4 Games to Boost Media Literacy Skills

Critical thinking, healthy skepticism, fact-checking; in today’s information age, these three are more important than ever. On a daily basis, students are bombarded with information from multiple platforms that they must wade through, analyze and interpret, to make the most informed decisions on the authenticity and relevance. 

Media Literacy, according to NAMLE, is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication that are interdisciplinary by nature. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us. 

I am an advocate for the teaching of these skills in classrooms across the country. In fact, just last week I was speaking at a conference in Connecticut, and after my talk on Developing Healthy Skeptics, a  professor approached me and told me that starting this year, media literacy was going to be a part of all Teacher Education programs at his university. We are making progress!

From websites to extensions to games, there are many ways to talk about and use media literacy in the classroom. From single lessons, to longer units, I typically start off with a game that provides a launch into the inquiry. I have found that games in the classroom provide rich simulations in which students learn content and hone skills. In the case of teaching Media Literacy, this is no different. These games focus on the consumption of digital information and place students in a variety of situations to evaluate epic headlines, analyze misinformation, or even use strategies to gain influence and followers just as an online troll would do.   

4 Games to Get Students Thinking Critically:

Factitious – Factitious, developed by the American University Game Lab and the JoLT Program, is a viral hit! Released in 2017, this Tinder-like game asks users to swipe left or right based on if the article is real or not. In its most recent updates, Factitious now has 6 game levels and 3 different reading levels making it accessible for a huge age range. Plus, it’s super fun! 

Get Bad News – Get Bad News has users take on the persona of a fake-news tycoon trying to make a social impact by spreading disinformation while trying to get more followers. This online game developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Dutch media group Drog, tasks players through six different tactics in an effort to understand this propaganda and fake news while actually creating and sharing it. As you advance through the game, users earn badges and increase their fake-news radar by walking in the offenders’ shoes. 

Cast your Vote – A recent update and release of Cast Your Vote, by iCivics is perfect for the upcoming election. Users discover what it takes to become an informed voter–from knowing where you stand on important issues to uncovering what you need to know about candidates. This new version offers ELL supports and educator guides and questions to deepen the learning! It’s a perfect way to help students identify issues that are important to them and evaluate candidates based on their qualifications, experience, voting record, endorsements, and messaging.

Troll Factory – Troll Factory, my most recent discovery, does come with a warning. Because of the authentic content and sensitive material, it is not appropriate for all students. With that being said, the insights and explanations at the end of the game are fantastic.  When placed in the right learning context, I could see this game as being useful for upper-grades and college-aged students. Troll Factory shows users how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their anti-democracy propaganda. Created by Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle’s News Lab, this game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence on social media through fear, bias, and propaganda.  

There are many more resources, tools, and games popping up as the need for media literacy increases. From chrome extensions to URL validation websites, using multiple resources to support student discernment of digital discourse should be a priority in every classroom. It is only through an ongoing effort by all teachers that we can best equip students for a life filled with digital information and the critical thinking skills necessary for life. 

Disinformation: Resources to Support Information Literacy in the Classroom

Equipping students with the skills and tools necessary to navigate the sea of digital misinformation is important. And as we inch towards the election, the need continues to increase because of the falsities, half-truths, and deep fakes being used to sway political views. Students are developing reality apathy, finding it difficult to discern information effectively which produces dire consequences for our society.

Misinformation online is not only a student issue, but also one we as adults need new learning around. I would bet we all have examples of friends who have reposted misinformation and helped to spread their effects across the digital landscape. In fact, just the other day I noticed a teacher-friend I went to college with repost a share from The Onion on her facebook page, unaware of the satirical nature of the site. 

We can do better and we must. The traditional ways of vetting information with a checklist no longer serve the desired outcome. We need to rethink how we teach information literacy and provide students with current thinking, resources, and tools so that they are able to participate in this perilous time with confidence.

Pinpoint structures or devices used to construct disinformation online. Have students create their own example which will allow them to deconstruct and analyze the different techniques used online to get clicks! 

2 of my favorite Fake News creation tools

The Fake News Generator 

Users create the headline, description, and choice in the “fake site” it originates. Choose an image from a collection they have curated and when done, a link is generated to your newly created “Fake News”. Multiple platforms to share and when readers click the link, it informs them they have been duped by fake news and encourages them to make their own. It is short, easy to use, and helps students think of sensational titles, succinct descriptions, and images people use to spread misinformation.

Break Your Own News

Break Your Own News provides a template in which users can fill in the headline and ticker. This site allows you to upload your own image and mimics the colors and structure we see on common news sources. The template is great and visually looks like “breaking news” you would find on many social media platforms. You can download the image or post to Facebook, so sharing is limited with this option. 

Gamify information literacy skills with these 2 websites!

Get Bad News

A game-based website using “inoculation theory” to help arm students against disinformation by placing them in the role of someone who is creating it. Players advance through the game trying to amass followers while sustaining credibility. The game takes approximately 20 minutes to play navigating through 6 badges that indicate the various forms of disinformation. It also provides educators with a guide to help navigate using in the classroom (ages 14 and up), the skills acquired, and additional reading to further explain information. 

Factitious 

Newly redesigned from the original version, Factitious still follows the same 3 basic steps: Read the article, Swipe to the right if you think it’s a real story, Swipe to the left if you think it’s fake. That’s it! This Tinder-like game now includes 6 game levels, along with 3 options on “reading levels” aimed for middle school, high school, and college-aged players. 

3 extensions to add to your browser

Nobias

Nobias claims to be the “fitbit for your media diet”. Track media bias, credibility, authenticity, and politics in the press you read online. Install either the Chrome or Firefox browser extension to help fight misinformation. Gain valuable insights when you hover over a title without having to click the link. Great resource to share with students and their home page is filled with FAQs and criteria they use to determine slants and bias. 

SurfSafe

This browser extension is intended to help viewers spot fake news, in the form of altered or misleadingly used images. While most extensions focus on the source, author, or site; SurfSafe is exclusively for images. It is intended to help stop the spread of disinformation by photoshopped images by providing users with 3 different  levels of identification and also allows users to report an image they feel is photoshopped or misleading. 

NewGuard

NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not. This extension provides users with a “Nutrition Label” looking at everything from ownership, history, credibility, and transparency. Information and support for educators, libraries, and parents. Read how they rate sites and help to restore trust and accountability in the news.

Want more? Take a look at my other blog posts support Information Literacy and Education! 

Flat Earth, 9/11, Anti-Vax: Things People Doubt in the Age of Information 

7 Resources to Fight Digital Misinformation in the Classroom