. Ask students/patrons to highlight anything they think would need to be fact-checked. Then demonstrate reliable resources they could use for fact-checking (lateral reading). You can connect with local journalists through the News Literacy Project’s virtual platform, Checkology.
  • My amazing colleague, school librarian Tamara Cox (@coxtl), recently shared a clickbait lesson she completed with students. This is a great way to incorporate fiction into your misinformation discussions!
  • I’m not the first person to caution educators about using media bias charts. They may oversimplify and even misrepresent some credible news media outlets. For example, the AllSides chart states it only evaluates the perspectives of online content, not accuracy or credibility! It can be helpful for students to find opinion pieces from a variety of outlets, and these charts may give a false sense of authority. Try having students adopt a critical stance and develop some critical habits no matter which news media outlet they choose to interact with.

Again, the most important factor in news literacy education is your own professional development. Sign up for free newsletters from the News Literacy Project, First Draft, and the Center for News Literacy. Be willing to learn about and adapt your own news literacy habits in order to create meaningful learning experiences for students.

Meet the author

Jamie is the Upper School librarian and journalism newspaper teacher at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC. She is a National Board Certified teacher in Library Media, finishing her 8th year as a high school librarian. She spent her first 8 years in public education as a high school English and French teacher, journalism teacher, yearbook and newspaper adviser, and AP English Language and Composition teacher before earning her MLIS degree from USC in 2012. She served as the 2019-2020 chair of the SC Book Awards programs, a judge for the 2021 YALSA Morris Award, and is currently in her 3rd year of blogging for ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom blog. She has presented sessions on high school literacy, guided inquiry-based learning, and news literacy at the South Carolina Association of School Librarians’ annual conferences. She has also published articles in School Library Monthly, VOYA, Teacher Librarian, and School Library Connection. Follow her on Twitter @gregorjm.

YA A to Z: “Fake News” and Disinformation, a guest post by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Today for YA A to Z author Diana Rodriguez Wallach is talking with us about disinformation and “fake news”.

yaatoz

I’m often asked, “What sort of research did you do for your novel?” For me, that’s a loaded question. The Anastasia Phoenix series is set around the world, so I traveled overseas to Italy, England, and Brazil to create some of the settings for my novels. That’s research! (Or so I tell my husband.) My books also deal with conspiracy theories of real historical events, so there was a lot of Googling that could have gotten me flagged by the FBI. Then, there were the in-person interviews, the real life people who inspired the characters in my books and who helped me portray the espionage world of disinformation. For me, the most important interview came from a professor at Boston University.

I was a journalism major in college back in the late 1990s. (Yeah, I’m giving my age.) At the time, one of the professors in the College of Communication was a man named Larry Martin Bittman (formerly Ladislav Bittman). He was the former Deputy Director of Disinformation for Czechoslovakia during the Cold War—a real life Communist spy who went on to teach budding journalists how to tell when they were being fed disinformation.

larrymartin

At the time I started writing PROOF OF LIES, way back in 2008, Trump had yet to coin the term “fake news.” In fact, I hadn’t really heard of the concept outside of wartime propaganda. But because of that professor from BU, who generously met with me in his home in Massachusetts to discuss my novel, I decided to give this specialty to the spies in my book.

fake news | Lesson Plan | PBS NewsHour Extra

It’s a research dream come true. Now, not only do I get to wander the streets of Rome claiming I need to taste the gelato for “book research,” but I also get to spend months in a deep dive into conspiracy theories. All of the historical moments I twist in my novels are based on real events. One of my favorite compliments from reviewers is when they state that “The Truth” page at the end of my novels made the books stand out even more.

(FILES) This file picture taken on May 9, 1978 in Via Caetani near the Communist Party headquarters, in central Rome shows Aldo Moro's bullet-riddled body, found in the boot of a car. Thirty years since the Red Brigade leftist militant group killed former prime minister Aldo Moro, many Italians still blame his death on what they see as a self-interested political class. Most remember the moment they learned on March 16, 1978, that the former Christian Democrat leader had been kidnapped and five bodyguards had been killed. Fifty-four days later, on May 9, Moro's body was found in the boot of a car halfway between the Rome headquarters of his party and that of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), symbolising his killers' disdain for Moro's proposed "middle way" associating the two parties. AFP PHOTO/FILES/UPI (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

(FILES) This file picture taken on May 9, 1978 in Via Caetani near the Communist Party headquarters, in central Rome shows Aldo Moro’s bullet-riddled body, found in the boot of a car. Thirty years since the Red Brigade leftist militant group killed former prime minister Aldo Moro, many Italians still blame his death on what they see as a self-interested political class. Most remember the moment they learned on March 16, 1978, that the former Christian Democrat leader had been kidnapped and five bodyguards had been killed. Fifty-four days later, on May 9, Moro’s body was found in the boot of a car halfway between the Rome headquarters of his party and that of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), symbolising his killers’ disdain for Moro’s proposed “middle way” associating the two parties. AFP PHOTO/FILES/UPI (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

So was Aldo Moro, the prime minister of Italy, really kidnapped, murdered, and left in the trunk of a car in 1978? Yes, and there are a lot of people who don’t believe the Red Brigades, the communist group blamed for the crime, did it. Were hundreds of journalists and military officersunjustly imprisoned in Turkey in 2010 over a fake coup plot? Yes, and to date no one has been brought to justice for those lengthy false imprisonments. Did soccer super star Ronaldo LuísNazário de Lima of Brazil secretly suffer a seizure before the 1998 World Cup but play anyway? Yup, and people still wonder why,especially after the team’s epic loss.

Do tweens and teens believe “fake news”? – Common Sense Media

I understand the urge to roll your eyes at another “fake news” headline, but remember these types of covert campaigns really exist and have been around a long time. Trust me, I know; I did the research, and you can read all about it in PROOF OF LIES, and its new sequel LIES THAT BIND.

If you want to enjoy some more books on disinformation, here are some I read as research:

The Deception Game; by Ladislav Bittman

The KGB and Soviet Disinformation, an Insider’s View; by Ladislav Bittman

The Women of the OSS, Sisterhood of Spies; by Elizabeth P. McIntosh

liesthatbind2

About Lies That Bind:

What do you do when you learn your entire childhood was a lie?

Reeling from the truths uncovered while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. The only way to stop being a pawn in their game is to remove herself from the board. But before she can leave her parents’ crimes behind her, tragedy strikes. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists.

Now, with help from her friends, Anastasia embarks on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire. From a fire-filled festival in England to a lavish wedding in Rio de Janeiro, Anastasia is determined to confront the enemies who want to destroy her family. But even Marcus, the handsome bad boy who’s been there for her at every step, is connected to the deadly spy network. And the more she learns about Department D, the more she realizes the true danger might be coming from someone closer than she expects…

Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/lies-that-bind.html

 

About Diana Rodriguez Wallach:

diana-rodriguez-wallach

 

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series, three young adult spy thrillers (Entangled Publishing, 2017, ’18, ‘19). The first book in the trilogy, Proof of Lies, was named by Paste Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.” Bustle also listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017.” Additionally, she is the author of three award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well as a YA short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013).

She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, a school-based Workshop Instructor for Mighty Writers in Philadelphia, and has been a Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth since 2015. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.

Author Links:

Author Website: dianarodriguezwallach.com

Author Blog: http://dianarwallach.tumblr.com

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dianarwallach

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianarwallach/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1404210.Diana_Rodriguez_Wallach

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianawallachauthor/

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Teaching Teens Media Literacy 101

tiwie13

In this post election season there has been a lot of focus on how fake and biased media influenced the election. It’s staggering to realize how much of an influence it has had. So yesterday I felt compelled to tweet to my teen (and adult followers) some tips for helping to examine the news and media we consume. The need for media literacy became even more evident for me yesterday when an article headline stated that Steve Bannon thinks that only homeowners should be allowed to vote. This is, of course, code for Steve Bannon thinks that only wealthy people who can afford to buy a home should vote. Decoded further, it really means Steven Bannon thinks only white people should vote, because white Americans still own a disproportionate amount of our country’s wealth. It’s a type of coded language – also known as a dog whistle (Dogwhistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.) – that can be easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Another example of this is the term “alt-right”, which is just a rebranding of white nationalism AKA racism. (See: AP Deems Term ‘Alt-Right’ A ‘Public-Relations Device’ That Enables Racism). Teaching teens how to really look at the media they consume has always been an important part of librarianship, but it is now taking on a new urgency. For an example of the influence on dog-whistles and the current rise of hate crimes, look no further than the current report by the Southern Poverty Law Center which reports a tremendous spike in post-election hate crimes.

Media Literacy 101




  1. A tweet string on media literacy.

    1) always review the source. Who? What? Why? Where? How?
    2) examine media bias
    3) examine personal bias



  2. 4) read entire piece
    5) after reading, write a real headline that summarizes article for self
    6) pay attention to what is AND isn't said


  3. 7) check for code words and euphemisms. Reread with real words in their place
    8) cross check with other reputable sources
    9) save for future


  4. 10) when talking w/others, be able to cite possibly multiple, reputable sources
    11) examine financial contributions of sources


  5. 12) to preserve freedom of press, pay for your news. Investigative journalists need to make a living. And we need them.


  6. 13) Differentiate between verifiable facts and stated opinions.
    14) Ask follow up questions! How? Why?


  7. 15) Put everything in context. Historical. Regional. Context matters.

 See Also:

Fake News and the Internet Shell Game – The New York Times

We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election

Some Fake News Publishers Just Happen to Be Donald Trump’s

How to Spot Fake News – FactCheck.org

From Hate Speech To Fake News: The Facebook Content Crisis

How To Recognize A Fake News Story | The Huffington Post

A Scientific Approach To Distinguishing Real From Fake News

How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study

Should I Share This News on Social Media

This post was edited 11/29 to add an introductory paragraph and resources. What tips and resources would you add? Please share in the comment.