News Literacy: Videos to Spark Conversation

News literacy is a hot topic these days, as it should be with the “fake news” buzzword flying around at every turn. I’ve been digging in on news literacy resources this year, as know that this is another avenue for librarians to step up and become experts in our schools in a topic that isn’t necessarily embedded in the curriculum just yet. It’s very much in the vein of digital citizenship — we have to help prepare our students for the world they live in now and the unknown future where they will be adults.

Research shows that this is a growing issue facing society, and it’s something we as school librarians can step up and address. We know that our students struggle to evaluate sources they find online for credibility, and this research by the Stanford History Education Group confirms what we already know. This article by The Atlantic shares the findings of an MIT study on the spread of fake news on Twitter, and the battle that we are fighting is up a very steep hill.

I’ve presented on the topic of news literacy several times this year, and I have collected several videos that are great points of introduction and discussion on the topic. I think that news literacy is one of those concepts that should be grounded in discussion with students — it’s not as cut and dry as other topics may be and complex issues like this require awareness, thought, reflection, and some solid strategies.

I have a few videos that make great discussion starters when introducing the topic of news literacy with students.

This video describes how a town in Macedonia has become a hub for publishing fake news articles. Hearing the anonymous poster talk about how and why he is publishing these articles is sure to stir up discussion with your students.

 

This short minute and a half video describes how filter bubbles work and how social media algorithms tailor what you see based on your history. I think it’s important to note that as adults, we remember a time before social media. When our Facebook accounts show ads for things we’ve searched for on Google, it freaks us out. For our students, though, this is all they’ve ever known.

 

This video by Teaching Tolerance outlines how a “fake” news story can go viral. It specifically tells the story of a Tweet during the 2016 presidential election that took on a life of its own — and that even once the guy who posted it realized what he shared wasn’t true, he couldn’t pull it back.

 

This TED Ed video describes how news is spread, the history of how news was shared to how we access news today, and the phenomenon of circular reporting. TED Ed has a number of videos that can be used to facilitate discussions with students on news literacy.

The road ahead for tackling the issue of news literacy isn’t going to get easier, but as educators we must give serious consideration to what we can do to equip our students with the tools they need to be news and social media savvy.

Think before you post!

Last week in the library, we did an activity that fostered a lot of great discussion and serious thoughts about posting on social media. Students honestly don’t put much thought into the things they post — and it’s scary how quick and easy it is to post something, and how difficult it is to recover from something harmful to your reputation and online presence. I work very hard to serve as a positive digital role model for my students (and coworkers, for that matter). I’m very transparent with everyone about how active I am online through social media and this blog. Sharing about the positives that come from my professional online presence and how it impacts my life is a big part of who I am and what I do. For most of my students, I may be the first POSITIVE digital role model that they have…because I see some of the things their parents are posting online on toxic Facebook groups within our community.

Some of the ideas for this activity came from the Common Sense Media lesson called Private Today, Public Tomorrow. We started with some discussion on what happens when we post things online. I used these slides to guide the activity:

Students were broken into groups and each group was given an article about the consequences of using social media in a harmful way. You could either have students access these articles online or print them. I decided to print copies, and I formatted them so they wouldn’t look wonky. Here’s the PDF:

Here are links to the articles:

Pittsburg High School students suspended for inappropriate comments on Instagram

Recruit Yuri Wright expelled for Tweets

Students arrested, expelled for making violent Twitter threats

They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets

Social Media Shocker: Twitter and Facebook Can Cost You a Scholarship or Admissions Offer

Texas teen tweets herself out of pizzeria job

High School Coaches Back UGA’s Social Media Scrutiny

Concord coach invites Twitter to ‘burn down’ RFRA-supporting pizzeria

Students read these articles, discussed them, then came up with questions that people should ask themselves before posting on social media. Depending on the amount of time I had with the class, they might make decision trees or a list of questions. Here are some of their products:

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We ended with a whole class discussion. It was really interesting to see where the discussion went with each of the different classes. We talked about what they read in the articles (some were shocked that these were TRUE stories) and they shared their group’s questions (or decision tree). Lots of discussion was had about how “appropriate” is a subjective word. This is one of those lessons that will be referenced regularly, especially since a number of administrators popped in during these discussions.

I did this activity with all of my 7th and 8th grade students — 24 times total in four days! I plan to do it earlier in the year next year with the incoming 7th grade students. This activity would be very relevant to high school students, as well!

My Case for Social Media

I’m very lucky to work in a great district and an even better school. There are so many great things about it — I work with awesome educators that care about the kids; we have high expectations and it is reflected in the school culture; we’re a small, community-based system that’s making positive progress.

However, there’s one area where my district and I are definitely not on the same page, and to me it’s something huge. In my district, Twitter and Facebook are blocked for students AND teachers. As teachers, we are instructed not to post on social media during the hours of the school day. Period. No posting for personal OR professional reasons. What this says to me is: “Social media has no value to you professionally.” Or perhaps: “Even if it does have some value, it’s something you’re going to have to do on your own time.” Obviously, I disagree whole heartedly. I’m pretty sure that everyone that I work with knows that…I’m not typically quiet or reserved about my opinions. But I thought it was time I made my case in writing.

This policy makes it virtually impossible for me to sell Twitter as a PD tool to my coworkers (and I firmly believe that Twitter is the most valuable PD tool out there). Let’s be honest — it’s really hard to show them how to use something when it’s blocked and you’re not allowed to use it during the day.

It’s also really hard to show my students what a strong digital footprint and positive use of social media looks like when it’s all blocked. My kids NEED to see that…so I take screenshots at home, but that can’t demonstrate its true power. This isn’t even touching the opportunities they’re missing out on because of the connections we could be making with other schools, authors, and experts throughout the day using social media…because we DEFINITELY aren’t allowed to have a school or library social media account where we share out the things we’re doing so the community can share in our learning. If I want to use Twitter to line up Skype or Hangout meetings to help my students make global connections, I have to do it after school hours.

I found my district’s recent professional development days to be very telling of the current stance on technology and social media. Last month, we had two full days of district-wide professional development training on Professional Learning Communities. All of the faculty members from all five schools in our district gathered together to participate in a PLC conference as a satellite location (sessions were streamed in from Arizona). In the days before these PD days, we were instructed that we were NOT to have any technology visible during the sessions (no laptops, iPads, phones, etc.). As someone who attends conferences regularly (okay, maybe excessively/obsessively), I know the power of a backchannel and was very disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to Tweet what I learned along the way. For me, that has become a way that I process my learning at a conference. So despite my extreme frustration and disappointment, I tried to enter these two days of PD with a decent attitude. Imagine my surprise when I arrive the morning of our PD to see a hashtag and Twitter stream up on the big screen.

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Since it was before our official start time…I went ahead and Tweeted them:

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Hm. Not on the same page. I followed the rules…put my phone away during sessions…and in my notes I wrote down the things I would have Tweeted, had it been allowed.

The argument against having technology was that it would be a distraction. For me, it would have been a tool to enhance learning. Do teachers need to learn to use technology the right way in the right situations at the right times? Absolutely. Just like our students need to learn the same thing. But it’s mighty hard to learn it (or teach it) if we can’t use it. I get that they think it’s easier and less of a headache to just block and ban. It’s not as scary, not as threatening. However, we are doing a disservice to our teachers and our students by not allowing them the opportunity to experience a different level of learning. We’re doing a disservice by not requiring them to develop the skills that are essential to be successful in our digital world.

We talk about how wrong it is to issue a blanket punishment for all students because of the actions of a few. What about being punished in advance for something that hasn’t even happened yet?

There is so much good in social media for education. There’s so much positive potential and so many endless possibilities. And if we aren’t taking advantage, then our students are missing out.

I recently shared about our March Madness Book Bracket. We are now down to our Final Four books:

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I’m so excited to see favorites See You at Harry’s and The Fourth Stall in the Final Four! I shared this picture on Twitter and tagged authors Jo Knowles and Chris Rylander. Our students LOVE their books. I was really excited when Chris responded to my Tweet:

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Back in November, my Multimedia students created a book trailer for The Fourth Stall as their entry for a video contest. Although they didn’t win, we were so proud of the final product. Last night, I shared the link to our video with Chris Rylander:

I was so excited when he Tweeted back about the video:

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So excited that I had to take a screen shot and post it on Schoology to share with my students. Naturally, they freaked out:

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And of course they rushed into the library this morning to geek out some more. They were so excited that the author of The Fourth Stall, one of their FAVORITE books, saw the video they created about his book!

This is just one small example of the power of social media. Connecting our students with others has so much potential to excited, engage, and motivate. Getting our teachers connected will introduce them to ideas, opportunities, and learning that just can’t happen within the walls of the school. This is something I’m passionate about and not willing to let up on because social media changed my path as an educator. I would not be able to provide my students with the opportunities, my teachers with the resources, or myself with the support that I get as a professional without my PLN. When I say that Twitter changed my life, I’m not exaggerating. The opportunities and experiences coming my way would not be possible if I were not a connected educator. And I want to be able to share that with my teachers and students.

Digital Citizenship at CMS

I feel like one of the most important and relevant things that I can teach my students is how to be a responsible digital citizen. Honestly, most of the adults in their lives don’t truly “get it.” They don’t fully understand or consider the impact that a student’s digital footprint can have on their future. They don’t get how essential digital literacy skills are to a student’s success. I try to lead by example so I can show my students what a positive digital citizen who is creating a strong, transparent digital footprint looks like. I share the ways I use my blog, Twitter, and other networks to grow as a professional. And I facilitate discussions and activities where students consider the impact that their digital choices can have on different parts of their lives.

I originally posted about the Common Sense Media Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum back in October of 2011, and I’ve been adapting these lessons to my library curriculum ever since. They have a range of really great lesson ideas, videos, and print resources available for all grade levels K-12.

My absolute favorite lesson that I’ve taught this year is the Trillion-Dollar Footprint (click this link to access all lesson resources for this lesson). I’ve taken the lesson provided by Common Sense Media and created this presentation to guide my students through the discussions for this activity:

During this lesson, students look at the social media profiles of two potential job candidates to determine which works better with others and is more trustworthy. Students discover discrepancies in the social media profiles, and it sure does get them fired up and engaged in an active discussion! You know an activity is powerful when students continue to discuss it well after the lesson has ended, and that’s exactly what I found with this lesson. I loved this lesson so much that over the course of the first semester, I taught it to all of my 7th and 8th grade students.

I introduced my 6th grade students to this curriculum with the Digital Life 101 lesson. In this activity, students think about the different aspects of their digital lives and create a simile. Here are an example of what one of my students created:

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Other tried and true favorites for me from this curriculum include:

My favorite thing about these lessons is that they’re very discussion based and get students thinking about their digital lives. I interviewed some of my students and asked them about what they’ve learned about digital citizenship, and here’s what they had to say:

How is digital citizenship taught in your school? What role do you play in helping students better understand their digital lives?

Success!

I’ve been desperately craving the feeling of success this school year, but I’ve found it a bit more difficult to come by than usual. Everyone who has been through changes at their school know how difficult and trying the can be — even if they’re very positive changes like moving into a new facility and gaining new administrators that you love. Thankfully, I am currently enjoying a luxurious two week holiday break so I can recharge and reflect, then gear myself up for the second half of the school year.

During the chaotic four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, I was able to experience some of that success I’d been seeking. I’m an ideas kind of girl — I love an ambitious, sometimes out there idea/project/plan — but we all know those types of ideas don’t always work like we hope they will. It has to be implemented at the right time, with the right people involved. Definitely not as easy as it may sound.

I’ve been wanting to get our students blogging for YEARS. There aren’t many writing experiences that are more authentic and deep that we can offer our students than blogging. But blogging with students is a lot of work for all involved and you have to be committed to follow through with it. One of my awesome ELA teachers (who I was lucky enough to attend ISTE 2011 with in Philly) decided she was ready to get her students blogging. We got permission and made plans to have students blog through a book club/novel study unit. I wanted to be able to provide her with as much support as possible — this was the first time any students in our school would blog and we wanted it to be a success.

This was also my first genuine attempt at co-teaching a unit. I made a real effort to spend as much time as possible in her classroom each day. I also shared in the grading and conferencing on writing. It was definitely frustrating for me at times when I was deep in a great part of a lesson in her classroom and someone was trying to hunt me down because they needed something in the library. And I saw that if I had a clerk in the library I would be able to do a lot more of this type of thing, which is obviously so beneficial to the students and the teachers. I definitely want to do more of this type of thing, but finding a balance to make it work is not easy.

So, yeah. I feel like I’ve found success (YAY!) and I’m going to be REALLY reflecting on this unit over the next week as I write it up for one of my National Board entries. The big question is, how do you replicate projects like this? How do you pull off huge, long-term projects and/or co-teach on a unit (especially if you are the lone ranger in your library)?

Duh! Common Sense Curriculum Rocks!

If you haven’t really looked at the Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum by Common Sense Media, you need to get on that. I’m passionate about advocating the need for students receive instruction that helps them to develop their digital literacy skills. But with my teachers having so much pressure put on them to raise test scores and cover their curriculum (I’m not touching that one today), asking them to add something else just seems cruel.

A few weeks ago, I really started digging into the curriculum that has been created by Common Sense Media. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to find a reasonable way to start integrating these ideas into the lives of my students. The 6-8 curriculum has a total of 28 lesson plans that are extremely well written and have lots of great discussions and activities laid out. SCORE! I talked to a few of my fabulous ELA teachers and they definitely see the worth in this, so we decided that the best way to go about this would probably be to incorporate activities in during their library visits. My long-term goal is to develop this into sets of lessons that integrate well into the content/concepts they are learning in ELA and split the lessons among the three grade levels. I’m not one to hammer myself down to some seriously structure schedule, but I think I will be able to work and tweak things so that over the course of their time with me, students will get to experience most of the lessons in this curriculum.

So I started going through the lessons, adapting them to make them my own, and creating slideshows to guide the discussions for each topic. The more I get into this curriculum, the more I love it. It’s so well done!

So I’ve been DYING to try out one of the lessons, and today was the day! I had two of my 6th grade ELA classes scheduled (the other two will come in tomorrow) and we covered the lesson called ‘Safe Talk Online.’ What an awesome day of conversation! It was so interesting to see how the kids reacted to the different scenarios. I was really surprised at how cautious they were about the idea of talking to people they don’t know online. It’s definitely been drilled into them to be safe, but I think more of these discussions will lead them to a way of reasoning that will make them smart about their interactions. I can’t wait to do more of these lessons — I think it’s really going to give me a feel for what our students need to learn about, be aware of, and get more exposure to in the world of digital citizenship and literacy.

Common Sense has free curriculums available for elementary, middle, and high school settings. You can also order the entire curriculum on a flash drive for $25. They have supplemental videos, activity materials and everything! Their stuff is all Creative Commons licensed, so I’m planning to post the presentations that I’m adapting onto SlideShare at some point soon. AWESOMENESS!!

Here’s one of their videos to give you an idea of what their curriculum is about:

Realization

  • I want my district to use Google Apps for Education.
  • I want to make a Facebook page for my school and my library.
  • I want better websites for the school/library/district.
  • I want the filters to stop choking us to death.
  • I want more teachers to come to me for collaborative projects.
  • I want to be able to share what my students create online.
  • I want my students to share their learning experiences with the world.
  • I want my district to really understand the importance of having our students create positive digital footprints NOW.

Basically, I want everyone to think like I do. Or at least listen to me and understand. But I really just want them to think like me, because OBVIOUSLY I’m right.

This has been my basic thought process up until this past week. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want to change the world (or my school and district) and how I can get what I want. Unrealistic, I know. I sometimes have inflated ideas of myself and what I’m capable of. I chalk that up to my upbringing, which I’m extremely thankful for. I have the best parents ever — they gave me the best opportunities and extremely high self-esteem. Anyone who spends a lot of time around me knows I’m pretty spoiled. I don’t think I was overly spoiled as a child, but as an adult I’m used to things working out in my favor. I think this is why I have the expectation that I can force things into working out the way I want them to. Over the last few days, I’ve come to the realization that I need to change this way of thinking.

Realization – the state of understanding or becoming aware of something (as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary)

Now I’m not saying that I’m about to stop plotting and pushing for change. That just isn’t going to happen. Instead, I need to focus the bulk of my thoughts and planning on ways that I can help my teachers and students. I need to focus a lot less on what I don’t have but desperately want. Instead, my focus needs to be on working with what I have to support my students and teachers the best way possible.

  • I will help my students and teachers find success with the tools we have available.
  • I will show my students and teachers ways they can use these tools to create and share.
  • I will find ways to incorporate digital citizenship and making a positive digital footprint into as many activities as possible.
  • I will share our accomplishments and successes with the administration to show what we can do.

Obviously, I can’t just forget about my “wants.” What I hope to do instead is to focus on what I can do — what I WILL do — and use that to support what we could do.