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Posts Tagged ‘media

CNN took a break from the Trump circus to focus on one ordinary person.


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The man at the centre of a social media storm was roundly criticised for grooming himself on public transport. A mad mob made judgements instead of finding out the facts first.

Some basic journalism revealed that the man had fallen on hard times and had been in and out of homeless shelters. He had just left one such shelter and was on his way to visit an estranged brother. He just wanted to look presentable.

Some from the mob apologised. A few started raising money for the man. The thing is: Could we not have skipped the mad mob and started with the caring crowd?

Common to both the mob and the crowd was social media. The same tool set that spread vitriol also focused on helping.

There are some people who still like to blame social media for our ills. Doing that is a convenient cop out. We are responsible for the tools we use and what do with them.

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In the first part of this SciShow video, Hank Green outlined a study that examined the link between social media use and ADHD symptoms.

Bottomline: No study is perfect and this one suffered from a reliance on self-reported data, reporting symptoms without prior baseline diagnoses, and correlational outcomes.

The last point was key. Green pointed out that the study could not prove that social media caused ADHD symptoms any more than the tendency of users with ADHD checking social media frequently. In his own words:

Using this study to say that smartphones and social media cause ADHD would be like looking at ER data and concluding that firefighters cause burn injuries.

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”.

For me reading some Facebook (FB) group posts is like feeding a morbid habit of watching train wrecks.

I can see them coming because they are guaranteed. The conversations (if they can be called that) are unpleasant, but I plow through anyway. Why? All for the single pearl in the mud trampled by swine.
 

 
By comparing what I do and read in FB and Twitter, I realise that the issue is granular control. I can choose who I follow on Twitter. I can only choose which groups I join in FB.

I can even block people in Twitter so that I curate the right kind of followers. This is not the same as muting people on FB as the control is finer and deeper in Twitter.

It is strange that the more verbose FB provides less granularity of control while the shorter form Twitter provides more. This starts to make sense if you buy in to this description: FB is where you hang out with family or friends. Twitter is where you learn from strangers. It makes sense to have locks on your front door, but not on the ones inside.

But this is where the description falls apart. FB groups are full of strangers who have a lot to say with very little sense. You need only examine any FB interest group with the lens of granularity to realise how this leads to breadth instead of depth.

By breadth I mean the reach that large FB groups have in transmitting information. By lack of depth I mean unsubstantiated rumour, baseless information, or knowledge built on weak foundations.


Twitter is not immune from these, of course. But you can choose who to follow and you can even choose who follows you. You can go for quality, not just quantity, and by doing so choose depth over breadth. As you reputation grows over time, you might develop reach and breadth.

Developing depth over breadth is a more responsible approach. I wonder if this is modelled and taught in digital and media literacy modules. If this is not, then learners just go with the flow of popularity contests that favour breadth over depth.

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.


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