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Democratization of Online Spaces and News Literacy  

Amanda Escheman, NLP Ambassador
Posts: 2
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Joined: 2 years ago

As an educator, I am a firm supporter of democratizing online spaces and resources. Free and open access is one reason I am drawn to NLP. I also see open access as an instrument for authentic learning opportunities. Those who embrace the constructivist approach to education understand that our students’ fund of knowledge form the foundation for the construction of new knowledge. This is why I actively seek out resources that will act as a soundboard for student voice and their experiences. This post will highlight one of these resources that I have found: the browser app I will also explain how this app can be leveraged as a tool for news and digital literacies. 


I was first introduced to as a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Denver in the School of Education and Human Development. This tool is a browser app that allows you to annotate the internet anywhere and with anybody. While I was working on my Masters in Education and Human Development, my cohort would engage in the practice of social annotation across genres. We would annotate news articles, peer reviewed studies, books, blogs, etc. The tool is free, open source, and turnkey for use in the classroom. The premise of this app is to include all voices in the process of collaborative meaning-making. “Hypothesis is a new effort to implement an old idea: A conversation layer over the entire web that works everywhere.” 


I have used this tool in middle and high school classrooms. The app opens a sidebar where students can annotate digital content and reply (and see!) each other’s annotations. You can set up a closed group for annotation or keep it public. The important point is that all voices are included. So anyone can add commentary or critique on any online content.


Given the app’s commitment to being open, free, and neutral, we can easily see how social annotation begets misinformation; thus making news and digital literacies important tools in any student’s toolbox. Social annotation can run into the same issues that any social media post is vulnerable to: authors/users sharing or creating false information. As consumers of information, students have to be diligent in practicing skills of analysis and evaluation as they participate in social commentary. Social annotation can be a critical news literacy tool giving students the opportunity to literally highlight inaccuracies in news media. Teachers and students can engage in conversations around credibility and reliability of news media. Ultimately, social annotation gives students a chance to openly dialogue with the text and to make meaning in the margins. I can see no better way of learning and practicing the language of news literacy than by interrogating content with others.

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Alesha Smith is a teacher for the New York City Department of Education, at Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem in Manhattan, and organizer of PitchIt! New York.
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