Fantastic and Free First Fridays! (Mis)information Wars!

So, evidently, some report was released a couple weeks ago involving some people and there's lots of hulabaloo about what it says, what it doesn't say, and what we should do about it. 

And, for those of you keeping track at home, yesterday marked the 18-month point 'til the 2020 election. I'm sure like me you are super excited about the piles upon piles of...truth...with which we will be inundated between now and then. 
Marketing suggested my original post contained too much
highly sensitive...."editorial flair." I opposed.
To properly equip you and your students for the misinformation s**tstorm we are about to weather, I figured why not focus this month's Fantastic and Free First Fridays Resource of the Month on a topic that we all say is really important, but for which there are seemingly few resources to help reinforce—information literacySo, this month's Resource of the Month is not about just one particular resource, rather a bunch of great resources and tools that can help you develop your students' (and your own!) critical thinking skills to be discerning consumers and evaluators of the information we are exposed to seemingly every moment of every day. 

Look! Squirrel! Click here!!!!!!

If you are reading this, I can safely assume you have not completely escaped the grid. And, as such, I'm fairly certain you are aware our digital world has become one in which the act of attracting human attention has become an incredibly valuable commodity. In addition to the notifications that shoot across your screens, the content with which you are inundated via search engines, social media, and any other place your overworked eyes gaze has been carefully crafted to capture and keep your attention. What that means is we all are constantly exposed to sensational headlines, hyperbolic claims, and lots of misinformation, the extent of which I will not get into unless I want to slap a big NSFW disclaimer at the top of this post. 

Despite being aware of this, I'm going to guess I don't speak for just myself when I say that on occasion I fall prey to some bit of misinformation with the deluge of info I encounter on a daily basis. Perhaps it's sharing my knee-jerk reactions to something, perhaps it's regurgitating something via social media or text I've assumed is fact solely based on a headline and not reading further. Whatever the case may be, even though I know to stop and evaluate whatever information I see before accepting it as truth, it is easy to trip up from time to time when we work at such a fast pace and are inundated with so much information. 

As this is the new norm, how to be thoughtful and critical consumers of information is perhaps the most important skill we can develop in our learners. While there are lots of great individual lesson plans, videos, and other resources out there to develop these skills such as this great TED ED Lesson—How to choose your news? (click here to just watch the really great intro video), the resources we've chosen to spotlight below are all pretty comprehensive and have been developed specifically with a focus on information and media literacy. And, as always, these are resources we know are being used within adult education classrooms.

GCF Learn Free Media Literacy Playlist

Tucked away in GCFLearnFree's wonderful treasure trove of resources (which I know many educators already use) is a set of great media literacy resources, including a Media Literacy YouTube Playlist. 
GCFLearnFree.org's Media Literacy YouTube
playlist is highly topical & contains overviews 
   
of concepts relevant to anyone online.

I love this set of videos because 1) they are nice and bite-sized (all eight videos are less than three minutes in length) and 2) they cover highly relevant topics that shape our day-to-day interaction with information and media in a simple, straightforward manner.

Topics include understanding how filter bubbles isolate the information you see and recognizing how what you click shapes the advertising content you see online. 

GCFLearnFree.org's videos are designed for students to independently explore, but can be even more powerful if used as prompts for classroom or group discussions and explorations around each topic. As all of the content is highly relevant to ANYONE who goes online, students most likely have plenty of personal context with which to approach conversations involving their own experience. 

Not only are these great videos for teaching information and media literacy, they provide nice overviews of important concepts for effective writing and presentation. And, let's face it....that friend or relative who confounds you with their misinformed posts who you can't just block completely for whatever reason? Maybe a subtle share of one of these videos could be the gentle nudge that helps them be a bit more....careful...the next time they post. Maybe????

ProCon.org

ProCon.org is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, and primarily pro-con format." 

I first learned about ProCon.org when the new high school equivalency tests were released. In the wake of "what do I do to help my students prepare?", everyone was scrambling to find resources to help their learners develop skills in evidence-based writing. Adult educators starting sharing awareness about the site because of the way in which ProCon.org presents issues—by laying out the "Pro" and "Con" sides of issues so that learners can develop informed opinions based on looking at unbiased information and evidence from multiple perspectives. 

As they've been around since 2004, ProCon.org has been focused on this very issue of information literacy since early(ish) on in our history of information decentralization brought about by the web. Over this time, they have amassed an impressive set of topics—over 80 and counting—in the areas of health & medicine, education, politics, science & technology, elections & presidents, sex & gender, entertainment & sports, and economy & taxes, and these are updated and added to on a regular basis. 
From vaping to binge watching to immigration to universal
health care to "Should Golf be a Sport?," 
it's pretty impossible to not
 find a topic of interest for students to explore on ProCon.org.

There are lots of things I really love about ProCon.org. First, I think it is ideal for adult education because it doesn't shy away from important, often controversial topics that shape our lives (and our daily news cycle). Second, the breadth of information provided for each topic is impressive...including historical perspectives and timelines, summaries of top pro and con arguments around the issue, quotes, and video galleries. And, with so many topics to choose from, every student can find some topic of interest for which they can practice evaluating information from multiple points of view. 

One additional note—for the past three Presidential elections, ProCon.org has provided voter information guides. I'm not sure of the timeline, but I'm going to assume that they will have one again for the 2020 election. If that is in fact the case, we will be certain to let you know the moment we become aware of it!

iCivics

Founded by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, iCivics is an organization dedicated to engaging students in meaningful civic learning. The organization was formed in response to O'Connor's recognition that civic education had been disappearing from curricula across the country for decades; and, where it was taught, it was often dry and uninspiring.

iCivics has a ton of great stuff (which I'll cover in a second). In the realm of information literacy, one game in particular—Newsfeed Defenders—is a fun and engaging game that helps learners develop an understanding of standards of journalism. Players are challenged to make their way from being a user of a social media group to site admin. In order to do so, however, they must learn to spot dubious posts that try to sneak in through hidden ads, viral deception, and false reporting. The better the player is at weeding out inaccurate content, the more site traffic grows. 
Newsfeed Defenders challenges students to evaluate the validity of information within social
media posts. Students gain privileges as they demonstrate their ability to decipher misinformation.
Other games offered by iCivics include Race to Ratify (which teaches big ideas at the core of the ratification debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists), Sortify (a game that puts your knowledge of US Citizenship to the test), Immigration Nation (a game that helps learners gain an understanding of the path to citizenship), and Do I Have a Right? (a game where students work to grow their law firm by matching the best lawyer to cases that deal with constitutional law). 

More than just games, iCivics also includes an impressive variety of teacher resources, including web quests, "mini-lessons", and writing activities on a wide range of civics topics, with alignments to the Language Arts standards at grade level equivalencies 5 through 12 (College and Career Readiness Standards Levels C, D, and E). 


Civic Online Reasoning

From the Stanford History Education Group, Civic Online Reasoning is a series of easy-to-assign assessments that ask students to reason about online content. Each of the 19 assessments provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their ability to judge the credibility of digital information about social and political issues.

The assessments are very straightforward and are designed for flexible classroom use. Digital versions of the assessments (11 total) are simple Google Forms that include links to things such as web articles, Tweets, Facebook posts, and other media students encounter on a regular basis. For some, students are asked to compare multiple items to determine which is a more valid source. For all, students are asked to justify why the content they are looking at is credible or not. 
Civic Online Reasoning's assessments are easy to navigate, explore,
and assign to your students. Assessments are built in Google
Forms, which can easily be copied to your Drive account.

There also are 10 paper-and-pencil-based assessments that follow a similar format. 

Each of the assessments also includes a rubric which provides guidance for the teacher to evaluate student responses, including sample responses that demonstrate mastery, emerging, or beginning levels of proficiency. 

While these are called "assessments," I like the format because they can be used in any number of ways within a classroom. They are perfect for use as the basis for classroom discussions around the credibility of online media. They also work well as springboards for having learners do their own explorations of the media with which they engage to apply the skills they've learned.  

Stanford History Education Group also has two other great resources related to critical evaluation of information. Think Like a Historian is a set of lessons that uses primary sources and other evidence to challenge students to inquire about history as opposed to memorizing dates and facts. Beyond the Bubble is a set of over 80 "history assessments of thinking" that pulls from the Library of Congress digital archive and challenges students to "start with the source" of historical documents—images, quotes, diaries, and others—to evaluate historical accuracy, as opposed to "matching" their vision of history to a particular primary source they are examining. The video below provides a great explanation of what this means. 

Information Literacy is Everyone's Responsibility

Whatever you choose to explore or use, it is the role of ALL of us—educators, students, citizens—to promote information literacy. The pace of technology, with all of the amazing advances and opportunities it has introduced, has also completely upended the way in which we encounter and engage with information. Keeping pace is not easy, but it is everyone's responsibility to remind ourselves and others of the importance of being critical consumers of information. 
"The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens." ~Justice Sandra Day O'Connor 
This was definitely a fun post to pull together! And, I've already got some of those GCFLearnFree.org videos locked and loaded for the next time I see highly misinformed posts littering my social media feed 😜. 

In the meantime.....stay informed, happy exploring, and remember:

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