Fake or Real? News Organizations Help Teach Kids the Difference

Around the world efforts are underway to show young audiences how to critically examine content for its credibility – and have some fun in the process. (Reprinted with permission)

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Newseum campaign aimed at school-age kids

Newseum campaign aimed at school-age kids

Newseum campaign aimed at school-age kids

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Here are some of the latest initiatives highlighted by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

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 Nov. 19-20, 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 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 recently gathered 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 organizing 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, held Nov. 6-10 in the USA and Canada, featured several new projects from news publishers.  News-o-matic, the cellphone- and tablet-based news service for children in France and the U.S., published age-specific stories for the U.S. during the week, covering a range of features to introduce students to the various facets of media literacy — and give them the tools to be more active and critical consumers of the news.

Twitter media literacy emoji

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. News-o-matic is inviting everyone to explore the content through Nov. 13:

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 offered 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 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, celebrated Media Literacy Week with a variety of activities. It has a new display about fake news, while the NewseumEd educational division  gave special workshops to school groups daily and offered 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.

Students in project by Jamaica’s Gleaner newspaper

Earlier in November, 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.)

Verification game

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

The Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, U.S.A., offers webinars examining the internet, beginning 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 each webinar.

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