Fake or real? News orgs help teach kids the difference

News organizations around the world are finding new ways to show young audiences how to critically examine content for its credibility – and have some fun in the process. Guest poster Aralynn McMane reports.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | November 7, 2017

Here are some of the latest initiatives:

Crinkling News, the weekly for children in Australia, is putting its target audience in charge at a media literacy conference later this month. At the first MediaMe conference, set for 19-20 November, children aged 10 to 15 will work with senior journalists, social media experts and academics to come up with their own set of tools to spot misinformation, biased reporting, or “news” that’s actually been paid for by an advertiser. The young people involved will make recommendations to the government about about what they think needs to be done to help kids develop media skills.

In Singapore, organizers of the June 2017 Trust & Truth in Media conference of news organizations, government representatives and digital service companies gathered last week at WAN-IFRA Digital Media Asia to review results of the initiative that explored how to fight back together against fake news.

Hackathon yields collaborative gamified approach

One of the most original outcomes was a hackathon that challenged engineering and design students from from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and journalism students from the National University of Singapore to use gamification to create a technology-based tool.

The organizers were not sure the approach would work. “When organising the hackathon we weren’t entirely certain how students, who today live in such a connected and media-saturated world, perceive or even conceive of the problem of fake news,” Sun Sun Lim, professor of media and communication and head of humanities, arts and social sciences at SUTD, told The University Network.

“Do they merely regard it as part and parcel of the media flood they consume daily, a mere annoyance to be ignored, or do they in fact recognize the significant social costs of fake news and wish to do something to stem it? Eventually, we were floored by the multi-disciplinary perspectives they brought to their understanding of the problem, and the diversity of creative solutions they proposed,” said Lim.

A team of five SUTD first-year students won the top prize by proposing a gamified approach that helps individuals collaborate to check on the authenticity of articles. The approach combines an internet-based credibility crawler, a Google Chrome-based credibility rating, and crowd-sourced rankings on credibility.

“By getting people to come together, we can consider the different perspectives in verifying if the information is real,” team leader Timothy Liu told Singapore’s The Straits Times.

The Straits Times targeted its youngest audience in October with a three-part gamified series in The Little Red Dot, its weekly for primary school students. In clear, friendly language the series gave examples of fake news that would resonate with that audience, and then challenged readers with a quiz in which they discovered whether they were at the A, B or C level in truth detection.

“Challenges in identifying fake information are different [for primary school children] from the challenges of their parents and grandparents,” said Serene Luo, Little Red Dot editor. “So we at Little Red Dot sought to address their needs in terms they would understand and identify with. Schools that subscribe to Little Red Dot tend to use the publication in class. The ready-made learning activities are a resource that teachers can use immediately.”

Media Literacy Week, being held this week in the USA and Canada, will feature several new projects from news publishers, which can use on Twitter a special media literacy emoji created by NAMLE, the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

News-o-matic, the cellphone- and tablet-based news service for children in France and the U.S., is publishing age-specific stories for the U.S. all week long, covering a range of features that introduce students to the various facets of media literacy — and give them the tools to help be more active and critical consumers of the news.

The first article, in Spanish and English and at three reading levels, was a response to President Trump’s 125 tweets about “fake news” to date in 2017. Until 13 November, News-o-matic is inviting everyone to explore the content:

Login: MLW1 (content for ages 5 to 7), MLW2 (for ages 7-10), or MLW3 (for 11-13), password: MLWeek

The New York Times Learning Network is offering a new experimental student challenge that invites teenagers to think deeply about their relationships with news and to devise personal “news diets” that work for them. They’ve also published a lesson plan to help guide every step.

The Newseum, the interactive museum that concentrates on U.S. First Amendment freedoms and is supported by many news organizations, is celebrating Media Literacy Week with a variety of activities. It has a new display about fake news, while the NewseumEd educational division will give special workshops to school groups daily and offer the first results of a new partnership with Facebook, in the form of two poster-sized infographics to help students understand their roles as both media consumers and contributors:

  • The “E.S.C.A.P.E. Junk News” poster uses an acronym to help students remember six key concepts (Evidence, Source, Context, Audience, Purpose, Execution) to evaluate information.
  • The “Is This Story Share-Worthy?” flowchart helps students gauge the value of a news story and provides steps to decide whether it should be shared.

As part of its global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week in late October, UNESCO challenged 250 young people from 10 countries at a special workshop in Jamaica to be the first to sign a MIL CLICKS PACT pledging to closely review content before sharing or posting. (See photo below.)

Earlier in the month, The Gleaner daily in Jamaica hosted a timely forum about news literacy. Ten secondary students had been suspended after they launched social media challenge that encouraging people to describe the extent to which they would go for sexual pleasure.

“These youngsters tend to be very creative and talented,” Clement Lambert, a University of West Indies education professor, told The Gleaner. “So sometimes when some schools are giving up the aesthetics for other subjects because they want the high passes in the sciences, while ignoring other talents for the children, we’re at fault, too.”

By means of a set of free reports and an extensive database, both commissioned by the American Press Institute, WAN-IFRA suggests more than 100 ways news organizations can get started on the crucial task of helping young audiences learn to use the news and navigate all kinds of content.

Also, a comprehensive report, including recommendations, entitled Truth & Trust in the Media – An Asian Perspective, emerged from the Singapore event in June and is available for download from WAN-IFRA.

In other news literacy developments:

The European Association for Viewers’ Interests has released a game called Beyond the Headlines that has students check content against a list of attributes, deducting veracity points for various elements (headlines in all capital letters, etc.)

A somewhat laborious but informative explanatory webinar about the game can be found here.

At 20:00 Eastern Standard Time on November 13, The Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, U.S.A., will offer a webinar examining the internet with Adam Conovor, the star of Adam Ruins Everything, a comedy educational TV series that debunks popular misconceptions, false impressions, and ideas. A recording will be available after the webinar.

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