Tag Archives: media literacy

jonnaperillofakenews

Real Teaching in a Time of Fake News

This post is written by NCTE historian Jonna Perillo. 

You may have noticed the attention that fake news is receiving in the English classroom. A 2016 Stanford study revealed that today’s K–12 students, while digitally literate in many senses, lack the ability to distinguish fake news from real, instead trusting whatever source confirms their existing beliefs. Motivated by classroom experiences that echo the Stanford findings, educators are rethinking many of the traditional methods and mantras of teaching students to evaluate news sources and developing more sophisticated means of teaching media literacy and the evaluation skills that will benefit students in many aspects of their lives in and outside of school.

Fake or misleading news is nothing new. Nor is teachers’ advocacy around the issue. In the midst of World War II, NCTE took on Reader’s Digest for what some journalists and teachers saw as the magazine’s unspoken rightward bent. The stakes were high: the magazine’s circulation jumped from 4 to 9 million during the war.  In addition, it sold millions of copies of its school edition to classrooms across the nation.

Critics of the Digest, including teacher and NCTE member Samuel Beckhoff, reproached the journal for republishing conservative news sources far more often than liberal ones, including a high percentage of articles that were anti-New Deal, anti-labor, and anti-United Nations.[1] The NCTE Committee on Newspapers and Magazines was charged with investigating the Digest further.  It seconded many of Beckhoff’s findings, but the NCTE Executive Committee overrode its report in November 1944, in part because the magazine by that time had responded to the organization’s criticisms.  In the months since the investigation began, the school edition changed to include a more balanced selection of articles and a more complete list of further recommended readings. The Digest had become a better resource for “an education program which aim[ed] to develop fair-mindedness and straight thinking on controversial questions.”[2]

What the Executive Committee did not address was what made the Digest so attractive to many teachers and problematic to others: its abridging and republishing of primary news sources.  It assembled a wider collection of readings than any other news publication in the pre-Internet age, but it also offered, in Beckhoff’s terms, “precooked and predigested” news that allowed readers to “relax into a comfortable groove.”[3] This may have been the experience millions of Americans were looking for in their recreational reading, but it could present a challenge to teachers trying to form more alert and thoughtful students.

The story of NCTE and Reader’s Digest anticipated what teachers struggle with today: students who read only partial versions of stories or events without fully realizing it, who forget to question what is left out of any account, and who approach their sources with unearned trust rather than a critical eye. NCTE’s strategy then was to change the source; today we look to change the reader.

The good news is that studies have shown that teachers who invest time working on media literacy with their students produce readers who are 26% more likely to be able to discern fake news from real. Sources that end in .edu or .gov always can be trusted, right? Wrong. Teachers are working on ever more specific ways of thinking about how information gets reported and circulated, how evidence gets used or exploited, and how Internet search engines organize news stories in ways that can mislead passive readers. If the percentage of students who gain from these lessons is still lower than many of us would like, the quality of instruction teachers have developed around the issue is to be applauded, adopted, and further adapted.

As in the 1940s, there is a need for broader NCTE action against fake news.  NCTE has already begun to advertise teachers’ best work in this area.  It can be additionally helpful in connecting teachers to the resources news organizations are producing. But NCTE must also stand as a collective voice and advocate for media literacy. Most academic standards address media literacy, but often in ways that are too cursory for the challenge at hand. Too often teachers limit instruction in evaluating sources to a single research assignment rather than a regular practice, something that is unlikely to make an impact. Teachers must have the room, resources, and, perhaps most important, preparation to address fake news in the English classroom, and NCTE is well-suited to argue why this is and how to get there.

At a time when the curriculum is narrowing, arguing for more is no small achievement, even if we understand that the end result will yield better readers and writers. But if a political and media culture in which seemingly anything goes has shown us anything, it is that we must argue for more instruction in media literacy with conviction all the same.

[1] Samuel Beckhoff, “The Rainbow,” English Journal 32.6 (June 1943), 325–330.

[2] Board of Directors Meeting Minutes, November 1944, p. 293, Series 15/70/001, National Council of Teachers of English Archives.  Other documents related to the Reader’s Digest debate can be found on the NCTE archives webpage: https://archives.library.illinois.edu/ncte/about/december.php#1944.

[3] Beckhoff, 325.

Jonna Perrillo is associate professor of English education at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and the Battle for School Equity.

Using Advertisements in the Classroom

macOn this day in 1984, the “1984” commercial launched Apple’s Macintosh personal computer in the United States. The 45-second ad, which aired during a break in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, was declared the best ad of the last 50 years in 1995. Directed by Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott, the advertisement cost $1.6 million to produce and was aired only once. How can you use advertisements in the classroom?

Begin by checking out one of these lesson plans from ReadWriteThink.org:

After finishing one or more of the lessons on advertising above, have students create original advertisements. Begin by having students review the advertising techniques they’ve studied (propaganda, advertising fallacies). Next, have students identify a subject for their ad, such as a favorite television show, album, or product; an upcoming event; or a political figure. Then, ask small groups to create advertisements designed to persuade others to use a product, hold a viewpoint, or participate in an activity.

How else can you use advertisements in the classroom?

This Week is United States Media Literacy Week

“The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall encourage school districts to implement instruction in media literacy skills at all grade levels, and in any of the core subjects or other subjects, to equip students with the knowledge and skills for accessing, evaluating, and creating all types of media.”

http://www.ncte.org/policy-analysis-initiative?reportid=214

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate, analyze, act, communicate and create using all forms of media. The mission of Media Literacy Week, October 31 – November 4, 2016, is to highlight the power of media literacy education and its essential role in education today.

In today’s media-rich society, where students are exposed to an ever-increasing variety of traditional and nonprint texts, media literacy skills have become critical to the academic development of our students. Read more in Lesson Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classrooms. Visit this additional collection of lesson plans from ReadWriteThink.org on media literacy.

Social Critique and Pleasure: Critical Media Literacy with Popular Culture Texts” shows how popular music, for example, can offer powerful opportunities for dialogically teachable moments and engagement in literacy learning that is critical but does not come at the expense of children’s pleasure in such texts.

Media at the Core: How Media Literacy Strategies Strengthen Teaching with Common Core” includes an expansion of teachers’ conception of texts to include understanding and creation in a variety of media forms; integrating media and technology across school subjects; modeling strong research practices in an increasingly information-rich environment; analyzing and creating various genres of nonfiction texts; and engaging students in civic participation.

A popular one-semester elective class relies on student knowledge of and interest in sports to teach critical media literacy and rhetorical analysis as described in “Sports Stories and Critical Media Literacy“.

This digital package includes three one-hour, on demand Web seminars on teaching media literacy.  Learn ways to incorporate pop culture, youth media, and film in the classroom from leading experts, Frank W. Baker and John Golden. Read more from Frank on “Why Media Literacy Week Matters So Much“.

Did you know that there’s an NCTE Media Literacy Award?

Reflections on #nctechat

April #nctechat archiveLast weekend, a spirited discussion ensued during #nctechat on Twitter. With a topic like Politics and Language: Critical Literacy During an Election Year, people are bound to show up and see what others are talking about (you can access the Storify archive here).

From the news media to our own dinner tables, the fear and vitriol that the 2016 election has already churned up has left teachers wondering how they can have productive discussions with their students about the important issues facing our country. But teachers also know that the classroom is where we have a big opportunity to help nurture engaged, responsible citizens. The question is, how do we invite those discussions into our learning community without also inviting resentment and malice towards those with differing viewpoints?

What I saw overwhelmingly in our chat last Sunday was that teachers understand the need to embrace the uncomfortable. That we need to go beyond just  holding mock elections and offering students extra credit to stay up late and watch presidential debates. Instead, we need to look at the ways can critically examine our role as citizens in a democracy – with our students. It’s difficult to do that without discussing controversial and uncomfortable topics.

If you want to see some of the resources and important thoughts that were shared last Sunday, I created my own Storify of takeaways from the chat. I hope you will find some of them both useful and inspiring.