Digital Literacy: Can the Republic ‘Survive Algorithms?’ | | WGN Radio 720

SEATTLE (AP) — Sean Lee, a social studies teacher at a Seattle high school, wants to see classes on the Internet that resemble the kind of 21st-century driver education that’s essential to modern life.

Lee sought to bring such education into the classroom with lessons about the need to double-check online sources, diversify news feeds, and bring critical thinking to the web. He also created an organization for other teachers to share resources.

“The technology was so new that no one showed us how to use it,” says Lee. “People throw their hands in the air saying ‘There’s nothing we can do’. I disagree with that. I think the Republic can survive the algorithm.”

Mr. Lee’s work marks the beginning of a movement of educators and misinformation researchers working to offset the explosion of online misinformation about everything from presidential politics to pandemics. Part of it. So far, the United States has lagged behind many other democracies in this fight, and the consequences of inaction are clear.

But for teachers already facing myriad demands in the classroom, incorporating Internet literacy can be a challenge. Especially given the politicization of misinformation about vaccines, public health, voting, climate change and the war in Ukraine. The title of a talk at a recent gathering of Lee’s group: “How to Talk About Conspiracy Theories Without Getting Fired”.

“It’s not what you should think, it’s how you think,” says Julie Smith, a media literacy expert who teaches at Webster College in Webster Groves, Missouri. “It’s fascinating about engaging your brain. ‘Who made this? ‘ Why?” why am i watching it now How does it make me feel and why?”

New laws and algorithmic changes often offer the most promising ways to combat online misinformation, even as technology companies research their own solutions.

However, teaching Internet literacy may be the most effective method. New Jersey, Illinois, and Texas are among the states that recently introduced new standards for teaching Internet literacy. The criteria include lessons on how the internet and social media work, and can also focus on how to cross-check multiple pieces of information to find false information. Know your sources and be wary of claims that lack context or contain highly emotional headlines.

Media literacy classes, often included in history, government and other social studies classes and usually offered at the high school level, help people become better users of the internet, experts say. It’s never too early or too late.

Finnish children start learning about the Internet before school. This is part of a robust anti-misinformation program aimed at making the country’s residents more resistant to false claims online. Finland has a long history of combating propaganda and misinformation spread by its neighbor Russia, and after the start of the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 sparked a new wave of disinformation. We are expanding our current efforts.

“Media literacy was one of our priorities before the internet age,” Petri Honkonen, Finnish Minister of Science and Culture, said in a recent interview. It’s a skill that everyone needs more and more.

Honkonen spoke to the Associated Press during a trip to Washington earlier this year. In a recent report on media his literacy efforts in Western democracies, Finland ranked top. Canada was her No. 7 and the United States her No. 18.

In Finland, classes don’t end at primary school. Our Public Service Announcement provides tips for avoiding fraudulent online claims and checking multiple sources. Additional programs target older adults who may be particularly vulnerable to misinformation compared to younger users at home on the Internet.

In the United States, attempts to teach Internet literacy face political opposition from those who equate it with thought control. Lee, a Seattle teacher, said some teachers can’t even try because of concerns.

A few years ago, the University of Washington launched a “Misinfo Day.” It brought together high school students and their teachers for his one-day event featuring speakers, exercises, and activities focused on media literacy. Her 700 students from across the state attended his one of three MisinfoDays this year.

University of Washington professor Jevin West, who set up the event, said he’s heard from educators in other states and as far afield as to their interest in holding similar events.

“Eventually, one day, here in the United States, nationally, we may be dedicated to the idea of ​​media literacy,” said West. “There are many things we can do in terms of regulation, technology and research, but none more important than this idea of ​​making us more resilient,” he said in response to misinformation.

For teachers who are already struggling with other classroom demands, adding media literacy may seem like just one of their responsibilities. But according to Massachusetts mother Erin Her MacNeil, who founded Media Literacy Now, a national nonprofit advocating for digital literacy education, computers are as much to the economy as her engineering and software to her coding. It’s an important skill.

“This is an innovation issue,” McNeill said. “Basic communication is part of our information economy, and if we don’t get it right, it will have a huge impact on our economy.”

When talking to media literacy professionals, the analogy of driver education often comes up. The car entered production in his early 20th century and quickly became popular. However, it took almost 30 years before the first driver education courses were offered.

what changed? The government has passed laws regulating vehicle safety and driver behaviour. Car companies have added features such as folding steering columns, seat belts and airbags. And he said in the mid-1930s, safety advocates began pushing for mandatory driver education.

This combination of government, industry and educators is considered a model by many disinformation and media literacy researchers. They say that any effective solution to the challenges posed by online misinformation must necessarily include an educational component.

Media literacy in Canadian schools began decades ago, focusing on television before expanding throughout the digital age. According to Matthew Johnson, director of education at MediaSmarts, the leading organization for media literacy programs in Canada, it is now accepted as an integral part of student preparation.

“We need speed limits, well-designed roads and good regulations to ensure the safety of cars. But we also teach people how to drive safely,” he said. . “No matter what regulators do, no matter what online platforms do, content will always be in front of audiences. Audiences need tools to engage with it critically.”


Klepper reported from Washington. Digital Literacy: Can the Republic ‘Survive Algorithms?’ | | WGN Radio 720

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