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.
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.
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.
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.
Check the source – run a Google Search on the publisher or author of the information and try to find out more
The Rule of Three – check three other sources of information
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 email@example.com.
In a superhero movie, you often see the superhero killing or hurting the bad guys and you feel happy about it. Your good guy is winning the fight or saving the world, right? But if the movie was real life, what would happen if a good guy hurt or killed a bunch of people (even if they were bad!) Would the good guy get arrested? Would he have to go to court? Maybe go to jail? How would he feel about what he had done?
Movies, tv shows, and video games do a really good job of helping us to forget about the real world for a little while by telling us an exciting story. But it is easy to forget that the way violence happens in the media isn’t the way violence happens in real life. In real life, the consequences of violence are very serious!!
In school, if we pretend to be Spider-man and punch our friend because we are pretending he is Venom, what would happen to us? How much trouble would we be in, from our parents and our teachers?
QUESTIONS – Choose just ONE to answer in the comments on this blog page
1.In video games you are often shooting or fighting other players to try to defeat them. This is how you win the game.
What would happen if you used violence to win something in real life?
2. Every action movie seems to have have a crazy car chase, car explosion, or car crash scene.
In real life what would happen if there was a big crash like this on the road or highway?
3. In superhero movies the hero always kills a whole lot of villains and bad guys.
In real life what would happen to someone who did these things?
4. In video games and movies when people get shot or injured they bounce right back and keep fighting.
In real life what happens if you get seriously hurt?
Part 2 – Violence and Our Feelings
Here is a very violent scene from a movie you’ve all probably seen, Beauty and the Beast.
Watch this scene and then pay close attention to how it makes you FEEL. Does it make your chest get tight? Your heart race fast? Your stomach turn? Did you close your eyes? All of these feelings and reactions are your body feeling stress from what you are seeing, and it is important that we learn to notice these kinds of feelings. I know that watching things that are violent make me nervous and it’s hard for me to sleep at night when I watch them, so I avoid them. That is an easy solution. Another solution is to remember that what we are seeing in movies, tv, and video games is not real. That can be very reassuring to remember. The people are actors. Writers have written everything that happens in the story. In this clip Gaston and the Beast are just drawings made by artists.
If something that you’ve seen really bothers you, always talk to your parents about it. They can have helpful advice for handling those feelings.
Next time you notice violence in media, remember that it is made to entertain people but is a far cry from how things are done or should be done in the real world. It is important that we always use our words and not our fists to solve problems in the real world.
First we are going to watch a video about the North American House Hippo…
When this video started, for a moment did you believe that this could be real or did you know immediately that it was not? What were some of the reasons you did or didn’t believe it? How could we be sure?
Some of the most important skills we need to be a great digital citizen are our critical thinking skills. A big part of critical thinking is our ability to find out if what we are seeing, reading, or hearing is true or not. There are some easy quick tricks we can use to verify (which means to check out or investigate) information.
So let’s try one of the easiest tricks.
Here is a picture that I found online a Cabbit. Online it says it is a cross between a cat and a rabbit. Isn’t it adorable?
So let’s run a Google Search on the information we want to verify. So open up Google and type the word cabbit in the search box. Or, if you’re on an ipad or have a home assistant, ask it out loud what a cabbit is. What did you discover from a simple search? Is it real or fictious (not real, imaginary). Type your answers in the comments on this page.
This shows us that the fastest way to check if information is true or not is to look around… look in other places! Check a couple of different websites. See if what else you can find out. Websites we use to find information are called our sources. Always check more than one source, especially if something sounds fishy!
Here is a video that offers you a few more special tricks you can use when you are choosing websites and videos to use for your research projects. Write down the 5w’s so that you can remember them when you need them!
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 alteringa 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them on this page.
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.
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.
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.
These two workshops with Rabbi Rottenberg’s 7 and 8s were the most intensive of the lot and covered it all, from exercises on forming effective queries in search engines, to learning proper MLA bibliography format, to examine credible and non-credible sites in research.
We parsed some searches to find out which keywords were critical and which were not necessary to our search.
This exercise was based on a great Google Searching workshop that is available free online. Picking the Right Search Terms We worked on creating effective queries for many interesting questions.
Grade 8 had the toughest job, not only did they have to create a mini-bio on the celebrity of their choosing, they had to critically examine the sites they were using as they were going. The results were both entertaining and encouraging as students started fitting together key concepts
Overall these workshops have been incredibly rewarding for me and I hope to hear that the result of these workshops is that kids are handing in much better quality assignments and choosing their sources much more critically.