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Archive for the ‘Learning & Teaching Tools’ Category

Nothing much ….. or heaps?

Who, what, when, where and how is this issue being tacked in schools?

  • Who is taking fake news seriously?
  • What is being done to combat fake news?
  • When is fake news being tackled?  Before or after the fake news has been circulated?
  • Where is fake news being tackled? In subject specific classrooms or centrally via the school library?
  • How are our students being trained to be discerning believers of that which they read or hear?

It would be interesting to run a survey of schools and find out some answers to this question.  Feasible or likely – do you think?

An undeniable fact though is that the term ‘fake news’ has probably never been bandied around more that it is today.  Indeed, ‘fake news’ has been selected as the Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year.  Commenting on this decision, its editor, Susan Butler says:

“There has come a point with fake news where people are beginning to believe what they want to believe, whether or not the news story is actually true.”

(Sydney Morning Herald, January 25, 2017)

Is the term ‘fake news’ new?

Not really, is the implication of a hefty article by James Carson of The Telegraph which claims the term jumped into mainstream media with Donald Trump’s accusations against CNN but in reality is another term for ‘bending the truth’ or propaganda, a tool used to influence public opinion for quite some time.

If the frequency of the term ‘fake news’ is starting to wear thin though, equally powerful ‘catch phrases’ have started to pop up: ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ being the two front runners.

It’s clear that today though, the spread of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ has never been easier.

Social Media has rewritten the books! 

The implication of information being published and shared at will, without any authoritative verification of its truth is, to put it plainly, very scary!

Moves to address the issue are coming thick and fast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about this very issue: Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE which highlighted platforms and programs that are being developed to help people verify facts.

Educating our students to be discerning and informed on how to sift fact from fiction has probably never been more important!   Teaching them specifically how to fact check through valuable online resources such as Snopes, FactCheck and PolitiFact Australia are important and essential!

But this is only one aspect of the kind of education we should be providing in our schools.  So much more needs to be included in an education program.

A recent report – Students fight fake news and the spread of misinformation – about one school’s effort in Melbourne to tackle this issue was inspiring.  Students in English classes at Lowther Hall in Essendon are encouraged to apply the CRAAP test – checking for currency, relevance, accuracy, authority and purpose – to articles they come across in the press.

Reading this article seems to imply that this process was developed in Melbourne by this school’s Head of English but an online search finds reference to the CRAAP Test dating back to 2012 in a paper written by Sarah Myhre: Using the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Websites. More recently though, the American Library Association has updated its CRAAP test for spotting fake news.  A quick reference as to what is included in the CRAAP test can be found online.

Teacher Librarians have forever been working with students in sessions either alone or in a team teaching situation with subject teachers to instill in students an awareness of the currency, relevancy, accuracy and authority of information they come across online.

Indeed – one of the massive failures of the current climate of school administrations as they apply staffing and resource cuts to school libraries is a recognition of the value of having qualified and experienced teacher librarians to lead and guide school communities to recognize and address this modern scourge!

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For years, teacher librarians have been teaching students not just how to run online searches but how important it is to authenticate information found.

But over the last 12-18 months with the preponderance of ‘fake news’ popping up not just on the internet but in usually reliable print publications such as newspapers and journals, the impact ‘fake news’ has had on our world has been the subject of much discussion around the globe.

So it is refreshing to see that the conversation has now started to shift from how dangerous fake news is to how to spot and combat fake news.

Perhaps under threat from mega million law suits, Facebook has been one of the first to take a lead by informing users of some basic tips on how to spot false news.

For a few brief days in mid April this year, Facebook users in just 14 countries got to see this alert:

from where they could read through the following concise and useful tips on how to spot false news:

Why only 14 countries were included in this roll out and why the alert was only live for a few days is a complete mystery.  Given the value this kind of shared information can have in the fight against the spread of misleading and false information, one can only hope that Facebook was testing the ground and will come back to making this a permanent alert available to global Facebook users.

As reported by engadget recently, Google also is attempting to stamp out the spread of fake news by inserting a ‘Fact check by’ tag on searches on contentious issues.

Another interesting development this week is the announcement by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

WikiTRIBUNE is being developed as a new kind of news platform.  By calling on the community to work hand-in-hand with journalists, the aim is to verify and edit facts before they appear online.  Using crowdfunding to hire 14 journalists, it is intended that WikiTRIBUNE, like Wikipedia, will be free to access.

WikiTRIBUNE is set to differ from other news outlets in four specific ways:

  • the news source will be clearly stated
  • access to WikiTRIBUNE will be free and ad free
  • contributors from both the community and journalists will be equals
  • to achieve full transparency donors will be informed where money goes

Read more about the purpose and nature of WikiTRIBUNE in this excellent engadget article Wikipedia co-founder launches Wikitribune to fight fake news or listen to Jimmy Wales himself as he invites the world to come on board.

 

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Even though this is an ad published late last year for the new MacBook Pro, the video encapsulates some of the most revolutionary ideas that have been developed by man.

Quite literally

Ideas push the world forward!”

 

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I came across this video a little while ago.

It’s one of those videos which makes you appreciate how easy it is to impart knowledge in the most simple of ways.  For teachers we refer to it as our

bag of tricks!

Once you’ve been in teaching for a little while, knowing how to present to students so that they really ‘get’ the point of the lesson really becomes second nature.

Teaching becomes so routine, that sometimes, we even forget that we have these skills ‘up our sleeve’!

What am I talking about?  Simple teaching skills such as

  • Gaining attention by breaking with routine.
  • Using silence for optimum results.
  • Ensuring words of instruction are minimized.
  • Engaging with students at their level.
  • Asking pointed question to stimulate thought.
  • Utilizing student knowledge to highlight information being shared.
  • Injecting humour into the lesson.
  • Incorporating physical objects to illustrate a point.
  • Exploring alternate teaching styles.
  • Allowing students to draw conclusions.

The lesson being imparted in this video is valuable for us all.  The point of the lesson is made clearly and strongly.

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So ….. is hoodwinking our kids into believing that the tooth fairy is real the right kind of thing to do?  Or should we instead be helping them learn to distinguish fantasy from reality?

Never thought about it?

I hadn’t either – not until I listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about the tooth fairy on the The Late Late Show with James Corden.
 

 
Imagine how easily we could apply this kind of logic to so much of what we teach our students!

It’s a little mind-boggling – no?!

 

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It’s a while since I last blogged about Google Doodles …..

Google Doodles

I really love Google Doodles!

They never fail to bring a smile to my face and I just love sharing what has become a morning ‘find’ with family, friends and work colleagues when I open Google.com on my laptop in the morning.  I’m in awe of both the creativity and the ingenuity of their creators……

In a nutshell, a Google Doodle, is a temporary graphic variation of the Google logo on its homepage and aims to honour or celebrate holidays, events, achievements and/or people.  Each of these special illustrations embed links with a host of information about the focus topic.  A Google Doodle appears for just one day, but is archived and available for viewing on the Google Doodle website.

Just last week I came across a fabulous entry about a woman by the name of Aletta Jacobs who is, among many other ‘firsts’, noted as a suffragette, a doctor and the inventor of the first effective contraceptive.

Clearly Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929) was a trailblazer for her time.  Just last week on February 9th, she was honoured for what would have been her 163rd birthday with a Google Doodle.

aletta-jacobs-163rd-birthday-5639465472098304-hp2x

Like so many of the links associated with Google Doodles, this one: Aletta Jacobs: 5 fast facts you need to know gives a thumbnail sketch of this amazing woman and her contribution to our world.

Google Doodles really do hold a goldmine of information.  Use them as an inspirational, quick look at information about a host of different topics that have been the feature of one of the many Google Doodles created over the years.  Search the Google Doodle website for previous creations dating back to 1998.  You’ll be surprised at the amount of information that can be gleaned from them in a very short time!

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For me, the gift of blogging is providing myself with a vehicle to ‘think’ about issues and formalizing my own thoughts on different topics.  Some thoughts sit with me for a very long time before I get around to exploring them further by teasing them out in writing.

I’ve touched on this one many times over the life of this blog.  It’s always under the guise of encouraging lifelong learning.  My thoughts are many and varied – just use the keywords ‘lifelong learning’ to search NovaNews to find my thoughts and ideas.

I aspire to lifelong learning myself and fervently hope that all those of us in the teaching game also reach out to constantly challenge themselves with new thoughts and new ideas and to discover and savour the joy of lifelong learning.

At the end of it all though, is our stated aim to inspire the students in our schools to become lifelong learners so that they are able to set their own challenges and be lead along a path which may quench their thirst for learning.

Some time ago, I came across this fabulous infographic created by Mia MacMeekin. Just now I’ve been re-visiting it, thinking about the keywords used and the thought bubbles created under each.  This infographic, I realize,  encapsulates so many of the thoughts and words that I’ve been sharing here on NovaNews or spoken about to colleagues over a cuppa or presented at conferences or meetings.

innovation

How great it would be to inspire our students with the many thoughts included in this infographic.   Indeed how great it would be to inspire educators to get on board and modify some of their daily routines by considering and adopting some of these thoughts.

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