Sunday, January 15, 2017

Checking facts and all that

Misa and I went skiing today. She was cool.
Not only did I learn how cool it is to be uncool these days, but during my 4-1/2 hour time with Misa and after I showed her this cartoon my friend Peter shared with me, I have some new ideas for a future lesson. It's so awesome to have a kid the same age as the students I teach. Here's the cartoon Peter sent me which prompted our discussion.
How are you consuming content in the media these days? How are you consuming content in a face-to-face discussion? I'm talking about facts and truth, and how truth is affected when facts are diminished, when facts are incomplete, and when facts are confused with opinions. Imagine how easy it can be to manipulate thinking in a world where no one questions the content that they come across in their online and personal lives. Think about Paul Horner who purposely creates Fake News on a fake news site. He said:

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact checks anything anymore ... It's real scary. I've never seen anything like it.

This comes from a guy who knows just how easy it can be to manipulate thinking. This comes from a guy with motivation to manipulate thinking. Cause after all, he earns a living creating fake news, and he's definitely not the only person out there creating fake news - he's just one who willingly talked about it in an interview with the Washington Post.

How can we teach our kids and challenge ourselves to act responsibly in a world with no filters? When anyone with any agenda - whether it's political or social or personal - can push their ideas no matter how flawed or incomplete or confusing they are?  Misa and I came up with three ideas to help kids (and not a bad thing to pass on to adults, too) consume content critically and begin to make distinctions between what is real and true and factual and what simply, is not.

1) Common sense matters. I think common sense is learned and modeled and comes when you talk about things on different levels. Sometimes it seems like common sense and intuition go hand and hand and nowadays, both cannot be assumed. It also takes asking others for their take on sketchy news or ideas - Does the idea or piece of news make sense? Is it believable?

2) Know what reliable and credible mean. Learn how to detect funny looking web addresses. Learn how to find out more about authors of a piece or founders of a site. Get lots of practice analyzing visuals, charts, graphs and data. If you feel skeptical about content on Buzz Feed or if you're mesmerized by Snapchat's resources, then you definitely should check in and do some fact checking.

3) Teach loaded words and how words carry emotional and intellectual weight. Learn how authors use bias that tend to push readers in a certain way. I mean, it's not that a person's opinion is automatically wrong, but more that the audience has to learn to question the author and the author's intent.

So get on with it. Check the facts and know when shit is made-up and don't believe stupid stuff.

There were other things going on this week like blurry snapchats of people who don't do snapchat but who I really like to snap pics of for my snapchat story ...

And the Martin Luther King Jr. banquet with Principal Foreman and Mr. Haste honoring outstanding youth ...

My sweet nephew Kai ...

And of course Pako the puppy ...

Hope you all got outside to do something fun!

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