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Posts Tagged ‘news

News sites should not just inform, they have a responsibility to educate.

One major news provider tried to inform with this:

Another tweeted this of the same news: 

While spit and saliva are the same thing to most people, saliva is scientifically more accurate. Spit might give the cartoonish impression that the animals somehow forcefully project their saliva.

Both news sources get a reference wrong. The animal is not a worm — it is the larva of a math. It might look like a worm, but that does not make it one. There is no reason to perpetuate a misconception or amplify ignorance. 

If you call me pedantic, then I say you use a wrong label. I am not just concerned about a minor detail. I am concerned about accuracy (it is a larva, not a worm) and precision (it is saliva, not spit). The little things matter because they add up to larger ones.

I am a news junkie in that I consume a variety of information from reputable sources. I have noticed how much scientific and newsworthy nuggets are packaged in satire.

Valid and reliable scientific information and findings tend to be dry or boring. So this game show makes things interesting by involving comedians.

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The same could be said about the delivery and processing of news. Many talkshows in the USA helmed by comedians do this.

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It is tempting to take these shows as sources of information and news. We should not because they are designed first to entertain, not primarily to educate or inform.

If consuming these sources can be likened to a meal, then the comedic science and news are like dessert — appealing and easy to swallow. But we cannot subsist on just dessert.

We might start with these tempting treats, but not stop there. If there is something I hear from a non-news or science source that I do not know about, I seek authoritative sources. But I do not have to do this often because I start with the latter and enjoy the former when they are reprocessed in funny form.

Rising above, I see a parallel between this phenomenon and teachers are trying to adopt edtech. They might have observed a vendor’s demonstration, participated in a workshop, or watched a snazzy YouTube video. This is like the comedic version of edtech because it has been reprocessed.

It is harder and more important work to plan and implement edtech from the basics, i.e., the pedagogy, the technological and social affordances, and the relevance to content. Doing this is not glamorous or exciting, but it is the difference between clumsy tinkering and masterful execution.

This opinion piece suggested that teachers and educators had to play new roles in the COVID-19 era, specifically, health promoters, ICT champions, and social workers.

If you read the piece with an outsider’s perspective, the writer’s arguments and examples seem sound. But they are not airtight.

Any current mainstream school teacher can tell you that they already had those roles pre-COVID. It is just that the roles were not as obvious or that one role in particular — ICT champion — was easy to mostly ignore. All this means that the roles are not new. They might be renewed or more obvious to parents now, but they are not novel.

But focusing on the roles of teachers does the opinion piece a disservice. I blame part of the headline (Teachers now have new jobs) and the relegation of the more important message to the last third of the article. The COVID era has exposed our efforts in creating equitable schooling and education, and it has forced us to question if students are “truly digital natives”.

The same news site has articles highlighting how many students had to be given or lent devices and data dongles [example]. The struggles of learning from home, even with adequate technology, also indicates how being “digitally native” is a misnomer. Being savvy does not guarantee that students know how to learn or why they need to learn something.

If the article was to stay true to the remainder of its headline that “Schools will never be normal again after COVID-19”, it could have also avoided uncritical tropes and media-speak, e.g., catering to learning styles. Learning styles have been [debunked].

We do not need things to return to normal again if that means not crrically questioning sacred cow practices. I say we cull old and diseased bovines like busy work as homework, early starts that favour bus driver schedules, and high stakes exams.

I learnt from this news video that the American Disabilities Act is 30 years-old.

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When I used to teach a web design and HTML course in the USA, I recall having to address the issue of disabled-friendly websites.

What I learnt then was that such accommodations were not for a minority. The changes we make for the one seemingly small group can often help larger groups.

The interviewee in the video made this point: Everyone can use a ramp. Not everyone can use the stairs. What seems to service most people (stairs) excludes a few; what is provided for the few (ramps) actually helps many.

The ramps are not just useful for people in wheelchairs. They are also used by parents with young children in strollers, delivery people with trolleys, and old folk on mobility scooters.

For an example online, consider closed captions in YouTube videos. They are be useful for the hearing-impaired and they can also be used by learners of a new language.

This is how help for one group transfers to help for other groups. Such help might not be planned for these other groups, but it is used serendipitously and strategically by them.

I stand by what I tweeted yesterday about this newspaper article.

The article on the impact of COVID-19 on the local tuition industry focused on revenue and preparedness. What it missed was how context for learning and practice is key.

The writer had a very small sample of mathematics and economics centres that were doing well. This was in contrast with how a studio-based chain for music, art, drama, and dance lost clientele. How logical is such a comparison?

First, there are different types of “tuition” here — remedial tuition for kids falling behind; enrichment classes for those who want to (or are pushed) to go far ahead in curricula, or to go beyond prescribed curricula.

Remedial tuition might be more of a necessity than enrichment now that we need to restrict our socialisation. The WHAT of tuition (content or skills) is not as important as the WHY of tuition (remediation vs enrichment).

Next, performative tasks and skills are best taught and learnt in person. These rely not just on practice and repetition, but particularly on modelling, observing, coaching, and remediating.

If that is hard to understand, consider learning to ride a bicycle or to swim by watching videos. You could learnt these skills this way, but that ignores the social strategy and context, e.g., close coaching and positive peer pressure.

Academic pursuits like learning mathematics concepts and practising problems do not absolutely require such a strategy and context. You need only recall what Khan Academy is able to do with video-based tutorials.

This is not to say that academic subjects do not require social learning strategies. They do. My point is that the article was making illogical comparisons by highlighting how some agencies were doing well while others were not.

The article also did not pursue an underlying problem. Either the parents were not entirely honest or the journalist did not include this thought: Tuition is a form of child care.

Some parents would rather pay for their kids to be taken care of by someone else and some place else during the work day. They do not want to pay (or pay full price) if their kids get tuition via a computing device while at home.

This would require us to take an ugly look at ourselves in the mirror. But as long as journalists or their editors shift our gaze, we will not reflect on what matters.

There are so many ways to educate the lay person on fake news.

One is a serious approach that takes place on one of the platforms where such news spreads.

Another is a more light-hearted approach.

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Neither method is complete and one method is not better than the other. We need any and all methods to reach everyone because this is part of information literacy that was not taught to those out of school and not taught authentically to those in it.

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The Today rag co-opted a New York Times article but changed the headline about how the meat industry was responding to plant-based “meat” like Impossible and Beyond.

The original NYT headline read:

NYT headline of its article.

The Today headline was:

TODAY paper headline of the same NYT article.

The NYT headline was more accurate. The Today headline came across as a warning to consumers that favoured the old school over the new.

Not only that, my screen shots reveal something else — the NYT linked to its sources and sites outside its interests while Today did not.

If we want our students to be more news literate, it is not enough to force them to read X number of articles every week. The source of those articles is important in modelling behaviours that we would like them to mimic.

Long story made short: The Media Literacy Council (MLC) of Singapore was responsible for propagating wrong information. It declared that satire was a form of fake news.

Satire is not fake news. This news article cited two prominent individuals who have said so.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said earlier in May that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) targets only false statements that distort facts and not opinions, criticisms, satire or parody…

Associate Professor Leong Ching, dean-designate of students at the National University of Singapore said in a public post on Facebook that “satire is NOT fake news. It is exempt from POFMA”.

The MLC apologised (weakly) and removed its Facebook post and misleading graphic saying that it “gave the wrong impression that satire was fake news”.

Impression? The graphic made a clear statement — Header: Types of Fake News; sixth example: Satire.

Just apologise humbly and sincerely instead of using words that try to save face. If not you give the impression that you are neither sorry nor better informed.

Speaking of being better informed, clickbait is not necessarily fake news. If it was, most BuzzFeed headlines and some Today paper tweets are fake news. I am referring to sensationalist top 10 lists and gossip about celebrities and their kids. These do not count as fake news in my books. Drivel is not news.

Rant over. Viewed through an educator’s lens, this incident reminds me that an authority is not the same as an expert. Both can get things wrong, but an authority sees that as weakness so it is reluctant to admit it. This erodes trust.

There is another lesson. An agency might mourn the madness of a mob. But change the circumstances and we get the wisdom in the crowd. A small group of people in an authority can suffer from groupthink more than a large, loosely-connected group of people.

If you read my reflection to the end, the clickbait title worked. Was there fake news or bad information here?

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This video provides some insights into why we seem to have a negative bias when it comes to news.

We are wired to pay more attention to bad news. Our brains process such information more thoroughly than good news. This might explain why we might focus on one criticism even though we also receive nine plaudits.

The surprise finding might be how social media might counter our Debbie downer tendency. The narrator highlighted studies that found how we might share and spread more positive content. Why?

We consume news as outside observers, but we use social media as active participants.

So actively sharing positive content might a coping and counter mechanism to how we are biologically wired.

But how we are wired keeps us vigilant. The point is not to shield ourselves or hide from bad news. That same news keeps us informed so that we can take action.

I cringe as much as I enjoy Jimmy Kimmel’s occasional segments, Lie Witness News. In this series, an interviewer asks passers-by what they think about a blatant lie.

The latest example was the general public’s thoughts on Canada being the 51st state in the USA.

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The videos are obviously edited for content and highlight people who are ignorant enough and lie because they are on camera. But the fact remains that there are enough people that do this.

What might an educator take away? Ignorance is persistent partly because that is our default state. Ignorance is also persistent because lies and superficiality are easy while unearthing facts and exploring nuance are difficult. Educators needs to be stubbornly persistent in this battle against ignorance.


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