Media Literacy Week: Teach Students How to Avoid Being Used by Social Media

Nothing pains me more than seeing my own children or other young people being duped by the information they see online or when a post on their social media account has the potential to adversely impact their immediate or future lives. 

We have all seen examples of students losing scholarships, or young adults getting passed over for a job because of something they posted online or from long ago. Most recently, a story from my home state erupted when a 24-year-old’s viral sign resulted in an avalanche of monetary donations, a beer company, a children’s hospital, and tweets he sent at the age of 16 were dug up by a local reporter and spiraled out of control. 

Teaching students and educators about media literacy have been passions of mine for many years, and while I do not expect all educators to have social media accounts that they use frequently, the absence of this critical conversation and the teaching of the skills needed to navigate the digital sea has dire effects on our students. As Media Literacy Week approaches, I ask you

How are we teaching students to avoid being USED by social media, and instead USE social media to benefit themselves and others? 

Shaelynn Farnsworth

Because of this question that drives many of the talks I give, and to celebrate the upcoming #MediaLiteracyWeek, I have created templates for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that you can use in the classroom in a myriad of ways. Here are some of my quick thoughts:

  • Consume and create social media posts. Analyze message, bias, authenticity and then have students respond in the same mode through questions, evidence, and arguments. 
  • Exit or Entrance Tickets over conceptual or topical learning during the week. Important takeaways to share. 
  • Create social media posts in the voice or lens of an author, politician, character, advocate, or historical figure.
  • Promote positivity and share for good! Create and share positive messages about the school, community, today’s youth, etc. to flood the internet with a different kind of message. 
  • Model and practice how to approach bias online, how to advocate for self, how to discern information with a critical eye and respond thoughtfully with messages they disagree with.
  • Model and practice how to deal with bullying, trolls, and bots online. 

The possibilities are endless! And I would love to hear your ideas as well, so drop them in the comments below.

The templates are editable for you to customize based on intent, objective, and audience. And if you share examples on Twitter, be sure to tag me in them, I would love to see what you created! @shfarnsworth

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 

MAP Reading Fluency: A New Tool to Save Teachers Time & Focus on Instruction

This post is sponsored by We Are Teachers and NWEA.org. All opinions expressed are my own. (Meaning, if I don’t like something about a particular education product I will not write about it on my blog)

Across the country, literacy, especially in grades K-3,  is a priority in just about every district you visit. Educators are banding together to share best practices, evidence-based interventions, and inspiring stories; all in an effort to impact student literacy.

All learning in rooted in language, and as one progresses throughout life, access to continued learning, both personal and professional, is typically accessed through written communication.

For me, literacy is my passion, and I have dedicated my life to reading, researching, and sharing not only how to develop young students into lifelong readers, but to advocate for high-quality instruction in literacy for ALL students. Being literate not only allows access to information, but influences one’s personal, professional, and civic lives. Upon graduation, my wish was for students to be equipped with passion and skills to be critical discerners of information, make informed decisions for the betterment of society, and be able to advocate for self and others. To be able to do these things, a solid literacy foundation must be formed in the early grades.

Educators learn about their young readers in a variety of ways when they enter their classrooms. Understanding what they enjoy reading and learning about, how they choose books, which foundational skills they have acquired as opposed to which ones they still need to practice or learn. Typically, in a K-3 classroom, teachers administers some sort of fluency test with accompanying comprehension questions. These assessments provide an abundance of information on students to inform instruction. The drawback to this type of testing is the large amount of TIME it takes to test individual students with classrooms of 25+ young readers. And we all know the one thing teachers need is…More TIME. That is why I was ecstatic to preview a new assessment tool launched by NWEA called MAP Reading Fluency.

I want to stress, NOTHING takes the place of an Expert Teacher, but when resources like this become available and save teachers time to then reclaim and use for instruction, it is a WIN – WIN for kids.

MAP Reading Fluency is the first and only K-3 oral reading assessment using speech recognition, automatic scoring and computer adaptive technology.  It allows data to be collected around; oral reading fluency, comprehension, and foundational reading skills. With this information, teachers are able to make decisions on which areas they may need to dig in a bit deeper in order to differentiate instruction and meet needs of students.

I am also a firm believer in two things when it comes to assessment and data. First, MAP Reading Fluency provides a snapshot of the student as a reader; multiple snapshots across time allow teachers to notice trends and trends should be noted and investigated to find out the What/Why. Second, assessment data does not paint the whole picture of a child as a reader. This is where the beauty of computer-aided assessment comes into play. Reading Fluency data that is generated is immediate, organized, disaggregated and actionable. This is a huge win for teachers and a time-saver due in part to the streamlined process of technology. The follow-up, the instruction, and the passionate teaching to the student is then provided by the Expert Teacher.

For the past 5 years or so, I have been investigating tools and resources that would support teachers and students in this exact way; it is as if NWEA read my mind and delivered with Reading Fluency. MAP Reading Fluency was named the 2018 CODiE award winner for Best Student Assessment Solution. It is adaptive to accommodate  pre-, early-, and fluent readers, and is recorded so that teachers can listen to their students during a planning time or while working with their PLC. I am excited about the possibilities of this new assessment tool and appreciate how it aims to shorten the time spent assessing so more time can be spent on instructing! Want to learn more? Check out this FAQ sheet or request a Demo of MAP Reading Fluency.

Affinity Spaces: What Video Games and Virtual PLNs Can Teach Educators About Informal Learning

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On any given night, you can find my children (grades 5 & 9) along with millions of others, playing video games. From Fortnite, to Minecraft, to Roblox; many hours are logged in these virtual spaces playing… and also learning. The learning taking place is not necessarily organized by specific disciplines but instead, a collective intelligence which blends content knowledge, creative problem solving, design thinking, along with collaborating and communicating with peers around the globe.

This informal learning is similar to my own when I think about jumping on Twitter to connect, consume, and share with other passionate educators, my virtual PLN. So what can we learn from video games, #EdChat, and other virtual spaces? All of these spaces include similar characteristics that James Paul Gee calls Affinity Spaces. While technology has led to an explosion of these spaces, they are possible to replicate face to face although it is difficult because, “institutional constraints, pre-existing status, geographical boundaries. A Classroom where students did not choose to be there and the teacher grades everyone.”

As educators, the goal is not for everyone to use video games in the classroom, but instead, understand the features of Affinity Spaces and work towards creating similar conditions in our classroom.

 15 Features of Affinity Spaces (by Gee)

  1. Organized around a common passion – A common passion, not race, gender, or socioeconomics, is primary and respected by all in the space.
  2. Not segregated by age – Older people can be beginners and younger people can be veterans. Passion, skill, and learning are respected
  3. Common space shared by all (Newbies, Veterans, Masters, etc.) – Everyone is accommodated in the same space. Newbies are not segregated from those that are considered masters of the game.
  4. Everyone can consume and create – Affinity spaces allow everyone to consume not only game-based creations but those created by players in the space. Consuming and creating are encouraged to allow everyone to build if they choose to.
  5. Content is transformed through interaction – The content is not fixed and constantly is transformed through interaction.
  6. Development and pooled broad, general knowledge as well as specialists – People are enabled to create and share knowledge and skill within the space.
  7. Individual and distributed knowledge encouraged – People are enabled to gain individual knowledge and share and spread specialized knowledge.
  8. Use of dispersed knowledge is encouraged (hacking and smashing to gain the desired product) The use of onsite and outside resources and tools is encouraged and supported to gain the creations people seek.
  9. Tacit knowledge is used and honored – Affinity spaces support people to learn by doing rather than memorizing tutorials or reading lengthy directions.
  10. Many different ways to participate – Participation in the space is varied and on multiple levels.
  11. Multiple ways to gain status – People can gain status, if they want to, in many different ways.
  12. Leadership is porous and leaders are resources – There are no bosses. People can be both leaders and followers.
  13. Roles are reciprocal – People sometimes lead, sometimes follow; mentor or be mentored; ask questions or answer them. The bottom line is there is always more to learn.
  14. Learning is individually proactive -Affinity spaces view failure as a means to success. Help is available, but individuals are still responsible for own learning.
  15. Encouragement from audience and feedback from peers – Feedback is welcomed from others interacting with your creations, while peers play an important role in providing critical advice to move individuals forward.

While all of these features are not required, an Affinity Space has most of these features. And upon reflection, most of the popular video games that our students play have these features. That is why we have students, and in my case children, who play hours on end. I, too, see some of these features in the spaces I spend my time as an educator. It is time to pay attention to attributes that make this type of learning successful for students and ask ourselves how these features can be reimagined in our own classrooms. Education is not merely producing consumers but those that can create and produce for the betterment of their space.

Source: Gee, James Paul. Literacy and Education. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Measuring Up: 6 Focus Areas for Blended Curriculum Assessment

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It is true, not all curriculum is created equal. There are specific things I look for when reviewing a curriculum to make the best decisions for kids and teachers. So when my friends at We Are Teachers asked me to take a look at, Measuring Up, a blended curriculum for grades 2-8, I was eager to check it out and provide feedback.

This post is sponsored by We Are Teachers and Mastery Education. All opinions expressed are my own. (Meaning, if I don’t like something about a particular education product I will not write about it on my blog)

I immediately recognized many positives while reading through the sample curriculum:

  • Concepts connected by what students will learn; to what they may already know; to real-world examples.
  • Academic vocabulary in context.
  • Scaffolded learning with guided instruction and gradual release of responsibility.
  • Apply learning independently.

Along with the previous list, two things stuck out to me about Measuring Up that I appreciate as a professional. First, the instruction is done by the expert classroom teacher, not the computer; and second, the Measuring Up Live 2.0 version aligned with my view on student-learning and assessment which they have streamlined through the use of computer applications.

6 Focus Areas for Blended Curriculum Assessment:

  1. Practice – Whether it is a high-stakes test or a certification exam; assessment practices are shifting from paper and pencil to an online version for a variety of reason (costs, access, data disaggregation, etc.) When students have little to no practice or frame of reference to online testing, anxiety rises and results are impacted. Blended curriculum should contain both digital and analog assessment options, as well as multiple types of assessment students,  can take in both a low-stake and high-stakes environment.  
  2. Cognitive Demand – If students have limited interaction and touches on devices when it comes to testing, all of their cognitive energy is wasted on how to manipulate the computer instead of answering the questions. Cognitive energy is best used for thinking critically and demonstrating understanding. From drag and drop to typing extended answers, when students have little access to the types of computer assessments they will take in their schooling and life, cognitive demands are misplaced on basic computer skills.
  3. Adaptive – When evaluating curriculum, edtech options for assessment should include adaptive measures, meaning, the test is sensitive to the answers the student provides and modifications are made based on answers. This ensures that the just right measures are used to gauge what the student knows and what they are not understanding.
  4. Feedback – Feedback is another area I explore when looking at assessment provided by curriculum with blended components. Feedback could come in the form of immediate grading, but could also provide extensions and reinforcement. All of these provides students with an understanding of what they have mastered and what additional support they can access to continue refining their learning.
  5. Mastery and Goal Setting – Curriculum that provides assessment should be aligned to the standards and instruction. It should provide a clear picture as to which skills and standards the students have mastered, what they have left to master and provide a direction on how to move forward. Measuring up provides students and teachers this information, as well as a way for students to set their own learning goals.
  6. Informs Instruction – FInally, data collected is useless unless it is used to inform instruction. Along with providing formative and summative student information, an assessment done via technology streamlines the process of accessing, disaggregating, and changing instruction to best meet students’ needs.

Curriculum cycles are a part of every district I have worked with over the past 10 years. Making the most informed purchasing decisions helps educators in their instruction and assessment of students. While all companies and curriculum writers provide unique frameworks or specialty components, be sure that any curriculum claiming to be blended places value in the professional and contains a comprehensive assessment system, similar to that of Measuring Up,  with a focus on the 6 areas above.