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Posts Tagged ‘news

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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The video above is a preview of a new Crash Course that will be coming soon.

I am looking forward to it as much as the next major blockbuster. While movies entertain, John Green and company have a way of educating that pulls learners in.

I am one of the 8+ million subscribers to their channel. You should be, too, if you have any role in developing information literacy.

If we are going to teach ourselves and our students how to identify fake news or other sources of disinformation, then we should know what rules their creators use.

This video by the New York Times identified the Seven Commandments of Fake News by deconstructing notable examples of disinformation.


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The seven rules were:

  1. Find the cracks (the rifts or sore points in society)
  2. Create a big lie (so outrageous that it is almost too hard to believe)
  3. Wrap the lie around some truth (to create believability)
  4. Conceal your hand (make it seem like it came from someone else)
  5. Find useful idiots (to spread the fake news)
  6. Deny everything (when found out)
  7. Play the long game (the impact is not always immediate)

Now those seven rules were created in the pre-Internet era. Today the effectiveness of any of the seven is exacerbated by the breadth and speed of spreading disinformation.

So what is an ordinary person to do?

One expert in the video said: Question more, answer less. I suggest: Question more, retweet or repost less (or not at all). Wheezy Waiter, a YouTube I follow, pointed out that a headline is not an article.


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One way to question more is to read, watch, listen, or otherwise sense more, and then to reflect on what we process. There are no shortcuts; it takes work.

I received a Google Home Mini a few months ago as a gift and have used it almost daily to listen to the news.
 

 
I used the Google Home app on my phone to subscribe to several channels, e.g., BBC Minute, Gizmodo gadgets and tech spoken edition, NPR World, Channel News Asia headline news, Straits Times news bulletin.

I like being able to control the device with my voice as I busy myself with chores around the house.

However, there is one news source — the Straits Times — that irritates me. It inserts voice ads promoting services near the end of its news. None of the other sources does this.

I do not know if there is a policy for or against force ads in this platform. My guess is that there is not a firm one, and since most providers do not advertise, there might be an unwritten or fuzzy rule not to include ads.

But on news source does this. It probably thinks that it is clever for taking advantage of this loophole or opportunity.

It is not. Listeners may leave them out of the news list. I leave out them last so that I can say, “OK Google, stop!” to not listen to the ad.

The issue is not one of economics. Listening to and providing these news snippets is not a paid service. Think of this as like tweets for your ears.

The issue is respect. If you do not respect your listeners, do not expect them to respect you in return.


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In the video above, Hank Green described a science fiction novel published in 1911 about “personalised news”. A century later, we now have news feeds.

The difference is that the personalised news in the novel was defined by the subscriber. The current reality of news feeds is that they are dictated by computer algorithms.

Neither extreme is healthy. If you choose only what you want to consume, you create a bubble. If you let something else choose what you read, you lose control. The latter process is also not transparent.

In the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica world, you stop becoming the customer being served products; you become the source of data and the product to be sold to others.

In between the novel and current Facebook fiasco is another reality. It exists only among those who take control. For example, I decide what I read with RSS. I decide who to follow and learn from with Twitter. Both lead me to reliable sources of information and carefully curated alternative points of view.

If you don’t control the feed, the feed is controlling you.


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