April 12

Information Credibility – Research for Public Speaking

It is public speaking time at the OJCS, which means most grades are engaged in doing research for their speeches.  The following is a lesson for our grade 7s and 8s (although it can be used across most grades) that explains how we determine if the sources we want to use for our research are credible.  Going through numerous examples will help us understand who is publishing what kinds of content online and why.

So the key things we need to pay attention to when we are searching for information online:

  • Just because something is online, it doesn’t mean that it’s true or reliable.  Which means that when you are doing research for your public speaking and ANY OTHER PROJECT, that the websites you use for your research must be quality ones.
  • Where, Who, What, When
  • WHERE is the content published?  What type of website are you finding this information on?  This can determine what the angle or bias might be.
  • What is the purpose of the website where I am finding this information?
  • WHO – look for the author of the source you are reading from.  Try to find out a bit about the author to ensure they are an expert.
  • WHAT is the point of view of this site?  Is this information balanced or biased?
  • Always follow the RULE OF THREE – use three sources of information for whatever topic you are researching.
  • WHEN was this information published online?

How can I find out if my author is an expert on the topic?

Let’s imagine that I am doing my project on the benefits of social media on mental health.  Which type of experts would be the most knowledgeable on this topic?  For each student that will depend on what your topic is.  In my case, it would definitely be psychologists, social workers, and social scientists.

Let’s explore how I would go about determining the credibility of the following sources;

The first Google Link that comes up in my search is an article titled 13 Positive Effects of Social Media.  What do we notice right away about this site and the author of this article?  Are they psychology experts?  What is the purpose of this site?

This is the second article that comes up.  It is called 7 Positive Effects of Social Media.  What can we learn about this site and this author?

Here is the third article listed Social Media Use Can Be Positive For Mental Health and Well-Being.  Who published this?  Is the author an expert?

Next one: Pros and Cons of Social Media.

And finally, this one is a .org, which means it is a non-profit organization.  Does that mean it is always the best choice?  Let’s find out a bit more about this by looking at the author of 5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids And Social Media.  Now for public speaking purposes, maybe the opinion of a parent is perfectly fine.  But were you doing this project for a social science research project, this author wouldn’t cut it.

Now let’s compare a few YouTube Links!

Positive Benefits of Social Media 

Is Social Media Good For You?

NOTE: it was REALLY challenging to find expert content on YouTube!  I had to filter through many many videos.

Today’s Exercise:

You are going to spend the rest of the period finding three credible and reliable sources that you can use for your public speaking project.  Make sure you copy and paste the links so you don’t lose them!

March 4

Talking to Students About Ukraine

It is not hard to notice how much our OJCS students have been talking to one another about what’s happening in Ukraine.  When they enter the classroom in the mornings, when they play outside at recess, and as they walk in the halls, they are talking about the things they’ve heard, the TikTok videos they’ve seen, and the news they’ve managed to see on tv or hear in the car with their parents.  It is really important that we don’t ignore this show of concern in our students, but instead, try to offer opportunities to discuss the invasion sensitively with them so that they have an opportunity to voice their anxieties and other feelings, and to help them gain context and understanding.  It is also a great way we can bring news literacy into the classroom by discussing the ways in which social media can lead to misinformation about what is going on.

Here are some resources you can use to help you navigate these discussions;

How to Talk to Kids About What is Happening In Ukraine Right Now – CBC
https://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/talking-to-kids-about-whats-happening-in-ukraine
Talking to Kids About The War in the Ukraine (this link includes historical context, maps, and other learning tools.) https://www.aps.edu/news/news-from-2021-2022/talking-to-kids-about-the-war-in-ukraine
How to Talk to Kids About Ukraine – NYT
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/well/family/kids-teens-ukraine-russia.html
How to Spot Misinformation About Russia and Ukraine – News Nation (a great way to inject news literacy into the subject.)
https://www.newsnationnow.com/us-news/guard-against-russia-ukraine-misinformation/
Watching the World’s “First TikTok War” – The New Yorker 
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/infinite-scroll/watching-the-worlds-first-tiktok-war
TikTok Was Designed for War – Wired Magazine 
https://www.wired.com/story/ukraine-russia-war-tiktok/

A great NBC news story about TikTok’s role in Ukraine.  Appropriate for middle school and high school. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/tiktok-suspends-new-content-live-streaming-platform-russia-rcna18913

UkraineFacts.org is a great fact checking site to help combat all of the disinformation circulating about the invasion. Ukrainefacts.org

Relevant OJCS Library Nearpod Lessons

October 29

Becoming a Critical Thinker on TikTok

A middle school media literacy lesson

With TikTok becoming the social media platform of choice for so many students, it is important that they learn to recognize the misinformation, hate, and propaganda on the platform.  It is also critical that they become aware of some of the TikTok controversies, like the privacy issues with the platform, as well as some of their unethical censorship rules.  This lesson is availabe as both a slides and Nearpod lesson.

Slides

Nearpod

April 23

What Are Social Bots?

A DigCit Info Post

You have probably heard people talk about something you find on social media called bots.  You may even have had an experience with bots liking, retweeting, or commenting on your social media posts.  But what exactly are bots?  Are they dangerous?

There was an event on TikTok a few months ago where many users suddenly had hundreds of likes and comments on every single video of theirs from other users with weird names who had no content of their own and who had Asian profile pictures.  Kids got very scared and there were TikTok videos circulating that the people liking and commenting were kidnappers.  It caused some pretty widespread hysteria.  But what these were were not real people, they were automated computer programs called bots that been designed to like and comment on anybody who had posted videos that followed certain criteria.  And they were not dangerous or threatening to TikTok users.

So the bots you find online are automated computer programs and the ones we find on social media are known as SOCIAL BOTS or CHAT BOTS.  These simple automated computer programs look for certain keywords in posts and decide what to comment and/or if to like the post.  To help explain what these automated computer programs do, let’s watch this excellent video on the topic.

So now that you know a lot more about bots, what clues could have helped TikTok users identify their new fans as bots instead of real users?  Post your answers in the comments section of this post!

It is important to note that there are real dangers with bots, and that is their ability to sway public opinion in a certain direction.  This can impact decisions made by governments, made by voters, and made by the general public like you.  For example, seeing that certain TikTok users have more likes than others may persuade you to follow that person, even if all those likes came from bots.

The Atlantic Magazine writes that – ‘About a fifth of all tweets about the 2016 presidential election were published by bots, according to one estimate, as were about a third of all tweets about that year’s Brexit vote. An Oxford Internet Institute report from last year found evidence of bots being used to spread propaganda in 50 countries.’(Schneier, Bruce.  Bots Are Destroying Political Discourse As We Know It, The Atlantic.  Jan 2020).

What this means is that bots are posting about politics and this has the power to influence other people’s opinions about issues that are really important, like who should be the next Prime Minister or whether people should legally have to wear masks in public.  And when the government is looking to social media to find out public opinion on a certain issue, they may instead be finding the opinions of bots that alter the truth of the majority.  Bots are also used to spread a lot misinformation, hate, and racist ideas.

So use your new bot-identifying skills and don’t fall for the opinions of bots!  But if they give you a like, a retweet, or a comment, don’t get too worried about it either.

April 16

The News Literacy Project’s Checkology Program

I wanted to take a moment to highlight an incredible program for our students that is available online.  I have been both impressed and amazed by the work that The News Literacy Project is doing to help build critical thinking skills in students.  The News Literacy Project is a non-profit and nonpartisan organization that is working to educate the public about how to separate fact from fiction in the news and how to assess news credibility.  They have developed an incredibly comprehensive online program called Checkology for middle school  and high school aged students that can be tailored for each classroom.

Checkology consists of about a half a dozen units per grade that cover the essentials of news and media literacy.  These units are often presented by actual news anchors and heads of news or media organizations.  Each unit includes lots of activities for students to test their newfound knowledge through the sorting of video, media, and other content into appropriate categories of information.  It also helps them to understand what makes some content credible and other content not.  And they do all of this while being simultaneously entertaining and engaging!  The clips that they use as examples are timely and relevant and students will feel right at home with the content.


Checkology will become an integral piece of my library programming here at the OJCS.  Media literacy is a key foundation of digital citizenship, and this incredible program can help our students get there.

December 14

Reaching Students Through Nearpod

As a part of my professional development this year, I had the goal of using Nearpod to create lessons that could reach students that I could not see in person.  I wanted to start by creating lessons that would cover essential research skills and then move them on to working on digital citizenship and media literacy.  To that end I created four lessons to date that work to engage students and allow them to practice new skills along the way.

Research Skills

The first one that I created was Using Keywords.  The goal here was to teach students how internet search works, how to search effectively using concise keywords, and to give students a chance to try it out for themselves.  They also learned how generate keywords for much larger search questions.  And finally, I present them with many kid-friendly research sources.  This workshop can be used from grades 4-8 but is specifically for our 4-6s.

The second lesson I created is called In-Text Citations and Bibliographies and was designed specifically for middle school.  Upon entering middle school, citations and bibliographies take on a new level of importance.  This lesson explains to students how critical citations and bibliographies are in avoiding plagiarism.  It demonstrates through a tutorial how to use the citation and bibliography creation tool in Google Docs and it also allows students the opportunity to practice these skills with built-in assignments.

Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy

This lesson on cyberbullying was designed for our 4-6s.  It is a quick lesson on what cyberbullying is and the different forms it takes, how to stop bullies who are bothering you, and how to be an upstander.  This lesson is based more on discussion and collaborative boards than assignments.

And finally, the lesson that I am most proud of and the one that is the culmination of years of running my library workshops is my Nearpod lesson on Information Credibility.  This covers a broad range of topics and is meant to give students a comprehensive knowledge of different forms of misinformation.  It includes several built-in assignments and is a much longer lesson that could cover two periods or more.

It is my hope that these lesson become a valuable resource to our teachers and can be used year after year.  It is also my hope that they can be used in other schools to facilitate teaching these key skills.  I am looking to solicit feedback from any teacher who uses these lesson with their classes.  Please post your feedback in the comments here or send me an email b.ruel@theojcs.ca

 

November 16

Learning to Assess Information Credibility with my Favourite Tree Octopus

A Fun Lesson for our grades 3-5 students

Each student will need a device for this activity.  You will share the link to the following site with your students.

https://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/  

Teachers will then need to print the web evaluation checklist.  Click the button on the upper right hand corner ‘pop out’.  Only print page 1.  Students will fill it in to determine if this website is credible or not.

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When they have formed their conclusions, you can explain that the last step, lateral reading, is often the fastest way to fact-check information and can be your FIRST step.  Running a Google search on the topic and or the author or site name can often provide you with everything you need to know.  And following the rule of three, checking information against two other sources, is also a wonderful strategy to use.

Finish by sharing this great video!

October 7

The Sad Little Fact – Being a Fact-Finder in the Age of Misinformation

A fake fact is otherwise known as MISINFORMATION…

Misinformation is ‘false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.’

Where do we hear this misinformation?  Unfortunately, the online world is absolutely full of it.  From youtube videos, to tiktok, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, people are bombarded with fake facts and fake news.  Here is an example of misinformation that I found on youtube.

If you saw this video online you’d be terrified.  You might tell your friends about it and spread this information further.  So how do we verify if it is true or not?

Now it’s your turn to give this a try.  I need you to be a fact-checker and find out if this information is true or not using the techniques we just learned.

  1. Check the source – run a Google Search on the publisher or author of the information and try to find out more
  2. The Rule of Three – check three other sources of information
  3. Check a good fact-checking website like Snopes.

So here is the information I want you to check.  It was posted thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter by regular people so there is no author to check.  You will need to rely on method 2 and 3 here.

 

 

June 1

Life Hacks That Seem Impossible Likely Are

There has been a rise in the past year of viral video ‘life hacks’ or ‘kitchen hacks’ depicting recipes or experiments that create impossible results.  These videos have kids rushing to try out these sometimes dangerous experiments thinking that incredible things will happen, only to be left disappointed that it didn’t work for them.

What’s wrong with posting these kind of hoaxes online?  They contribute to the growing problem of misinformation.  That is, spreading information that simply isn’t true.  In some cases, they are also putting children in danger.  Bleaching strawberries, making popcorn with a clothes iron, microwaving things that shouldn’t be microwaved, playing with hot glue, plugging random things into electrical sockets are just a few examples of potentially dangerous hacks.  One woman in England ended up in hospital after trying a life hack where you boil eggs still in their shell in the microwave!  In the following video, Chris Foxx tries out some recipe hacks to see if they work.

In this video Lifehacker explains what is wrong with creating pointless hack videos.

This video, made as a joke, shows how silly and simple making these types of videos can be. He uses a lot of squishies to make it look convincing.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Make a fake life hack or kitchen hack video!  Yes, you heard right.  The best way to learn about the ridiculous nature of incredible and untrue hack videos is to make one yourself.  Maybe you will use baking soda to transform an apple into an orange.  Or put toothpaste in chocolate chip cookies to make them mint chocolate chip.  The sky is the limit with this assignment.  If you would like to share with me, I will post your fake hacks on this page.  Send your videos to b.ruel@theojcs.ca.

Our student lifehack videos!  Amazing work.