Climate Change: Teach Students How to Think, Not What to Think

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This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month’s question is Taking Climate Change seriously in our schools, what are your best tips for teaching about climate change.”

April 22, 2018, is recognized as Earth Day, a global event which began in 1970. Today, close to 1 billion people in 192 countries take part in the largest “civic-focused day of action in the world.” (Earthday.org) From endangered species to climate change, Earth Day campaigns are vast and span a wide-range of political, religious, and debatable topics. Students across the world will likely learn and partake in activities around these campaigns in celebration of Earth Day, like planting trees and taking care of gardens. Cleaning local parks, walking to school instead of driving, or raising money for the White Rhino; on April 22, many students will be helping to make a difference in the world.

BUT…

I challenge educators around the globe to think differently this Earth Day. Whether it be endangered species or climate change, our job as educators should not be planning activities for students to participate in or bestowing information upon them about the destruction of the planet; instead, on this civic-focused day, educators around the globe should focus on creating advocates. Our world needs young people who have the skills and resources to objectively look at an issue, evaluate and analyze multiple viewpoints, and articulate their own opinion.

We need to teach students how to think, not what to think.

The depletion of natural resources and climate change impact every human being on this planet, but it is also a political and religious topic which has multiple viewpoints. Doing a quick search on the internet provides users with hundreds of articles, videos, and advertisements aligned to both sides of the issue. There are as many “experts” claiming global warming is real as there are “experts” claiming that it is a hoax. Where does this leave educators and students?

First, I believe that technology has not only changed the way we communicate but also the access to information individuals have at their fingertips.

Second, because of this, it is imperative for educators to equip students with skills to swim in this digital sea of information with a degree of healthy skepticism.

Third, so that we help to create an empathetic global generation that can advocate for themselves and others.

So instead of having students walk to school instead of drive on Earth Day, teach them how to evaluate and analyze the information they find on the web about climate change (both sides of the issue). Answer questions such as: Is this a reliable source? What is the author’s bias? What evidence is used to back their claim? Can I find this information multiple places? What do I think?

Flood their environments with examples of advocacy campaigns, multiple modes of communication, and experts to get advice from. Answer questions such as: Now that I have my opinion and the evidence to back it up, what are my next steps? How do people take an idea and create a movement? Which forms and modes of my message will be best to use? How can one person be an advocate for themselves and others?
And support action designed by students. Earth Day, activism, movements that transform the way our young people think rarely are a direct result of an event that the teacher planned. To empower student advocates, efforts must stem internally and be supported by the adults they are surrounded by. Student action that will carry over into their adulthood must be a process that they experience from the start, what do I think? and why does it matter? to the very end. To have students participate in events on Earth Day on a deep and transferable level, we must teach them how to think, not what to think and empower them to create the movement.

Fake News Should Die… Or Should It?

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This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month’s question is “how do we fight the fake news epidemic?”

 

Recently, Fake News has been getting a bad reputation, I’m hoping this post changes that!

Over half of Americans get their news from just one social media site – Facebook and 45% of US adults say government politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention (Pew Research Center,  December 15, 2016). These statistics alarm me. Not the first one highlighting where people find information, but the second claim in which many feel the responsibility of identifying and stopping the spread of fake information resides with the government.

It is essential for educators to develop healthy skepticism within each child; critical discerners of information that are able to evaluate, analyze, and apply information that they encounter throughout their lifetime, no matter the mode.

Information is doubling every 12 days, containing fake news, half-truths, alternate facts, and reliable information; and while there are many resources (my list here) and blog posts written that offer apps, website, fact-checkers, and lessons plans for educators to utilize, we must not overlook the charge of education in our pursuit of combating fake news –  to develop independent, critical thinkers.

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A conversation I had with my 7th grade son and his friends this morning:

Me: What do you know about fake news?

Son: What do you mean?

Son’s friend: Didn’t you see President Trump on the news yesterday talking about news sources…

After a brief discussion on politics

Me: So what should we do with people or news sources that report and spread fake news?

Son: Fine them, make them pay…

Son’s friend: They should get jail time.

All the boys: Yes, jail time and not be allowed to report fake news. The government needs to shut those people down…

Me: So the government should police the internet, news sources, social media, conversations and get rid of all of the fake news?

Deep Thought

Son’s friend: Well that means I could be thrown in jail… or we could end up like North Korea…

BINGO!

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Fake news is not a bad thing. In fact, it provides teachable moments for educators across the globe. It begs us to consider who or what determines information as fake? And How can we support kids in their pursuit of understanding? The discernment of information and the application to construct one’s own understanding should be practiced and refined in every classroom across the country. With that being said, the importance of what should be done with fake information and the people or corporations that report this news as truth is a piece of the conversation that is missed.

 

  • What exactly is fake news?
  • Would killing off fake news truly help people?
  • Does allowing others to determine what information you have access to leave you with only factual and correct information?
  • Who should police the internet?
  • What role should the government play in determining access to information?
  • Does killing off fake news equal censorship?
  • Is censorship needed?
  • Can censorship be both good and bad?
  • Can censorship and freedom of speech coexist?

Resources, websites, fact-checkers are nice. They support an individual’s pursuit of knowledge. We use them as adults and we should definitely model and share them with students.

But

DO NOT forget the second part of the conversation, one in which students understand the value of fake news in the age of information. The conversation that includes the tough discussions on freedom of speech, critical thinking, approaching information with healthy skepticism, and censorship.

Special thanks to Shawn McCusker and Steven Anderson for sharing information freely!