Citizen Action Monitor

Can a free online news literacy course teach citizens how to critically consume information?

Equip yourself with the skills to navigate “fake news”, overcome information biases, become a better-informed citizen.

No 1868 Posted by fw, January 13, 2017

Michael Spikes

Michael Spikes

“The age of ‘truthiness’ is here. It refers to the feeling that something must be true, even if we have no evidence to prove it. We’ve seen many examples of this all over the internet, where misinformation often resembles news. Tweets from conspiracy theorists don’t look much different from New York Times news alerts. The Facebook post that purportedly contains KFC’s secret recipe looks the same as the investigative report from The Guardian. So what do we do? …. For the past decade, my colleagues and I have been working to equip students and teachers with the critical thinking skills that all savvy news consumers need…. We teach you not WHAT to read and consume, but rather HOW to critically consume information and make yourself a more informed and engaged citizen.”Michael A. Spikes

Recently reposted on this blog was George Monbiot’s review of a US study’s finding that American voters do not make informed political decisions. Consequently, democracy can’t work as it’s supposed to. As it turns out, US voters do not read critically for information, analyze evidence, and engage in informed debate leading to a rational choice. To the contrary, they possess little useful information, aren’t interested in becoming responsibly informed, and avoid political arguments. Voters tend to support politicians/parties that reflect their own (voters’) cultural identity, values and beliefs.

Which is not to say that motivated public-spirited citizens cannot be taught how to critically consume information and make themselves more informed, engaged citizens.

Michael A. Spikes is director of the News Literacy Digital Resource Center and the head of Chicago programming for the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University.

Reposted below is an intriguing article by Spikes on a free online instructional program that may be just what you are looking for. Subheadings have been added. Optionally, read the piece on Moyers & Co’s website by clicking on the following linked title.

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Check Out This Free Online News Literacy Course by Michael Spikes, Moyers & Co, January 6, 2017

“Fake news” has become a synonym for “news I don’t like.”

These days, when people ask how I’m doing, I tell them that I’m ready to tear my hair out, since the terms “fake news” and “post-truth” have now entered the public consciousness in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. And not only is the label being applied to bogus stories that masquerade as news, it’s also being used to describe stories from reputable news outlets. “Fake news” has become a synonym for “news I don’t like.”

The age of “truthiness,” – the feeling that something must be true – is here

The age of “truthiness,” a term coined by Stephen Colbert during the inaugural broadcast of The Colbert Report, is here. It refers to the feeling that something must be true, even if we have no evidence to prove it. We’ve seen many examples of this all over the internet, where misinformation often resembles news. Tweets from conspiracy theorists don’t look much different from New York Times news alerts. The Facebook post that purportedly contains KFC’s secret recipe looks the same as the investigative report from The Guardian.

So what do we do? Social media platforms have failed miserably to police information

So what do we do? Do we depend on social media platforms to police the information? They have had limited success so far, and any measures they take raise censorship concerns.

Do we wait for disseminators of fake information to come clean? That won’t help those with a confirmation bias

Do we hope purveyors of false information will eventually come around to the facts? The “Backfire Effect,” which journalist David McRaney described as “when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger,” dashes that hope.

So now what?

Could the teaching of critical thinking skills be the answer? If you do, check out this new course

We think the answer is education.

Schools around the globe are now equipping “students and teachers with the critical thinking skills that all savvy news consumers need”

For the past decade, my colleagues and I have been working to equip students and teachers with the critical thinking skills that all savvy news consumers need. At the Center for News Literacy, we have developed a course that has been taught to more than 10,000 undergraduates at Stony Brook University, and thousands more at schools around the globe.

Universities in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Russia and Poland, among others, have adopted our curriculum. In the US, at least 25 colleges and universities have also adopted our model for teaching News Literacy, and a number of primary and secondary schools have used our materials in their existing classes. Over the past five years, I have been working with local institutions both in the Chicago area and around the state of Illinois to get our curriculum in the hands of more educators.

The course reinforces “common sense” ideas and skills

Many of our lessons resonate, because we reinforce “common sense” ideas and skills. The notion that we should verify claims made by politicians, pundits and other sources is nothing new. Stressing the need to be active and critical consumers of information is not a radical notion.

Confirmation bias is a barrier to news literacy – people tend to seek information that confirms their existing beliefs

However, the most difficult obstacle to overcome is our own minds, which push us to seek comfort in information we agree with rather than the truth. It’s important, then, to train ourselves to seek factual information on which we can act with confidence.

A news literacy course promises to teach you how to critically consume information

That’s where news literacy comes in. With our partners at the University of Hong Kong, we’ve developed a new method to help more people seek out and find reliable news in a Massive Open Online Course, offered through Coursera. It’s called Making Sense of the News, and it’s a six-week course that will give learners access to the complete set of tools that make up the Stony Brook model of teaching News Literacy. We teach you not WHAT to read and consume, but rather HOW to critically consume information and make yourself a more informed and engaged citizen.

FAIR USE NOTICE – For details click here

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