April 21

Seeing Should Not Always Mean Believing… Especially Online!

Here is a picture that’s been floating around online.  It is a photo of a Sea-Rex.

What is your first reaction when you see this picture?  Do you think it’s real or fake?  Why?  What are some of the reasons you think people might post a photo like this online?  This is actually a photoshopped piece of art called SeaRex by Rastroboy.

It is not hard for people to use special photo editing software to change photos into something that isn’t real.  This is called digitally altering a photo.  There are lots of times when changing pictures this way is just for fun or to be silly.  But sometimes pictures are changed to make us believe something that isn’t true.

Look at this photo which was used as an ad for cologne.  Why do you think George Clooney was digitally altered?

Did you notice that the wrinkles were taken off?  That the hair was made darker and less grey?  That there are no shadows under his eyes?  These are all ways that digitally altering a photo can make someone look younger or better looking.  Another word for this type of photo editing is called retouching.  This is done in most magazines and advertisements to make people look perfect.  Especially when trying to sell face creams and cosmetics so that you believe that they work!  It is even done in our school photos!

But we need to understand that this isn’t real life.  Nobody looks that perfect.  It is impossible to look at yourself in a mirror and see this kind of flawless image (until they invent mirrors that do this electronically and that is my million dollar idea!)  Understanding that these images are not real is one way that we can be kinder to ourselves when we look in the mirror.  We can’t compare ourselves to what we see in magazines and online because almost every celebrity has used a special filter or had their photos professionally altered.

Sometimes people post photos of themselves online that have been heavily edited to make them look perfect and sometimes it doesn’t even look like the same person!  It only took me a minute to alter my own photo on my phone.  Bigger eyes.  Slimmer face.  No dark circles.  If I post this version of myself online, do you think my friends would notice?  Most of my friends, especially women, tend to do this for every photo they post up.  But what does this say about the kind of high standards in beauty we hold ourselves to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editing faces in videos has become extremely simple too.  You may have seen examples of this with the app Snapchat.  You can record a video of yourself as an old person, as a hamburger, or even as a celebrity!

Here is a ridiculous video that has been edited to look like the little girl is Donald Trump!

These kind of videos are called Deepfakes.  Sometimes they are harmless and funny.  But often they are posted to make people think that someone did or said something that they didn’t do or say!  That can lead to the person’s reputation to be ruined or worse.  Imagine there was a video out there of a kid saying bad things about his/her teacher and someone put your face over it and posted it online!  This could get you in a lot of trouble.

Here is one of my favourite videos about the importance of not believing everything you see and hear online.  You may have seen it on TV.

This video was made to educate students about the importance of critical thinking.  Critical thinking is our ability to find out what’s true and what’s not.  It is really important that we always think about what we are seeing.  Seeing should not always mean believing… especially when you’re online.

Your assignment this week is to drastically edit a photo of yourself!  Send them to b.ruel@theojcs.ca and I will post them on this page.

March 31

News Made Just For Kids!

Even though you are a kid, you can be exposed to a lot of serious and scary world news through social media, overhearing parents watching television or listening to the radio, or even listening in on adult conversations that aren’t intended for you.   Hearing bad news can cause us to feel a lot of fear and anxiety.  Sometimes you will want to share bad news with your friends even if you haven’t fully understood it.  This can cause something called MISINFORMATION, which is when news is shared that isn’t factually correct.  It is important that we get our facts straight before we start spreading news around!

There are many current events and news websites available online for kids in which news articles are written sensitively and clearly so that you can understand it.  It is news made just for kids and can help you to know what is happening in the world right now.

Here is a list of kid-friendly sites.  Take a quick peek at them now to see what they are like.  And feel free to visit them whenever you want to know more about what’s happening in the world.

 

www.cbc.ca/kidsnews/

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.dogonews.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://newsforkids.net/

 

 

 

 

 

https://teachingkidsnews.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video by another school librarian, Marina, reading a book about news called On The News – Our First Talk About Tragedy by Dr. Jilian Roberts.  This book will help you to understand more about the news and talks about some feelings connected to hearing about bad things in the news, and how we can cope with those feelings.  Click on the video link and then click ‘watch it on youtube’.  You can’t watch it on this page.

In the comments on this page, let me know what kids news website you liked the best.  Also let me know what you thought about the book On The News.

March 23

What is Advertising?

Take a minute and write down a list of 5 things you’d like to get for your birthday.

Is your list done?  Good!

Now read over your list and ask yourself… how do I know about these things?  Did I find out about them from a commercial that played before a video I watched on YouTube?  Did a YouTuber I like play with one of them on a video?  Did I see it in a magazine?  A catalogue?  Did I see poster of it somewhere?  Did I read about it online?  Or while I was playing a video game?  All of these places are places we see ads, which is short for the word advertising.  Advertising is any kind message that is designed to sell you something or make you want to buy something or ask your parents to buy you something.  It is important that we learn how to identify what is an ad because we want to be the ones to decide what we need or want.  We don’t want other people putting those ideas in our heads for us!

When companies create advertisements, they often try to link what they are selling with happy feelings or amazing powers or abilities.  So even though I know in my head that eating a cheese string won’t help me defeat a dragon, the commercial shows a child doing just that.  So now we all think that eating cheese strings will make us strong, even if that isn’t the truth.

Much of the time, an ad is a commercial that plays before a video.  Here are examples of commercials that try to make you want to get junk food.  We all know junk food isn’t good for us, but you’d never know it watching these commercials!  For each commercial, think about the message that it is telling you about the food.  Is the commercial telling you the food will make you better at sports?  Will lead to adventures?  Will make you popular?  What are the messages?  Are they true?  Can those products do those amazing things?

Below is an example of an ad you’d see in a flyer, a magazine, or online.  It is just a static picture with words, but it is also selling us an idea.  The idea here being that playing with lego turns us all into superheroes and leads to amazing adventures!  I’d love to be a superhero but I know that Lego can’t make me into one.

This ad is for Rice Krispies.  It is selling us the idea that Rice Krispies cereal is super fun to play with.  Which it isn’t!  It also making a kid connection to trucks, which kids love.

So here is your task today.  I want you to choose to make your own ad for a product YOU invent.  It could be a toy, a junk food, anything you like.  Draw a picture ad or take a photo ad.  If you are really good at making videos, you could even make a commercial.  Remember, advertisements make big claims about what a product can do or how it can make you feel even when it isn’t true, so use that when you create your ad.  By creating your own ad, you can experience for yourself the kind of tricks companies use to sell their products.

There is no need to submit it to me, but if you know how to email the finished product to me, then you absolutely can and I can post it on this page so that others can see your work.  My email address is b.ruel@theojcs.ca

Have fun!

 

March 23

Become a Fact-Checker – Part 2: A Little Help From My Friends

Last week we tried a new technique called ‘Lateral Reading’ to help us become better fact-checkers.  This week we are going to learn about various websites that are out there that can help us find out if what we have heard or read is factual or not.

You are going to read the following article and visit 3 of the 10 sites that are listed and take some time to explore them.  Top Ten Sites to Help Students Check Their Facts by Jennifer Snelling.  I want all of our OJCS middle schoolers to become proficient at using these sites.

I have heard that there is a Tic Toc video going around that claims that an asteroid is going to hit Earth next week.  I want you to visit snopes and find out if this is true or not.  I mean, this is a serious claim!  Our lives may be in jeopardy (or not!)

In the comments on this page, I want you to post which three sites you explored as well as what you discovered about this asteroid.

 

 

March 17

Become a Fact-Checker… Part 1: Reading Laterally

There is a constant stream of misinformation and disinformation out there about a lot of world news and this is especially true about the Coronavirus.  Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is often posted deliberately to deceive.  Disinformation is false information put out through certain politicians or governments to deliberately deceive.  Unfortunately, both misinformation and disinformation are frequently accepted as truth and widely shared by people who have believed what they’ve read without looking further afield for confirmation of the information.  As the false information spreads, it causes a lot of very confused ideas and can even wrongly influence public opinion.  It is in itself very much like a virus that spreads and infects the mind.

By becoming a fact-checker you can help stop the spread of the disease of misinformation!  The first step to becoming a fact-checker is to use your head!  Critical thinking is an essential skill of the fact-checker.  If something doesn’t sound right to you, it very often isn’t.  That feeling that something you’ve read is off should be the first indicator that you need to research further.  Researching outside of the suspected piece of information is called ‘Lateral Reading’.

To read laterally, the first thing you can do is use Google or another trusted search engine to search for information about your source or the author of the information.  Searching about your source can often reveal within seconds if the source is trustworthy or not.  But when it comes to social media, often the person responsible for posting is just a regular person and there won’t be information available about that person online.  So the second way you can read laterally is to search for more articles about the information you suspect to be false.  So when someone told me that Justin Bieber was so dumb he didn’t know how to eat a burrito properly and was photographed eating it sideways, I thought, hmmmm, that doesn’t sound right to me.  I typed Justin Bieber Burrito into the Google search bar, and the first article was about how the photo was a hoax.

Another example of this is that I received an email suggesting that I stay away from spicy food to avoid the Coronavirus.  I immediately thought that sounded wrong and did a quick Google search Coronavirus Spicy Food.  The first article was about how that information was completely false.

So now is your opportunity to try lateral reading.  Here are three social media posts that are either misinformation or are real information.

Step 1: Look at all of these social media posts.  Which ones immediately seem off to you and why?  Which one do you immediately trust and why?

Step 2: Do some lateral reading.  How long did it take you to determine how true or false this information was?

Step 3: Answer step 1 and 2 questions as a brief comment on this blog post page.

Step 4: Teach your parents and grandparents how to do this too!  That way we can all fight the virus of misinformation!

Post #1 – From the account of Facebook user Michael Conniff

 

 

Post #2 from the Twitter verified (blue checkmark) World Health Organization account

 

Post #3 from Twitter, user Allison Pearson

 

May 22

What is a Digital Footprint?

Today students were introduced to the concept of a Digital Footprint.  We used the example of tracks left by animals and how we can use our own deductive capabilities to infer quite a lot about an animal based on its tracks.

The same is true for us when we go online.  The sites we visit, the comments we post, the videos we upload, the games we play, all of those things create a digital footprint that can tell people about us and will exist online for a very long time.  We tied this in to the concept of responsibilities and discussed what our responsibilities are to ourselves and to others online.

Our grade 3 and 4 students came up with some of the following ideas;

Our students are getting the foundation they need to navigate the sometimes scary world of the internet in a safe and responsible way.

 

May 7

You’re Never Too Young to Start Thinking Critically

“Don’t believe everything you read” parents often scold their kids, and we are giving them the skills to do exactly that!  Grade 2 came for a visit to learn about how to use critical thinking and the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where and why) when evaluating if information on a website is credible or not.

I was impressed at how quickly this group of grade 2s suspected that our website was indeed a fake (I guess it isn’t that much of a surprise, their teacher is media savvy Ann-Lynn!)  Working through a checklist of questions, we investigated the credibility of the website as a group.

This group of students are already demonstrating that they are extremely capable of thinking critically and they will grow into students who won’t be easily duped online.

March 15

Social Media and Our Relationships

Grades 6, 7, and 8 visited the library this week for a lesson on the effects of social media on our personal relationships.  Whether they are allowed legally to be on certain platforms or not (most require you to be at least 13), the reality is that most middle schoolers are on Snapchat, Instagram, Tic Toc, or other social media.  By grade 8 social media has become completely enmeshed with daily life and plays a huge role in friend dramas.

This workshop started off by having students discuss what are some benefits of social media.  What they love about it.  Many students mentioned their ability to connect with family and friends far away, as well as feeling like they are safe and can always get in touch with someone when they need them.  Then we discussed what some of the drawbacks were that they or their friends personally experienced.  This included feeling angry seeing snaps of friends out without you, feeling jealous that others have more followers, and being constantly distracted.  Everyone was eager to share during these discussions.

We moved on to oversharing and how it can be harmful to post things in the heat of the moment, post things that will leave a permanent stain on your digital footprint, or post things that can even put your safety at risk.

The next concept was something called ‘Red Flag Feelings’ and was an important concept defined as follows;

red flag feeling is when something happens on digital media that makes you feel uncomfortable, worried, sad, or anxious. It is a warning that something might be wrong. (commonsense.org)

We discussed how to approach these bad feelings by reflecting on their cause and trying to come up with strategic ways to cope with them.  We divided into four groups.  Each group was given a scenario and had to identify both feelings and possible responses and then share out their answers.

 

I genuinely hope that they will take the tools from this lesson with them into their daily lives and can better understand their feelings when difficult situations arise.

For resources on this lesson please visit common sense education.

November 2

Information Credibility

The library has kicked off this year’s middle school research skills workshop series with a lesson on credible websites vs. non-credible websites and identifying fake news.  The students were asked to be detectives and jot down some of the ways you can identify which sites and articles are real and which are fakes.

Developing critical thinking is a skill that needs more attention than it gets.  Forbes reports that 75% of adults are fooled by fake news.

I had students looking at websites about explorers.  One of them was completely fake.  What I found interesting was that even information that seems very obviously ridiculous to an adult, such as a claim that Samuel de Champlain went to Disney World to celebrate winning ‘Best Fort of the Year’ from ‘Better Forts and Ramparts Magazine’, caused students to actually need to look up how long Disney World has been open because they weren’t sure if this could actually be a possibility.

On our fake news exercise, some students weren’t sure if Justin Trudeau was building a wall or not.  That is why it is so important to follow the rule of three and always compare three sources of information.

Is Justin Trudeau building a wall? The kids don’t know!

These videos show a few clever teams who immediately went to the ‘About’ page on the news article or website they suspected was fake to learn more about the source.  It is important that they learn to look outside of the site to find out more as well.

I think it is also important not to take for granted when you are working with kids that something that seems very obvious to an adult is not very obvious to students in a time where when information is presented in a way that looks legitimate it is taken seriously.

My favourite part of this activity was showing the students the fake website Pets or Food where you can buy exotic animals either alive or dead.  It is scary just how realistic this site is and that’s what makes it such a great example.

I think we all had fun and it was very eye-opening; from my perspective as an observer of this exercise to see how much work we need to do, and their perspective when they came to see how easily they could be duped.  This workshop series will tie in nicely to future topics such as being safe online.

August 30

Credible and Non-Credible Sources

February 2018

My second workshop was with Rachel’s Grade 5 class.  I wanted to have a discussion with the students about credible and non-credible sites.

This Google video was shared with the group.

To really get the message across, we worked on the following exercise;

Exercise: Two of these websites are news satire.  Two involve extreme bias based on the viewpoint of the source.  Two are from healthy news sources that generally are more centered or have not too much bias either way.  Identify them!   

Trudeau by the Numbers, They’re Bad

Justin Trudeau UN speech hailed as ‘not Donald Trump’s UN speech’

Canada has spent $110,000 to avoid paying $6,000 for indigenous teen’s orthodontics

Justin Trudeau is Deporting Illegal Immigrants…Hypocrite Much?

Justin Trudeau Unveils Plan To Meet Healthcare Needs Of Canada’s Aging Prog Rockers

Ukraine and Google playing Justin Trudeau’s ‘sock game’

Tips for searching the web to ensure you are using legitimate sites for research and news articles:

Where – Where is the content published?Who – Look for an author at the beginning or end of the text. Try and find out a bit more about the author if time allows.What – What kind of website is it? Business? News? Personal Blog? Entertainment? What is the purpose of the site? What is the point of view of this website? Is it biased? Unbalanced?When – Look for a publication date.
I urge students to use mediabiasfactcheck.com/
If a source has extreme bias or is biased completely to the left or right, it is not
a great source for your news research.

If a source is more to the center, even if that means “left-center” or
“right-center”, then it is safe to use; Even the CBC is considered a bit left-center!
It was really interesting to observe just how much of a challenge it is for students to identify fake news.  I am looking forward to doing more work with students on this topic.