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Teenagers and Misinformation: Some Starting Points for Teaching Media Literacy

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Five ideas to help students understand the problem, learn basic skills, share their experiences and have a say in how media literacy is taught.In a sense, every week is Media Literacy Week on a site like ours, which helps people teach and learn with the news. But Oct. 24-28 is the official week dedicated to “amplifying the importance of media literacy education across the United States.” We are delighted to help.

Here are some ways to teach with the extensive reporting The New York Times has done recently on misinformation and disinformation, whether your students are just beginning to understand the problem, or whether they are ready for deeper inquiry.


Paul Blakesley has spent years teaching high school students in Colorado how to identify bias and misinformation.
Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

If you have time for just one activity, this one, based on the Times article “When Teens Find Misinformation, These Teachers Are Ready,” can provide a broad overview and help frame future work.

To start, share the statements in italics, all adapted from the article. You can do this as a “Four Corners” exercise in which you read each line aloud and ask students to position themselves in the room according to whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree. Or, you can hand out the PDF version and have students mark each statement “true” or “false” based on their own experiences, then discuss their reactions — and the experiences that informed those reactions — in partners or small groups.

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Here are the statements:

It’s easy to look at stuff on social media and take it as it is and not question it.

Older adults are more likely to struggle to recognize fake news than young people and are also the most likely to share it.

I have come across misleading and false narratives about the upcoming midterm elections online.

I have come across misleading and false narratives about the Covid-19 pandemic online.

If it’s gone viral, it’s probably true.

A .org domain makes a website trustworthy.

Media literacy is a necessity for everyone because of the way we live online today.

Some young adults share misinformation because they think it is true.

Some young adults share misinformation impulsively, because they are too busy to verify the information.

Most young adults talk to their parents and guardians about what makes media sources trustworthy.

TikTok is a primary information source for people my age.

Social media often reduces complex issues to one-sentence explanations.

A lot of young people are politically polarized at a very young age, and are angry at anyone who believes differently than they do.

Media literacy education should start in middle or even elementary school, when children are just beginning to venture online.

The way media literacy is taught needs improvement.

After your students have finished the exercise, discuss as a class what you discovered. On which statements was there broad agreement? On which was there disagreement? Why do they think that was? What personal experiences would they like to share that helped inform how they feel about the subject of “media literacy”? What, if anything, do they think schools and teachers should do to improve how they teach about these topics?

Finally, have them read “When Teens Find Misinformation, These Teachers Are Ready,” perhaps annotating to note their reactions as they go. You might then ask:

1. What jumped out at you as you read? Why?

2. This article describes many ideas, including curriculums, games and even legislative initiatives, that have been tried in recent years to support media literacy in public schools. Which of these, if any, were familiar to you? Which, if any, do you wish our school could adopt?

3. What problems with teaching media literacy did this article identify? Do you think our school has experienced any of these struggles? If so, what should we do about them? Why?

Then, to take the discussion further, you might continue to some of the exercises below.

Anjum Naveed/Associated Press
  • What don’t adults understand about teenage life on the internet?

  • How, if at all, can schools help?

Via our Student Opinion column, we ask teenagers a new question every school day based on something in the news, and thousands of young people from around the world post comments in reaction every month.

On Oct. 24, we’ll be posting a forum that invites teenagers to answer questions like the two above, and encourages them to share experiences and opinions about what it’s like to navigate their digital lives in 2022. We’ll ask them about their media literacy education so far, and invite them to offer adults advice for how to make it more relevant, interesting and useful.

If your students have thoughts about any of these topics, we hope they’ll join the conversation, either by posting a comment, or by replying to comments from others. We will link the forum here when it publishes.

The video above is from the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network, which publishes fact-checks for teenagers, by teenagers. According to the site, the network’s “fact-checks are unique in that they debunk misinformation and teach the audience media literacy skills so they can fact-check on their own.” Here is a collection of some recent fact-checks they have done, but you can see more on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

What skills do these students use? Among others, they have mastered lateral reading, a quick and effective method mentioned in the article students read above.

Mike Caulfield, a digital literacy expert, explained the rationale for that method in a 2021 interview with Charlie Warzel, a former Times opinion writer. In “Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole,” Mr. Caulfield argues that the way we’re taught from a young age to evaluate and think critically about information is fundamentally flawed and out of step with the chaos of the current internet:

“We’re taught that, in order to protect ourselves from bad information, we need to deeply engage with the stuff that washes up in front of us,” Mr. Caulfield told me recently. He suggested that the dominant mode of media literacy (if kids get taught any at all) is that “you’ll get imperfect information and then use reasoning to fix that somehow. But in reality, that strategy can completely backfire.”

In other words: Resist the lure of rabbit holes, in part, by reimagining media literacy for the internet hellscape we occupy.

It’s often counterproductive to engage directly with content from an unknown source, and people can be led astray by false information. Influenced by the research of Sam Wineburg, a professor at Stanford, and Sarah McGrew, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Mr. Caulfield argued that the best way to learn about a source of information is to leave it and look elsewhere, a concept called lateral reading.

Invite your students to read the full piece. In it, they will learn how Mr. Caulfield has refined the process fact-checkers use into four simple principles:

1. Stop.

2. Investigate the source.

3. Find better coverage.

4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

Otherwise known as SIFT.

To go deeper, students might first watch a Crash Course video about lateral reading, then learn how to put it into practice via Stanford’s Civic Online Reasoning site. You might then invite them to practice it with information they come across in their social media feeds. What are the benefits of this approach? What are the limits? How well does it arm them to navigate information on their own, outside of school?

Finally, they might either revisit the Teen Fact-Checking Network to identify where they see those skills in action or, if they are ready, produce their own videos that fact-check the information they find in their feeds.

 

Alberto Miranda

Does your school have a media literacy program? How effective is it? Invite your students to investigate and make recommendations, perhaps by starting with questions like these:

  • What is our school doing to teach media literacy?

  • Is it working? How can we measure that?

  • Does it teach students skills they will actually use to evaluate information they come across in their private lives as well as at school? Does it work for all the places and ways students access information, or does it need broadening or updating somehow?

Identifying the problem is, of course, a lot easier than solving it, but your students’ next step might be to learn about what has been effective elsewhere. Articles like the one we recommend in Step 1 include ideas for how schools and regions in the United States are tackling the problem, and this Opinion piece further details ideas from Finland and Estonia.

What additional ideas can your students find by researching? Which might work for their school? Why? If they were to write up a set of recommendations to share with school leaders, what would those recommendations include?

One of the winning videos from The Learning Network’s 2018 “News Diet Challenge” for teenagers.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication.”

Here are ways to do that — via The Learning Network, The New York Times and some trusted outside sources.

All of our daily and weekly features — including multimedia activities like What’s Going On in This Picture?, our lesson plans and our many annual student contests — are focused on media literacy and help young people “access, analyze, evaluate, create and act.” But our Journalism and Media Literacy page collects resources that are especially focused on helping students understand how the news is created, and how it can be safely consumed.

For example, here are some things you can find:

The New York Times has an entire team of reporters covering misinformation and disinformation.

For instance, do your students know that the qualities that allow TikTok to fuel viral dance fads are also making it a “primary incubator of baseless and misleading information”? The articles below explore how:

The information below each organization’s name was taken from the sites themselves.

The Stanford History Education Group’s Civic Online Reasoning Curriculum

Students are confused about how to evaluate online information. We all are. The COR curriculum provides free lessons and assessments that help you teach students to evaluate online information that affects them, their communities and the world.

National Association for Media Literacy Education

The association aims to make media literacy highly valued and widely practiced as an essential life skill. It envisions a day when everyone, in our nation and around the world, possesses the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication. Media literacy education refers to the practices necessary to foster these skills.

The News Literacy Project

This nonpartisan education nonprofit is building a national movement to advance the practice of news literacy throughout American society, creating better-informed, more engaged and more empowered individuals — and ultimately a stronger democracy.

Media Literacy Now

This group leverages the passion and resources of the media literacy community to inform and drive policy change at local, state and national levels in the United States to ensure all K-12 students are taught media literacy so that they become confident and competent media consumers and creators.

The Media Education Foundation

The foundation produces and distributes documentary films and other educational resources to inspire critical thinking about the social, political and cultural impact of American mass media.

Common Sense Education

This organization provides a variety of media literacy resources including courses and curriculum, research on media literacy, a news and media literacy resource center as well as a list of other media literacy organizations worth exploring.

News Decoder

This site partners with schools around the world to teach media literacy and journalistic skills that enable students to create and consume media responsibly.


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Move The Chains | Antisemitism & Social Media – BC Lions

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Move The Chains | Antisemitism & Social Media  BC Lions



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Iran begins construction on nuclear plant: State media

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CAIRO –

Iran on Saturday began construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, Iranian state TV announced, amid tensions with the U.S. over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The announcement also comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police custody and have challenged the country’s theocratic government.

The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion, the country’s state television and radio agency reported. The plant will be located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, near its western border with Iraq, it said.

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The construction site’s inauguration ceremony was attended by Mohammed Eslami, head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organization, who first unveiled construction plans for Karoon in April.

Iran has one nuclear power plant at its southern port of Bushehr that went online in 2011 with help from Russia, but also several underground nuclear facilities.

The announcement of Karoon’s construction came less than two weeks after Iran said it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60% purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear facility. The move is seen as a significant addition to the country’s nuclear program.

Enrichment to 60% purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

The move was condemned by Germany, France and Britain, the three Western European nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Recent attempts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.

Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained

In a statement issued by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on Saturday, the country’s national security council announced that some 200 people have been killed during the protests, the body’s first official word on the casualties. Last week, Iranian Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh tallied the death toll at more than 300.

The contradictory tolls are lower than the toll reported by Human Rights Activists in Iran, a U.S.-based organization that has been closely monitoring the protest since the outbreak. In its most recent update, the group says that 469 people have been killed and 18,210 others detained in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed.

Iranian state media also announced Saturday that the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian female rock climber who competed abroad with her hair untied, had been demolished. Iran’s official judiciary news agency, Mizan, said the destruction of her brother’s home was due to its “unauthorized construction and use of land” and that demolition took place months before Rekabi competed. Antigovernment activists say it was a targeted demolition.

Rekabi became a symbol of the antigovernment movement in October after competing in a rock climbing competition in South Korea without wearing a mandatory headscarf required of female athletes from the Islamic Republic. In an Instagram post the following day, Rekabi described her not wearing a hijab as “unintentional,” however it remains unclear whether she wrote the post or what condition she was in at the time.

Separately, the U.S. Navy said Saturday it intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday attempting to smuggle 50 tons of ammunition and a key component for missiles from Iran to Yemen.

Experts have accused the Iranian government of continually conducting Illicit weapons smuggling operations to supply Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The shipments have included rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missiles. Last month, the U.S. seized 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among fertilizer bags aboard a ship bound for Yemen from Iran.

“This significant interdiction (on Thursday) clearly shows that Iran’s unlawful transfer of lethal aid and destabilizing behavior continues,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet, in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Iran on the seizure.

Iran has been the Houthis’ major backer since the rebel force swept down from Yemen’s northern mountains in 2014 and seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile. In the following year, a Saudi-led coalition armed with U.S. weaponry and intelligence intervened to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power. Since 2014, the United Nations has enforced an arms embargo prohibiting weapons transfers to the Houthis.

The United States unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start backing away from the deal’s terms. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful.

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Spotify Wrapped is a social media sensation. Its impact on artists and listeners is debatable

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For some, it’s Christmas. For astronomers, it’s the Winter Solstice. But for literally millions of others, December means something different — for them, it’s Spotify Wrapped month.

The juggernaut campaign, currently in its sixth officially branded year, packages Spotify users’ listening statistics, and musicians’ streaming numbers in easily shareable panes. For some music fans, it has come to partially define the holiday season.

It takes over social media for at least a few days after its Dec. 1 premiere, and has grown big enough that other streaming giants have aped it themselves, with both YouTube and Apple Music recently coming out with their own versions.

What began as a small side project has exploded into what is essentially a multi-million dollar ad campaign. The tangible impact of Wrapped on listener statistics is still debatable; as is how much the project boosts Spotify itself, versus the benefit it provides artists.

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It’s also unclear why users are so enamoured with the idea of having their private data packaged and sold back to them. One digital rights advocacy group described Wrapped as a “business model … based on surveillance” in a recent Wired magazine article.

Jem Aswad, deputy music editor of Variety, said the campaign’s real benefit to Spotify is difficult to measure. In a cluttered field of year-end critics’ polls and retrospective reviews, it’s almost impossible to tease out what had the most impact — despite the fact that app downloads typically increase in December. Spotify downloads jumped by 21 per cent that month in 2020, according to marketing company MoEngage.

LISTEN | Is Spotify Wrapped the best way to support musicians? 

Up To Speed7:07The best way to support your favourite artists? This artist says it takes a lot more than sharing your Spotify Wrapped stats on social media

Which artist was at the top of your Spotify Wrapped stats? A Winnipeg musician hopes you’re supporting them in ways other than streams. Winnipeg indie artist Ila Barker shares her mixed reaction to the streaming site with Faith Fundal.

That’s no small feat for one of the biggest music streaming platforms on Earth.

Of roughly 525 million subscribers to music streaming services globally, Spotify holds a market share of about 30 per cent, according to Midia Research, an entertainment consultancy.

Increasing its brand recognition through the Spotify Wrapped campaign is “catnip” for the streaming service and its staff, Aswad said.

The real purpose of Wrapped is users sharing screenshots of the lists provided to them, which prominently includes the Spotify logo, he said. “Because it’s both endorsing Spotify in a sort of sidelong way, and it really makes the thing more popular.”

‘It is a brilliant use of social media’

But the most powerful aspect is that Wrapped works as both a commercial and a service, he said, helping the promotion gain user interest.

“The reason that Wrapped and things like it have become the phenomenon that they have …  is it’s both about the music and the person,” he said “It’s a reflection. It is a brilliant use of social media — or the tactics of social media — to enable people to say something about themselves.”

The fact that this kind of project works at all is still something of a mystery to some observers. Concerns over online tracking are simmering. Apple allowed users to turn it off for certain apps earlier this year — threatening Facebook’s entire business strategy — so it seems odd that a feature built on sharing personal data would take off.

But Kimeko McCoy, an Atlanta-based freelance journalist and digital marketer, said this trend can help stoke desire.

“There’s a hunger, if you’ll put it that way, for people: ‘If you’re going to use my data, make it worth my while,'” she said. “And it seems that’s kind of what Spotify has hit the nail on the head with.”

The knock-on though, leads to more than just a grassroots advertising campaign. As Spotify users share their Wrapped lists and potentially drum up desire for the only app that currently offers such detailed analytics, some artists says it drowns out valid criticism of how the streaming service remunerates them.

“Each year I wonder why Spotify Wrapped graphics never tell us how much money we made from Spotify — in comparison to how much revenue our music generated for the platform,” Canadian rapper Masia One wrote in a Facebook post, sharing her own modified version of the trend.

“This year, I re-jigged my Spotify Wrapped to reflect the numbers that effect my life and sustainability as a songwriter and artist.”

American labour group Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) took a similar stance, creating a parallel campaign — “Spotify Unwrapped” — to highlight the low pay artists receive for streams on the app.

As for the immediate effect Wrapped has for artists, answers run the gamut. Aswad said big-name musicians with billions of streams for the year like Taylor Swift or The Weeknd would likely see an observable benefit from tens of thousands of posts sharing their music.

Meanwhile Ralph, a singer-songwriter from Toronto, who racked up 5.7 million streams this year, said for her Wrapped initially did more harm than good. Beginning as a musician, seeing peers post their streaming numbers at the end of the year turned their careers into a very public competition — one she worried she was losing.

“It was really hard for me, actually. I actually had to put my phone down,” she said. As her career has grown, however, she said she’s come to appreciate the opportunity to share her results and celebrate other artists.

Vancouver musician bbno$ performs at the 2022 Juno Awards in Toronto. (CARAS/iPhoto)

And then there’s the artists in between — like Vancouver’s bbno$, whose earworms Lalala and Edamame helped him bring in nearly 550 million streams this year. In his case, Wrapped added a very noticeable cherry on top.

Edamame was streaming at like, let’s say like 270 a day, and yesterday did like 400,” he said the day after Spotify Wrapped’s launch. “For no reason really. It’s just people are reminded again that I listened to bbno$ all year, so let’s just go back and listen to him again.”

Despite the fact Spotify allegedly pays an industry-low of under half a cent per stream, he said the trade-off is worth it. During the pandemic, one of the most difficult times for musicians to make a career, he said any service that can help artists keep going is worthwhile. As is any campaign, like Wrapped, that helps the service to thrive, he added.

“Who cares? It’s still there,” he said, pointing to the streaming service as his saving grace during the loss of touring income brought on by the pandemic. “I have a career out of literally nothingness. And God bless Spotify at the same time … Like, do I think there could be more money? Absolutely. But right now, I’m fine.”

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