Eggplants & ISIS: How to Fight Fake News

 “If you drink 3 glasses of eggplant juice everyday for 21 days you won’t have to ever wear contacts again!” Whenever an aunt shares such gems of nutrition advice, I don’t even have to ask where she got it from, the answer is always the same: WhatsApp or Facebook.

“We can’t let refugees into America because most of them are ISIS terrorists!” Whenever a student makes such sensational claims, I know he’s fallen for the latest story circulating on cable news, click-bait sites, or Twitter.

How could such well educated adults be victims of such clearly fake news?

I’m excited to report that Steve Edwards, Alden Loury & Odette Yousef of WBEZ and John Silva & Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project helped me start answering that question at the NewsLit Camp in Chicago and shared a number of practical strategies for combating fake news in the classroom.

Highlight of the Day: Nerding out with journalists I’d been listening to on WBEZ/NPR for the last 15 years!

Why do so many people consume & share fake news?

  • Financial Incentives: The more sensational and emotionally charged the content the more likely we are to click on it and share it. In a profit starved media landscape supported by advertising, click-bait sites and fake social media accounts have emerged with the sole purpose of attracting the most eyeballs & followers and selling them to the highest bidder.
  • Psychological Need: We get a dollop of dopamine when someone likes our tweet or post. We’re also hardwired to share whatever tidbit we know about a breaking story to see if it can be weaved into the broader narrative. (See: Shared Sense Making & Rumor Theory).
  • Prevalence: From talk radio to cable news and social media, we can’t escape it. Even if we abstain from all news media, stories find us via our family & friends.

What can we do about it?

  1. Get Nuanced: The more precisely we can help students label fake news, the more effectively we can help them fight it. Fake news take on many forms: manipulated content, satire, content, disinformation. (See this sample lesson from Checkology)
  2. Affirm but Probe: When students propagate ideas with little to no basis in fact, affirm their views and appreciate their willingness to share them. Then, help the student probe what may have shaped his or her views: Where did you hear that? What evidence supports that view? How might saying “X” make “Y” feel? What are other perspectives on the issue? What might lead people to feel that way?
  3. Uncover Bias: Our biases are rooted in race, class, political affiliation, and other identities. We often accuse various news sources of being biased because they threaten our worldview. (See: Hostile Media Effect).
    • Teaching Tip: Take the branding off of 3-5 articles on the same story from different news sites (e.g. CNN, Fox News, NPR, etc). See if students can identify which article came from which source. Discuss the extent to which the chart below is accurate or an oversimplification:

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Too often journalists don’t belong to the communities they’re reporting on creating blind spots in their reporting. To help news organizations uncover them, ask students to contact local papers & news channels and ask them to participate in ASNE’s Newsroom Diversity Survey Have students share their findings by creating Wikipedia pages for local news organizations. Update their entry every year with the latest survey results.

4. Encourage Students to Take Action:

  • Ask students to reply to peddlers of fake news (and people who comment on it) with fact checks of their claims.
  • Show students how to do a reverse Image search to check the validity of suspicious pictures:

5. Get Grounded

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5 Takeaways from ISTE for Social Studies Teachers

  1. Use Esri’s Geoinquiries and Arcgis Storymaps to help students develop their map analysis skills and Google’s Tour Builder to integrate text, images and maps to create more visually rich stories. (SOURCE: @JChanter22) 

2. Bring history alive by having students interview senior citizens in the community and record their oral histories. (Resources from Milton High School, WI)

3. Use inquiry kits, research modules, and case maker created by Thinkport to scaffold students’ analysis of primary sources from the Library of Congress while creating strong historical arguments.

4. Computational Thinking isn’t just for math or technology class! Use the series of lessons created by Green Dot Public Schools to help students apply computational thinking while designing Greek monuments, annotating a map of Lord of the Flies, creating their own ancient civilizations, and mapping earthquakes.

5. Speak your truth. I was struck by the boldness with which Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp ) used her platform at an #edtech conference to illustrate white privilege and challenge educators to courageously “dismantle our prejudiced world.” Since I wasn’t able to witness her talk, I read about it here and watched it here.

6 Tips for Facilitating Discussions on Race with Predominantly White Students

Teachers at predominantly white schools, especially those in conservative communities, may be reluctant to discuss race in the classroom. However, it is precisely in these communities that conversations about how race, ethnicity, and other social identities are critical for broadening students worldview.

Here are some ideas on how to have these conversations based on a town hall that a group of teachers and I helped organize at my school in an affluent, predominantly white public school in the suburbs of Chicago.

During the town hall we first asked a panel of diverse students share an experience that exemplified their experience with race or ethnicity in our school community. Then, we asked these students to join teachers who had signed up to attend the town hall to help facilitate discussions with their students.

A special thanks to Robin Vannoy, Robyn Corelitz, Billson Rasavongxay, Noah Lawrence, Cassandra Richardson and Deborah Powell for their ideas and support!

1. Prepare a Framework 

Ask student facilitators and teachers to carefully read articles on race along and strategies for leading difficult conversations from Teaching Tolerance, Harvard Graduate School of Education: Usable Knowledge, and Anti-Defamation League.

2. Ask Students to Complete an Anonymous Survey

Statement

Agree

Disagree

1. I am a student at Hinsdale Central High School.

2. I can turn on the television and see people of my race/ethnicity widely represented.
3.I can be sure that the curriculum in my classes celebrates the contributions of my race.
4. I can criticize our government without being seen as a cultural outsider.
5. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race/ethnicity.
6. I can easily find groups of friends who understand my cultural/ethnic background.
7. I feel I can be myself in class by sharing my views without worrying about being seen by my peers as an outsider.
8. I can easily find teachers and other staff members who are of my cultural/ethnic background.

SOURCE: National Seed Project

3. Discuss why race matters

cover_article_2005_en_US
Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools

“Our racial history is part of our present, it is in our structures…in the ways schools are organized, in how neighborhoods are laid out, in the composition of our family trees, in the unconscious stereotypes that get primed when we mentally sort people along racial lines. We walk around with it, and while it is never the only dynamic in the room, it matters.”

4. Establish Ground Rules

  1. Assume good intentions. Everyone is in the room because they desire to learn from one another.
  2. Speak from your own experience instead of generalizing (“I” instead of “they,” “we,” and “you”).
  3. Respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but avoid personal attacks — focus on ideas.
  4. Actively speak & listen — community growth depends on expressing & listening to every voice. The goal is not to agree but to gain a deeper understanding.
  5. Be conscious of body language and nonverbal responses — they can be as disrespectful as words.

SOURCE: EdChange & University of Missouri

5. Suggest Questions but let Students Choose 

  1. Why is it challenging to have conversations about race & diversity?
  2. To what extent are your cultures & traditions represented in popular culture & at Hinsdale Central?
  3. In what ways do you have advantages or disadvantages that you did not earn?
  4. Why might some students remain silent in order to feel safe with peers, in classrooms, or at school?
  5. How can we help create a community that allows all students to be themselves & share their voice?

6. Scaffold Difficult Conversations

white-final
What Does it Mean to be White?
  1. I’m nervous/scared/uncomfortable to say this… and/but…
  2. From my experience/perspective as (identity)…
  3. It feels risky to say this and/but…
  4. I just felt something shift in the group. I’m wondering if anyone else did.
  5. I have always heard / thought that…. What are your thoughts on that?
  6. I have a different perspective because…

Developed by Anika Nailah & Robin DiAngelo, 2013

21st Century Humanities PD

The steady stream of developments in education technology along with the books and blogs touting the newest, most student-centered methods of teaching makes it difficult to discern fads from true instructional innovations.

Technology should shift how students learn. However, without appropriate professional development teachers will be overwhelmed by the speed with which technology changes or merely replicate traditional teaching methods using digital tools.

The following is a framework for identifying instructional shifts due to technology and what their implications are for teachers and their professional development. 

Vision for Innovative Instruction

Implications for Teachers

Implications for Professional Development

Cultivate learning materials that meet the needs of all students

Although some learning goals necessitate reading a common text together, the textbook and the teacher no longer are the only sources for learning content and skills. Teachers will need to become skilled at cultivating and organizing resources that are appropriate for their students and learning goals. Teachers should train students on how to find and select appropriate resources.

  • Information Literacy
  • Developing a PLC/PLN
  • Differentiation

Create varied methods for demonstrating learning to authentic audiences

To be successful in the 21st century students will need to be skilled collaborators, communicators, critical thinkers and creators. Therefore, teachers will need to design learning activities that teach and assess these skills.

  • Project/Problem Based Learning
  • Multimedia tools & authentic audiences
  • Differentiation

Gather timely & actionable information about learning

Powerful tools now exist that allow teachers to quickly assess students and respond to student needs by creating flexible pathways to learning.

  • Formative Assessment
  • Asynchronous Learning
  • Grading v Assessing
  • Actionable Feedback

Information Literacy & Fake News

The recent election and the growing popularity of social media have created new urgency in the battles English and Social Studies teachers along with Librarians are fighting constantly—combating fake news.

A powerful resource that could help in this effort is www.checkology.or. Although the paid version offers teachers more features for monitoring student progress, there are free resources on:

  1. Filtering News & Information
  2. Exercising Civic Freedoms
  3. Navigating Today’s Information landscape
  4. How to Know What to Believe

The pace at which media changes and the frequency with which politicians are using it to distort reality is growing. Therefore, it is difficult for educators to have updated examples of misinformation and methods for detecting it.  Checkology provides current examples of news sources and social media and how they can be used to spread fake news. Also, the lessons are gamified so students earn points for completing each one. Most importantly, it provides realistic activities for students to apply their information literacy skills. For example, students are asked to:

  • Be the Editor: Decide the Day’s Top News
  • Participate in the Watergate investigation
  • Make a PSA & Dissect Rumors
  • Recognize bias in various sources

I recommend looking at checkology if you’re hoping to build your students’ information literacy skills and join the fight against fake news.

Election Day 2016: I take a vow

democracy-cannot-succeed-unless-those-who-express-their-choice-are-prepared-to-choose-wisely-the-real-safeguard-of-democracy-therefore-is-education

As a son of immigrants, I have lived the exceptional opportunities America provides. As a Social Studies teacher, I have praised the uniqueness of the 240 year democratic experiment that is America.

On Election Day, November 8, 2016 I began to question my faith in America.

My questions soon turned to self-doubt as to whether I had truly taught my students how to question, reason, or listen well. I doubted my effectiveness as a teacher. I doubted the effectiveness of my entire profession.

Whether these doubts are valid or just a misguided attempt to make sense of the world we now live in, I do not know. I can only do what I know how to do and try to do everyday: observe, reflect and plan.  

On November 8, 2016 I vowed to relentlessly strive to teach students how to:

  • Demand evidence and clear reasoning when evaluating arguments–especially those made by politicians. 
  • Define their core values, live by them and have the courage to not compromise them–even if their peers or other charismatic figures do otherwise.  
  • Empathize with and stand up for others–especially the most marginalized among them.

Yet, it doesn’t feel sufficient for me to strive to do better just for my students.  The challenge is too large for it to be surmounted alone.  All I can do is toss my pebble of pain, doubt and conviction in the pond of my profession hoping the ripples reach far beyond my classroom.

NOTE: Here is a list of resources to help you discuss the election results with your students.

PBL in Social Studies Classes

One of the best resources on project based learning is from the Buck Institute of Education (BIE) who, through years of research and experience, have established the gold standard for project based learning (PBL).  In this post, I will compare the characteristics of effective PBL from the BIE  with the projects my students and I have completed in order to share ideas for effective PBL and highlight areas where I hope to improve. While the examples I provide here are from various projects, as I gain more experience with PBL, I hope to create projects that include all of the traits in each project students complete.

pbl
SOURCE: Buck Institute of Education

 

 

CHARACTERISTICS

EXPLANATION from BIE

SAMPLE

Challenging Problem or Question The heart of a project is a problem to investigate and solve, or a question to explore and answer. Students in  ELL World Cultures class try to answer questions like “Is geography destiny?” and “How can we alleviate poverty?”
Sustained Inquiry Inquiry is iterative; when confronted with a challenging problem or question, students ask questions, find resources to help answer them, then ask deeper questions – and the process repeats until a satisfactory solution or answer is developed. Students use their overall research questions for their passion projects to craft sub-questions which are modified over time as they learn more about their topic.
Authenticity
  1. Authentic context, such as when students solve problems like those faced by people in the world outside of school  
  2. Real-world processes, tasks and tools, and performance standards
  3. Real impact on others or create something that will be used or experienced by others
  4. Personal authenticity when it speaks to students’ own concerns, interests, cultures, identities, and issues in their lives.
To create an audience outside of the classroom, in the past we have invited  parents & community members to watch World Cultures presentations. In economics, students publish their editorials on minimum wage in the local newspaper.
Student Voice & Choice Having a say in a project creates a sense of ownership in students; they care more about the project and work harder. If students aren’t able to use their judgment when solving a problem and answering a driving question, the project just feels like doing an exercise or following a set of directions. For students’ passion projects, they select a topic that appeals to them but is also aligned with a core theme in the course.
Reflection Throughout a project, students – and the teacher – should reflect on what they’re learning, how they’re learning, and why they’re learning. This is an area I want to improve by using the questions/prompts suggested by BIE to allow for quick reflection individually, with peers or during conferences with the teacher.
Critique & Revision Students should be taught how to give and receive constructive peer feedback that will improve project processes and products, guided by rubrics, models, and formal feedback/critique protocols. In addition to peers and teachers, outside adults and experts can also contribute to the critique process, bringing an authentic, real-world point of view. During the passion project, we review previous students’ sample essays, annotated lists and compare & contrast posts, use a checklist to ensure they have necessary parts of project and are assessed using a rubric.
Public Product First, a public product adds greatly to PBL’s motivating power and encourages high-quality work. Second, by creating a product, students make what they have learned tangible and thus, when shared publicly, discussable. Finally, making student work public is an effective way to communicate with parents, community members, and the wider world about what PBL is and what it does for students. Students publish their work on public blogs or websites.  I would like to find other avenues for students to share their work with wider audiences, perhaps by utilizing social media.

NOTE: This post was inspired by  coursework from the New Learning program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.