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Posts Tagged ‘literacy

You can read the title as a cheer or a sigh.


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Yesterday I heard a promoter at mall sell disinformation. This reminded me of the claim a student teacher made years ago.

The mall charlatan proclaimed the benefits of oxygenated water and a product that would allow you to put extra oxygen in tap water.

Only aquatic organisms would benefit from an infusion of oxygen in the water. Then again only up to a point because too much oxygen is harmful whether it is in water or air. That aside, humans are terrestrial animals and we do not gain from extra-oxygenated water except perhaps for ticklish bubbles.

If we were somehow able to absorb more oxygen from water like the way we do from our red blood cells, we would oxidise chemicals in our bodies. One physically overt effect of this is premature aging, which was something contrary to the promoter’s product.

The harm of buying into this non-scientifically-based sell hurts your pocket and helps perpetuate scientific ignorance. This is bad, but not as bad as what might happen in a classroom.

A few years ago, I reflected on a student teacher who told her students that it was important to drink water because it contained oxygen. Our bodies do not electrolyse water. If we did, we would produce two highly flammable and explosive gases (hydrogen and oxygen) in our bodies.

I pointed this out to the student teacher and urged her to rectify this at the next lesson. Misteaching science initiates or perpetuates falsehoods. Disinformation takes root and becomes unfounded knowledge. If left unchecked, this condition might develop into disdain for scientific literacy and critical thinking.

We should be nurturing kids who are scientifically literate and cheering, “Yeah, Science!” But if we do not correct bad teaching or ignorant sales pitches, we leave kids who think that ignorance is bliss.

At face value the opinions expressed in the newspaper clipping below meet the basics of logic.

But lay logic is not enough if it is not informed by science.

Basic scientific literacy contributes to logical thinking. Critical elements include:

  • Not linking assumptions
  • Testing observations rigorously
  • Filling knowledge gaps with established theory and research

It takes confidence to share one’s thoughts. It takes competence to share them convincingly.

The headlines highlighted in this tweet are why we need:

  • science and experts.
  • to be information and media literate.
  • to follow entities outside our bubbles.

Forbes and NASA have experts that are good at what they do. Both provided commentary on a shared observation. Only one was actually informative — NASA.

If we were information and media literate — collectively digitally literate — we would be skeptical of Forbes’ report and know how to investigate the issue. We would then find NASA’s version of the event and we would be able to evaluate what we find.

Operating outside our bubbles allows us to see what others see. Operate in the Forbes or entertainment bubble and we see only mystery or ignorance. Operate in the scientific bubble and we see more factual information.

That said, I follow You Had One Job on Twitter because it is funny. It is also provocative in that it helps me make critical connections. So while being digitally literate and sourcing expertise are important, it helps to first operate outside one’s bubble.

This excellent YouTube series on media literacy ends with the episode below.


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The episode focuses on what lies ahead. As it does so, it builds on what was stable, remains stable now, and will be stable in the future.

The future of being media literate is being skeptical. This does not mean that we cannot enjoy watch we hear, read, or watch.

It does mean that we do not take the easy way out. Being skeptical means being aware of our own bias and identifying the bias in media. It means establishing context and being critical “going in” instead of just reacting when “going out”.

After watching this CNN video, I distilled some thoughts on what modern literacy — digital and media — might build on.

Some background: A news “anchor”, Laura Ingraham, used Twitter to attack a school shooting survivor and spokesperson, David Hogg. Ingraham mocked Hogg for not being rejected by four universities so far despite having a 4.2 GPA. Hogg went on the offensive on Twitter and several companies withdrew their advertisements from Ingraham’s show.


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Some modern literacy foundations from this case might include:

  • Learning current skills and emergent practices from the learner.
  • Being “savvy” as defined by what you KNOW and DO, not just who you ARE or WHO you know.
  • Freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility.
  • We are entitled to your own opinions, but not our own facts.

I have no doubt that such foundations are part of some digital and media literacies programmes. But this case is a compelling one because it involves the two people that need it most — the student/child and the teacher/adult.

I wrote the title of today’s reflection in the spirit of Jack Neo’s “Money No Enough” movies.

There seemed to be a theme of sorts in my RSS feeds and tweet streams of late. It was about media literacy.

I highlighted a Crash Course series on media literacy a few weeks ago. The first episode is now out on YouTube.


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Another recent resource is The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy by Data & Society.

Despite these (and other) resources on media literacy, I remained unconvinced on the local efforts to nurture media literate learners. I could not articulate exactly why until two resources distilled some wisdoms.

The first is the fact that media literacy programmes seem to focus on “fake news”. A shiny object might be a catalyst, but it does not make the entire system.

Superficially, such a focus tends to deal with sociopolitical information and misinformation. While important, doing this might not shine enough light on misinformation in the realms of schooling and education.

Diving deeper, the focus on fake news, even if it includes misinformation in educational resources, is an emphasis on the negative. Media literacy is also about what is positive online, e.g., active and meaningful collaboration, individual or collective expression, and open and generous sharing.

What follows is a resource that promotes critical thinking about media literacy.


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danah boyd (yes, her name is spelt that way in lowercase letters) is an expert in this field. boyd admitted she had no concrete answer for an effective of media literacy programme. She did, however, suggest why current ones were not effective: People like to follow their gut more than they like to follow their mind. This statement cuts through ivory tower, top-down designs of standalone “media literacy” units in schools because it emphasises how value systems dictate behaviour.

Media literacy programmes are “no enough” if they focus on skills (e.g, how to create a livestream) or even social norms and expectations (e.g., do not say online what you would not say to someone in front of you). They need to be more broadly defined to include attitudes and belief systems. This is what makes media literacy so challenging.

Media literacy cannot be taught like an academic subject. It is not bound by a course or classroom walls. It is about participating over multiple platforms and a myriad of channels in each platform. The learning is in the actual doing, not in the practical theorising.

To leave a better planet for our kids, we need to leave better kids for our planet.

Singapore’s efforts in media literacy by schools seems to be one of protecting the learner-consumer instead of empowering the learner-producer.

Efforts to teach students how to check facts and sources that they consume are “no enough”. As students create, they also need to understand a big word — epistemology. They need to question the nature of knowledge, how it is constructed, and how their belief systems shape what gets constructed. In doing this, they need to learn to be better people.

The article and the video have helped me distill what I think is lacking in our media literacy efforts. The same kids were are trying to nurture as wise consumers will eventually need to be savvy producers of content. If we do not want them to be producers of fake news or other questionable content, we need to focus on empowering them to produce based on sound belief systems.

One local newspaper tweeted:

Here is an excerpt of the article:

…as recently as 2000, 45 per cent of the resident workforce had below secondary school education, and only 12 per cent had university education. Today, those with less than secondary school education has fallen below 30 per cent, and the proportion of university degree holders has more than doubled to nearly 30 per cent.

This is my reaction: Having a degree does not make you educated.

Another paper tweeted:

Here is an excerpt of the article:

The test, sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, evaluated pupils’ reading and comprehension skills, such as connecting pieces of information, and making inferences from texts. Pupils were given two reading passages – narrative fiction as well as information-based texts such as news articles – and had to answer multiple-choice and written-response questions.

This is my reaction: Being able to decipher or make inferences from text on any medium does not make you sufficiently literate.


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