Helping Them Navigate the Fake News Conundrum

Part 1: The Instructional Stuff

So, I came to the part of English 103 when we teach evaluative writing. This culminates in students creating Annotated Bibliographies on the sources they’ve been reading for research.

Leading up to this, we examine criteria associated with evaluation of sources, and how authorship, currency, domain, evidence impact the validity of sources and arguments.  We explore various resources on the web for collecting source material–students compare Google, online databases accessed through our library, the DMOZ, and Google News. They consider the kinds of information they find in each of these spaces and how each of these tools might be valuable in different research contexts.

These activities are par for a course on research. But, I had a couple of other things in play this year that forced some additional class time, but opened up some powerful conversations. More on this in Part 2, below.

First, I am working on my Common Sense Media (CSM)Teacher Certification, so I was looking to bring in instruction in that focused towards this end, and incorporated some parts of the vast wealth of resources found at commonsense.org. I would say this is one of the go-to places for developing media awareness and literacy. As an educator, if you are trying to figure out how to work with your community, you have to start here.

Second, I wanted to do work with students around the concept of fake news. I wanted to help them define what this is, how to spot it when it’s happening. I wanted to bring into the conversation words like perspective and bias. At the start of this conversation, students let me know that this was a topic that they were very much interested and concerned about. Many felt the inability to detect fake news or how to separate inaccuracies and falsehoods from

At CSM, they have a set of pre-created lessons on Fake News, which culminate in student making web-based products called “Digital Bytes.” I found one of these units on Fake News. However, I wasn’t too keen on just sending my students there, so I borrowed their material and repackaged and organized it in Schoology.

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This allowed me to be guided by the CSM materials, use their ideas and videos as a jumping off point while giving it to students in a format they were familiar with.

What we did:

  1. Watched videos on internet hoaxes, and then had a discussion in Schoology focusing on our own experiences with sham stories and the internet.
  2. Did close readings and analysis of “fake news stories,” and students generated lists of characteristics of fake news. We combined these lists into a master list of “fake news” characteristics.
  3. Created Google Sites of fake animals, like this one about the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus, and students had to use a required number of “fake news” characteristics. They published these sites so that peers could read them. These are available for world-wide consumption, because Sites allows for the audience to be inside of our school domain.
  4. Students went on to engage in evaluation of sources.

Looking back on this, I feel like this is some of the most important work I did with students all year, and I’m getting to the part that was super important. Students started this exploration saying that they weren’t sure how to identify fake news, to creating lists of characteristics, to producing it.

Part 2: The Interesting Part

The instructional stuff came a week after the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida. The media was full of debate about school shootings, gun control, school safety, arming teachers with firearms.

It’s easy in the midst of all of this washing over us, to forget that children are getting the same exposure.

Our superintendent, Jamie Farr (@BravesSupt), was interviewed by local TV as part of coverage of how schools were operating in the wake of what happened in Florida. Shortly after the story aired, Farr wrote to community members, expressing dismay at how the coverage was inaccurate to his interview.

We were directly in the midst of fake news. My colleague, Tallie Giuliano (@TallieGiuliano) suggested we invite Farr to our classes to discuss the media coverage and his reaction. We did.

What followed was a day of kids asking really good questions about media, school safety, mental health. Their questions were thoughtful, concerned.

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What started as an intended look at source evaluation and writing an annotated bibliography, turned into an experience of critical reading on the web, media creation, real-world connection, working with adult-expert speakers, and thinking about our consumption.

George Couros at Marcus Whitman

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of listening to George Couros’ keynote address at this year’s Connecting for Kids conference held at Marcus Whitman. I’ve been a fan for several years, and it felt like I was checking-off an item from my educator bucket-list.

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Couros’ talk came at a great time. The mid-March doldrums are in full swing, and his words inspired me out of the blahs and reminded me to get to work.

Below are my notes coming out of his talk:

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Submitting Assignments in Schoolgy

Variations on a theme.

There are several ways to give assignments when we create them in Schoology. My experience with this currently is that these options are great; however, they are ever so slightly nuanced, and it takes teachers new to working with assignments time to understand these differences. Primarily the differences are in giving feedback, and how students engage in revision. 

We’re going to look at two ways to do this: Schoology Assignments & Schoology Assignments with Google Drive integration.

We’ll take a look at the how to set them up, the student view, as well as the ways feedback works in each.

Schoology Assignments:

Students can upload from a desktop computer, can create inside of Schoology, or can submit from resources along with a  built in app, like Google Drive, which is how most of our students perform submissions on their Chromebooks.

As teacher, when you get such an assignment submitted:

  • Can provide feedback using an annotation tool which allows for highlighting, on screen marking and commenting.
  • A draw back…for teacher who want students to revise work based on comments, students cannot make changes to “submitted” document. Students can view comments, but have to go back to the original assignment to make edits and revisions._3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology

Schoology Assignments with google drive integration:

I’m going to share my personal practice when I use this feature. Before going into Schoology to create the assignment, I go into Drive, and to the folder where I store materials for the class and the unit I’m working on.

I’ve made it a habit to start assignment directions in Google drive, making sure to give the assignment a specific title. I’ll spend time in the Doc writing and revising the assignment, until it’s ready for my students.

If I’m having the students answer questions, I’ll give the questions, and a direction that tells them to begin their answers in the space between the question. If it’s an essay, I’ll give a direction that says “Start the Essay on the Next Page.” I do this because in digital environments, not only do we need to give directions about the knowledge they need to demonstrate, but also the procedures for how to complete the work.

With this done, I’ll now go into Schoology, open the folder, where I want to place the assignment, add the assignment, but I click the Google search for the assignment title, and insert it.
This makes it easier to track assignment progress and completion, give feedback in the moment, and share work on a smart board, projector, or Google Cast for Education.

_3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology (1)


_3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology (2)


Drawbacks:

  1. Here I don’t have the Schoology annotation tools. I can’t easily line-edit or use editing symbols that I might on a piece of paper.
  2. Most of the feedback I give in this system, is through making comments in the margins, at the top or bottom of the doc.
  3. Additionally, we’ve found that when students review their docs, they assume that clicking “resolve comment” is enough to fix your suggestions or edits.
  4. In co-taught classrooms, the teacher who created the assignment will only be able to see the student work.

There isn’t one right way to give assignments in Schoology. It’s nice to have two ways to do this for different situations.

Here’s a comparison of the two kinds of assignment submissions. 
Remember that working in an LMS like Schoology is a learning process. How you use it will evolve as your understanding of how it will helps you grow, and how it will serve your students.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Schoology Pages

I’m setting out and trying something new–a podcast. Here’s some of my thinking on using Schoology Pages to create a culture to foster student responsibility.

In reflecting on pages, I realized that I was lumping together to concepts, which really need to be differentiated. These two terms are student-centered and student-responsibility. In student-centered learning, students have choice, authority and autonomy, in different degrees, over topics, voice, products, content. Teachers should work whenever possible to create such environments. However, student-responsibility should always be at play. It’s the student responsibility to know directions, expectations, outcomes, and the details of the course once they are provided to them. Schoology pages makes it possible to create an environment where student-responsibility is always possible.

I won’t say anything else here about Schoology page, but I do want to comment that podcasting and creating videos is brand new territory for me. I don’t know if what I’ve created above fits the definition of podcast, it was longer than the tech tips I’ve been creating for teachers I work with, and thus I landed on this word. I’m also tired of the phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” In terms of videos and podcasting, I hope to do some more and I hope to get way better.

 

 

 

 

 

What ‘Zombifies’ You?

This blog was inspired by Matt Miller’s (@mattmiller) #Ditchsummit first session. In this session, Miller explores with Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu) the foundations of pedagogy and technology infusion in the classroom.

Clark, co-author with Tanya Avrith (@TanyaAvrith) of The Google Infused Classroom, is another powerful advocate for student voice, student choice to drive technology use. In the summit, Clark says we should ask kids what ‘zombifies’ them. By this, I take her to mean, that in seeking student input for her classroom, she seeks to know what turns kids off, what makes them feel bored, and what disconnects them from feeling a sense of learning.

Certainly, the posing of this question, even the framing of the question around the popular undead cultural icon would appeal to kids immediately.

Still, I think we should ask this question of ourselves as teachers. What is it in our classrooms that makes us feel like zombies?

And, let’s make sure that we have a clear understand of the zombie–what is it make us feel lifeless, thoughtless creatures.

I’m not talking about what enrages us like Hulk, “You won’t like me when I’m angry,” or like Frankenstein’s monster, swinging our arms at the villager’s pitchforks and torches. What are the triggers in our schools and in our classroom that make us mindless. When I worked in day-treatment, students spitting at teachers used to really be a trigger to anger.

For me, zombies are lifeless and mindless. They don’t really make choices. They are just driven by their lust for brains and blood. Likewise, in instruction, we are often driven thoughtlessly by tradition, law, perceived expectation, and ego, to name a few.

My list is also driven by my own actions and decisions. It’s not about what I see students doing in class. For example, it bothers me when students don’t follow directions, or who don’t do their work. It makes me angry, but I’m not mindless in these situations. These are students who need help and perhaps creative assistance on my part to offer an influence to change.

Here are my own personal triggers for sucking the life out of me and that make me a zombie:

  1. Doing things as I’ve always done them.
  2. Test-driven instruction, curriculum planning, and schools.
  3. Controls and restrictions in classrooms and by classroom teachers that continue to perpetuate systems of social inequality of class, race, sex, geography. Today, I’m considering how the following do this:
    1. Restrictive rules around technology
    2. Failure to use technology
    3. Providing only teacher accepted resources, sources, while denying the use of student selected materials.
  4. Having “discussions” in which I (assume I) know the conclusion the students will reach.
  5. Any kind of grading that results in a number being given.
  6. Projects with a single outcome.
  7. Annual presentations in faculty meetings.
  8. Reminder or refresher or update presentations in faculty meetings. Really, any kind of presentation that is disguised as something that could have been read as a handout or memo.
  9. Wordsmith and line editing as a committee.
  10.  Food-driven reward systems as motivations or as a behavior management systems with groups. It’s fine when training dogs and getting packs of animals to cooperate, but I like to think that I work with and for human beings.
  11. Proctoring.

Looking back up at these, I can see the negative vibe in them, and I certainly could revise and re-frame this list as the “practices I would like to embrace. But, it is a recognition of the stuff that turns me into a zombie–resulting in stress, anxiety, and stewing, brooding existential miffery.

It’s a great list for me of the stuff I need to avoid and steer away from. As an instructional leader, technology integrator, and self-proclaimed technology integration coach, it’s the list of stuff that I want to keep away from in my practice.

There are, of course, necessary evils in our schools and classrooms for which we must don the yellow Hazmat suits as the zombie-hordes creep across school fields and play grounds. I’m not going to be able to escape Regents exam grading; I’ve got two proctoring assignments in January so that some teachers can get valuable, formative feedback. But, I can force questions of the people I work with about the rules they establish, or to question existing practices. I can encourage my principal and work with him to create faculty meetings based on choice, and that provide opportunities for unheard teachers to have voice. I can give those who want to present their knowledge and passions to faculty opportunities that don’t involve the PowerPoint circle of the Inferno. I can look really hard at my own practice and demand that I’m better at what I do. And, I can model the kind of instruction that I want to be part of. And, if I do, then I might keep those brain sucking hungers at bay.

I encourage you. Make your own “Top 10 List of Zombie Practices.” Please share with me.

Writer’s note: For some reason, I had to resist putting everything into semi-ironic, air-quotes as I was writing.