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. 

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 

7 Resources to Fight Digital Misinformation in the Classroom

7 New Resources to Fight Digital Misinformation

Accessing information online is like looking for a proverbial needle in a haystack. The abundance of resources available 24/7 makes Information Literacy an essential life skill for one’s working, civic and personal lives. As an educator, it is imperative to recognize the shifts in locating reliable and relevant sources online. I spoke about this need at ISTE 2018 in my Ignite. Developing healthy skepticism and honing fact-checking skills are an important part of being literate today. Recently, there has been a release of new tools to support this endeavor; along with some updates to some of my favorite resources.

Here are 7 Resources to Support Information Literacy Online and to Fight the Misinformation Out There:

  1. NewsGuard – NewsGuard is a browser extension to add to your Chrome or Edge browser. Trained journalist, with “no political axe to grind” help readers and viewers know which sites are reliable. Their tagline, “Restoring trust and accountability” uses 9 Criteria to give websites ratings by color-codes from red to green. If a reader wants to understand the rating given by the group, they can read the expanded “Nutrition Label” that provides this information. NewsGuard also has great resources for libraries and is user-friendly.  
  2. SurfSafe – SurfSafe is also a browser extension for Chrome with one goal, to detect fake or altered photos. After installing this extension, users can hover over an image on the web or Facebook which instantly checks it against 100s of trusted sites for its validity. Surfsafe provides a rating system to users, along with links to other websites. Users can also help “defend the internet” against misinformation by reporting suspicious images as well.
  3. News Literacy Project – The News Literacy Project is a national education nonprofit offering nonpartisan, independent programs that teach students how to know what to believe in the digital age. They have been helping students and teachers identify fact from fiction on the web for the past 10 years. On their website, educators will find resources, information, infographics, stats, and much more. Schedule a virtual visit, or catch up on their blog; News Literacy Project is a beneficial resource for all teachers.
  4. Factitious – Factitious is a Tinder-like game but involves news instead of potential dates. Created by JoLT, (a collaboration between American University’s GameLab and School of Communication tasked with exploring the intersection of journalism and game design) users are given a title and brief text of news and are to swipe right if they think it is real, or swipe left if they believe it to be fake. After guessing, users are given the link to the source and a brief summary statement, pointing to strategies that can be used to identify misinformation. This game is fun and fast-paced.
  5. Snopes – A website that many turn to first, Snopes is a resource that all educators and students should be aware of and use when questioning validity of digital information. What began in 1994 as David Mikkelson’s project to study Urban Legends has now “come to be regarded as an online touchstone of research on rumors and misinformation.” Snopes provides users with a description on their methods and selection on their about page, which is important information to point out to students. Users can search for a specific topic or check out the “What’s New” or “Hot 50” to be current on the misinformation and the actual truth that is spreading across the digital waves.
  6. Politifact – One word, Truth-O-Meter. PolitiFact’s core principles, “independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting and clear writing,” give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy. During the election of 2007, Politifact was born and has continued to fact-check and provide ratings on their Truth-O-Meter on all things political. From statements made by Politicians to bloggers, Politifact offers users information on a Global, National, and State level.
  7. CommonSense – Common Sense is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Fortunately for all of us, CommonSense News and Media Literacy offers a  Toolkit for educators with strategies, resources, videos, and lessons to support understanding of news and media literacy and promotion of Digital Citizenship. This is a website to check frequently for updates, news, and excellent educator resources; one of my favorites!

Have I missed any of your favorites? Drop me a comment to investigate additional resources.

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

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Photo Credit: Shawn McCusker, Thank you, friend!

This year, I pushed my comfort level and gave an Ignite (5 mins. 20 slides) at ISTE in Chicago. It was my first time presenting in this format and I chose to speak about a topic that I am passionate about – How to Develop Healthy Skepticism and Fact-Checking in Students.

I started off with a personal story from college about a girl on my floor who was sucked into a cult…

Armed with flyers and a headful of answers, Cassandra pushed her way into our room and began her recruitment speech.

The misinformation of today is more difficult to recognize, posing as websites and Facebook pages. As educators, it is our obligation recognize that the checklists we once used to verify information have a hard time exposing the fake news, half-truths, media-bias, propaganda, fallacies… that we consume on a daily basis.

Critical literacy skills are needed not only for current discourse but also rhetoric in modes we haven’t even considered taking, for instance, Deep Fakes. Fueled by AI, creators are enabled to hijack one’s identity, voice, face, body. Think of it like photoshop on steroids but also with video, and now audio. What was easily recognizable as altered has become so sophisticated that it is almost imperceptible to detect by both human or computer.

We must recognize the shifts in information and change to adapt to the new mediums, equip students with critical thinking skills that allow them to get closer to the truth than they once were. To move beyond checklists I suggest looking into the work of Michael Caufield who provides guidance with 4 Moves for digital information.

Verification is a process, not a simple yes or no. You may ask if it is worth it? Or why doesn’t the government step in and take down these websites? On a surface level, that may seem easiest, but upon further reflection, once one allows censorship to invade their space it creeps into every aspect of their life.

The answer is not censorship but empowerment. And when our students walk out that door for the last time, I hope they leave with a critical lens to consume information. Equipped with the ability to not only think critically but speak with authority and be advocates for themselves and others in the great unknowns of the world.

Thank you to all of the people that supported me during this process and cheered me on as I took the stage! Steven Anderson, Adam Bellow, and Erin Olson

Until next year!!!

Thank you to Dan Kreiness for recording Round 2 #Ignites. If you would like to see my whole presentation click the link!  Shaelynn’s Ignite

On mobile device? Try this link at 47 mins. Round 2 all Ignites