In today’s media-saturated world, it can be a difficult task to distinguish between fact and fiction. Even harder still is the task of teaching younger, less experienced people to sift, sort, scrutinize and share only what’s true and meaningful online. This week’s content included some great resources to assist in both of these difficult tasks and gave me a lot to reflect and think about in the contexts of consumer, creator, and educator.
One of the things I’ve thought about the most this week has been the idea of truth being subjective, relative, or a matter of perspective. But before you scoff, let me clarify. I’m not saying that facts can’t be found or that truth doesn’t exist; I’m just saying that people perceive truth differently. There tends to be a lot of grey area in what truths people hold, especially when we’re discussing news and media.
It brought to mind a widely-shared meme where two people are looking at a figure on the ground from different sides; one insists it’s a 6 while the other a 9 (try as I might, I was unable to find the original source of the said meme, but I found a version of it connected to a pretty great blog post in my search, so I’ve linked that here instead) To me, this graphic really highlights the idea that the truth is not always easy to determine and that sometimes it requires us to go the extra mile and apply those media literacy skills that are so critical in a world where new content is being generated online at a mind-blowing rate.
With all of the ideas above being said, it’s still worth noting that I do my due diligence when sharing and posting information online. I usually do this by verifying sources, fact-checking and/or being the natural skeptic that I am. However, if you’re like me and you need a little more structure and process in your life, this Forbes article does a great job in helping outline steps to take when creating and sharing content online. This is particularly relevant to me now that I’m officially a ‘blogger.’ By the way, I love being able to say that again after so many years since my last blog. Anyway, moving on…
LIVING & TEACHING IN THE FAKE NEWS ERA
At a time when “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” (Pew Research Center) it’s no wonder the truth is so hard to uncover. While this article was shocking and frankly a little hard to swallow, I have to admit I didn’t find it all that hard to believe because of things I’ve seen on my own social media feeds. I think I really started paying attention to this during the primary elections in 2015 when friends and family started sharing the most ludicrous posts without a second thought. In the months that followed, my friend list decreased significantly and I began tuning into my own biases and evaluating where I get my news. Without getting too political here, I will say that it was comforting to learn that the majority of my news comes from neutral sources.
Thanks to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and complete insanity that has followed, the term ‘fake news’ has become a popular phrase across the globe, and one that I’ve leveraged as an entry point to teach students about the reliability of online sources. A few months back, I did a fantastic and engaging lesson with upper elementary classes to help them determine real from fake sites to use for a research project. It was the beginning of an ongoing discussion among students and teachers at school to help support them in being more critical consumers of information. The resources provided this week from Media Smarts are a great addition to my toolkit for future lessons and ones that I’m excited to share with my colleagues before I leave at the end of the year.
THE FUTURE OF TRUTH
As in the previous weeks of this COETAIL journey, I’ve been left with a number of things to consider moving forward. Most of these have manifested as questions, so I’ll end this post with what’s lingering.
- What role do beliefs play in the quest for truth?
- What role do data and research play in determining truth?
- How can educators simplify something so abstract in order to help young students understand it?
- How do my biases come through when I teach?
- What am I doing to support my students in being critical of the information they find and share online?
- How can I embed more of these media literacy skills across other curriculum areas?
- What does the future of media and information hold?