Fake News Invasion?

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Photo Credit @freepressaction

Fake News is Old News 

While the phenomenon of Fake News screamed into headlines with the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria shooting, media literacy has been around as long as people have been constructing adolescence as distinct from adulthood. Ethnographer Greg Dimitriadis teased apart some of the perspectives people bring to popular culture and media literacy – perspectives that inform approaches to youth, teaching, and learning. For example, media literacy movements began with fears of people (often positioned as poorer, younger, or slower) being duped into believing whatever they were being told or sold (the protectionist stance). But for ethnographers of education and youth culture like Jo Ellen Fisherkeller (author of Growing Up with Television), media literacy needs to be more and can be problematic. The ethnographic stance works to meet youth where they are; acknowledging the skills and positive (including pleasurable) relationships people young and old construct with media texts (the ethnographic stance). Some critical educators work to wed these stances together with an approach to media in the classroom that balances pleasure with critique and deconstruction of media as both a text and a corporate institution (the critical pedagogy stance). While this is a simple way to parse approaches and there are others including hybrids educators might ascribe to, this is a productive place to start.

So What is Fake News?

Many have been quick to blame social media sites (like Facebook where the Pizza-Gate Conspiracy story and many others circulated during the 2016 election) and the open web for the proliferation, circulation, and ubiquity of news about fabricated events. Stories like this one in the New York Times, explain how anyone (like Cameron Harris) can sit down, write, and publish widely read tales (including photographs) of happenings that never transpired.

But reporters at Vox point out that, while social media may be one place Fake News grows legs, real news outlets are heavily implicated in creating, what they dub, “false equivalence” between the two candidates and the scandals surrounding their campaigns. In this instance, false equivalence veiled what was at stake for the majority of the voting population. They argue in favor of a closer look at the ways real news works too.

This means we have to vet the texts we read, but we’ve also got to learn about the ways all texts get constructed and disseminated.

So How do I Get Started?

Reading any text (nursery rhyme, cereal box, mother’s day card, online news story, work of art, picture book, science textbook, etc.) with these questions from Project Look Sharp via Common Sense Media is one way to start:

  • Who made this?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who paid for this? Or, who gets paid if you click on this?
  • Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
  • What is left out of this message that might be important?
  • Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

Questions like these layer classic questions about: Media Mode Audience Purpose and Situation (that make rhetorical analysis accessible to K-12 students) with critical questions about industry, representation, impact, and authority. A video like Hate Machine is another way to kick start the conversation about text construction and dissemination:

Teachers in middle and high school classrooms might find this 10 question checklist for Fake News Detection from the News Literacy Project a quick place to start. It begins asking readers to gauge their emotional investment in the truth of their reading, includes online activities like reverse image searches, and touches on the ways bots can dominate online forums.

What Should I Be Ready for?

When people start to talk about harm and textual authority, the conversation can get sticky; particularly for people from marginalized or underrepresented populations. Marginalized voices are the voices rendered invisible, demonized, and mis-represented in much of mainstream media. In “Did Media Literacy Backfire?” media scholar danah boyd outlines some of the questions critical, inclusive, responsive, anti-racist, allied educators need to be asking along the way. She reminds us about the limits of medical “science.” She reminds us of the necessity for information and expertise if we are to live in a functioning democracy that promotes equity and social justice. She reminds us of the need to reimagine traditional education practices:

We cannot fall back on standard educational approaches because the societal context has shifted. We also cannot simply assume that information intermediaries can fix the problem for us, whether they be traditional news media or social media. We need to get creative and build the social infrastructure necessary for people to meaningfully and substantively engage across existing structural lines. This won’t be easy or quick, but if we want to address issues like propaganda, hate speech, fake news, and biased content, we need to focus on the underlying issues at play. No simple band-aid will work.”

One of the quickest ways to shake things up is to invite youth to investigate their own questions, make their own media, and share that media with audiences beyond the classroom. The Rock Your World project based curriculum by Creative Visions is a free online resource for lesson plans AND a showcase for youth social issue action projects. Lessons take youth through the process of identifying an issue of personal and social importance, informing themselves, and selecting a format for composing a persuasive text (letter, campaign, song, film). The curriculum’s lessons are open enough for any teacher to modify, include links to alignment with Common Core State Standards, and curated resources like mentor texts and places for students to publish and disseminate their finished work widely.

Look to future posts for tips and questions to consider as youth publish their work beyond the classroom and engage in critical inquiry projects.

I would like to thank Ginger Gannaway for help curating some of the above resources.

Beauty, Middle Fingers and Parental Pause

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Middle Finger Graffiti in Berlin Elevator in Wedding Photo Credit: Iwan Gabovitch

The sun was setting.

Dinner was done.

Nina (my 6 year old daughter) rocked in the back porch hammock with quiet confidence slathered all over her smugly smiling lips as her 3 year old brother Jurian bathed in devastation.

Jurian (through buckets of tears): Nina told me I am not beautiful.

Me: Nina, how would you feel if Jurian told you you were not beautiful?

Nina: I would put my middle finger up at him if he said anything about how I looked.

Me: Nina?

<<Pause>>

<<Pause>>

Me: What I meant to say is please don’t try to hurt your brother’s heart on purpose. I think his heart is hurt. And yes, if someone says something about how you look, I do think you should tell them that’s wack. That’s right.

It’s moments like these when I hear the record screech to a halt. It’s all quiet and I can hear myself repeating a 100 year old script I likely heard from adults my whole life who heard from adults their whole lives and so on – that “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” aka golden rule logic. In many situations, it doesn’t actually work out that mathematically, nor should it. And there are probably so many moments like these when I don’t hear myself being heard by someone else, but tonight…tonight…I did. And it gave me (thank god) a little pause.

30 seconds like these make me feel like I’m raising another generation. My mother probably had these too. They were probably about things I’d consider small now in my 40s, but I truly believe it’s events like these that bear weight as we move forward in the world. Here she is. At the age of 6 she has used her words to bring her brother to tears; words she knows and has heard should hurt feelings. Perhaps they’ve hurt her feelings before as well. I can recall many a tearful recounting of “someone said I wasn’t a pretty girl because I wasn’t wearing a dress” or “they said I was ugly because I didn’t have long enough hair.”

Today, after a couple of years of tears, she is building up that steely armor. That woman who won’t take shit for her looks or hear people telling you how you should and shouldn’t dress, sit, stand, talk, think, feel, and basically exist as a powerful person in the world.

I don’t get it right 100% of the time, but I’m proud to endorse my daughter putting her middle finger up at anyone who has something to say about how she looks.

It’s not traditional research, but it’s worth a read…Reasons Moms Who Swear are the Best F*#$ing Moms and gave me the fire to post about this tonight. #goodcompany

Tweets, Teacher Talk & Winnie the Pooh

 

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Image Credit: Thoth God of Knowledge

 

Last night I wasn’t feeling so well. It had been a long week and it was only Wednesday. I had been working late every night, getting up early, and couldn’t see an end in sight. I still don’t, but Iwoke up to a loving colleague tweeting about a remarkable student post about classroom work in my course. It’s not often that you get tangible, detailed, positive feedback at 6 in the morning. Let’s just say it was well-timed and the day continued to surprise as I had a rousing conversation about Minds Online with SEU faculty, several students came and engaged in the English Eddies Teacher Circle (along with venerable AISD 2013 Teacher of the Year Sarah Dille and her colleagues Ginger Gannaway and Janie Lewicki) and I arrived home to a swarm of smiling children who wanted to read Winnie the Pooh and go to sleep. Kind of a dream.  Feeling grateful. Going to bed.

Getting Ready, Getting Excited…Getting Scared?!

20140805-221038-79838743.jpgI’ve been working feverishly on syllabi and thinking about all the interesting ideas, activities, and projects I want to engage students in over the coming semester. All that being said, I look at my notes and my documents and my designs and feel overwhelmed with all the new I’m going to be learning along with all the new faces and places I’m going to be meeting and exploring. It is all I can do to keep myself from sitting on the couch and staring into space at all the new.

I suppose this is the month out/night before school jitters that I’ve learned to expect and almost appreciate. Once I get in the swing of things, kinks will work out, surprises will emerge, and there will be a new beginning again. If only I could keep all that perspective at the forefront of my thoughts enough to quiet them and capture a worker-bee-like buzz.

Things I do to chill myself out in these moments of pre-semester jitters:

1. Log in to Facebook, Instagram or Whatsapp.

2. Check texts, email & write friends about totally unrelated writing, research, and life projects.

3. Blog.

4. Review a new book I’d like to use.

5. Make todo lists of tiny things I can do to move forward when I’m overwhelmed or brain dead.

6. Search for chocolate.

7. Calendar things.

8. Go to bed.

9. Take a shower.

10. Go for a run.