Recently, I have been extraordinarily focused on media literacy and social media. This week I will be working with my school's PTSA on these topics in hopes of informing parents about what students should be looking for in the media and how they can use social media responsibly. At the ASCD Empower 17 conference, I happened upon a book called Master the Media by Julie Smith. I cannot speak highly enough about this book. It is a fantastic introduction to how media corporations and advertising drives what we watch, read, and hear. Teachers and parents should get their own a copy of this book because it has some practical questions for them to discuss with the children in their lives. I read the whole book on the plane rides home from the conference and I have been going back and rereading sections of it for the past two days.
In addition to the information I was able to get from this book, I also heard about an article this morning called "Why Fake News Spreads: A Neurological Explanation." This article, written by Patrick Tucker, discusses how our brain chemistry and the need for social acceptance from our peers dictates what we perceive to be true news vs. news we are critical of. This would be a great article to help start a discussion in the classroom about how to prevent spreading unsupported news.
Finally, I came across the information about fact-checking day. April 2nd is scheduled to be the official international fact-checking day. There is a website, factcheckingday.com, that has a number of how to articles, lesson plans, quizzes, and a map of activities that are being held across the globe. Fact-checking and media literacy is something we should be promoting in classrooms all year long, but if you haven't known where to start or been able to fit it in to your plans then April 2nd is a fantastic day to get started!
Social media drives the news of the day. This fact becomes more and more apparent as news organizations create reports from stories and videos that originate from Twitter or Facebook. The way we socialize, advocate, and broadcast our lives through these tools has become second nature to us. While these items were created with the best intentions there have been a number of negative consequences. Internet trolls have created accounts devoted solely for the purpose of bullying others. In October, Twitter has had such a bad image due to their harassment problems they were unable to keep prospective buyers interested in them (The Guardian). Depressed users have used social media livestreams to publicly take their own lives. There were 3 cases reported within the span of about a month (New York Post).
Twitter and Facebook have started taking steps to remedy these situations. Twitter announced last week that they would be taking steps to reduce harassment by allowing users to block certain users and words from their feed and block individuals who have not chosen a picture to replace the default egg (Recode). These changes are in addition to the ability for users to verify their accounts, which came out this past summer (The Verge).
In June 2016, Facebook released tools that would enable users to report suicidal posts to Facebook, who would then equip the reporter with ways to help that individual in hopes of preventing self injury or suicide (The New York Times). Now Facebook is releasing these tools for use during livestream videos and working to introduce Artificial Intelligence that will pick up these types of behavior (Business Insider).
The news that these companies are taking these steps to ensure the safety of their users is something that should be shared with students. The articles linked above, along with others, can provide a good beginning to discussions about the use of social media and how users of these platforms can fight the negative that other users put out. Students won't stop using these tools any time soon, nor should they. To live in today's world, students will need to learn how to use these tools positively.
WARNING: Please, look through articles for your students before diving into this with them. I am an advocate for having students do their own research, but keep in mind that most of the suicide videos are still out there and viewable. At least have that conversation with students before you put them online to search for these topics specifically.
For almost a year I have been toying with the idea of starting a Podcast. I feel like I have a lot to share, but typing it out in a blog each week doesn't always work for me. I love listening to technology news and other EdTech podcasts which often lead me to a number of ideas, but sitting down to write them out often doesn't make it past the note taking stage. I have had trouble with the podcast idea for a number of reasons, but the main one is the idea that I would not have enough to say or anything that others might actually want to hear. The urge to share has been growing in the past year and I often find myself spouting ideas and thoughts out to anyone who happens to be standing next to me at that time. The poor soul these idea usually end up being shard with is my husband who has nothing to do with education (unless you count being a parent).
To begin the process, I have split a presentation that I gave at NCTIES 2017 called "Blogging in Any Classroom" into 3 episodes. Each episode focuses on one aspect of setting up and using student blogs. This seemed like the easiest place to start because the materials are already together and accessible on my website. The process will be followed again as I prepare to present "Feedback: Tips, Tricks, and Tools" at the ASCD Empower 17 Conference at the end of March. Because I waited almost a year to actually do this, I have a number of episodes that are still in note form. My hope is to continue to push these out while still continuing to research new technologies and learn more teaching techniques that I can share out as well.
Right now I am creating and editing these episodes myself and a good friend is getting them out to all the podcast outlets for me. I am doing this with the idea in my head that this could very well fail. I could put time into this and end up impacting no one. That is okay. I am looking at this as a learning opportunity. If this does not work out I will have gained a new set of skills that can be used for classroom projects or even smaller professional development audio clips for my school or district.
If you are interested in listening to my podcast, head over to iTunes and download the APlusEdTech Podcast. If you have any suggestions for episodes or you have an expertise you would like to share as a guest, feel free to tweet or email me!