CNN’s Abby Phillip joins board of the News Literacy Project

Abby Phillip, CNN journalist and member of NLP's boardAbby Phillip, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of “Inside Politics Sunday,” is joining the board of the News Literacy Project.

“Abby brings us exceptional credentials as a journalist as well as a fresh perspective,” said Alan C. Miller, founder and CEO of NLP, the nation’s leading nonpartisan education nonprofit. “With her experience, we anticipate that she will contribute valuable insights to the board. We look forward to working with her to expand our reach and impact at this crucial moment for the country’s democracy.’’

Phillip expressed a strong commitment to NLP’s work. “The mission of the News Literacy Project has always been essential to a functioning democracy, but it is needed now more than ever,” she said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve on the board of this great organization as it continues in its work of helping people navigate the modern information environment. As a journalist, I view the work of the News Literacy Project as a perfect complement to what we do every day to bring facts and the truth to the American people and our viewers and readers around the world.”

Greg McCaffery, the chair of NLP’s board, welcomed her to the organization. “Abby Phillip’s commitment to NLP’s goals and mission is clear. We are thrilled to have her join the board.”

Phillip established her initial connection to NLP in 2016 when she was a reporter at The Washington Post. She participated in a “virtual visit” event along with Matea Gold, who is now the Post’s national political enterprise and investigations editor and a member of NLP’s National Leadership Council.

Deep experience covering politics, other major stories

Based in D.C., she left the Post for CNN in 2017 to cover the Trump administration and served as White House correspondent through 2019. In January 2020, she moderated the CNN Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. She also anchored special coverage of “Election Night in America” for the 2020 election — coverage that lasted for several days until CNN was the first news outlet to project Joe Biden as the winner.

While at the Post, Phillip was a national political reporter. She covered the White House and wrote about a wide range of subjects related to the Trump administration. As a campaign reporter during the 2016 election, she covered Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and was also a general assignment reporter, covering domestic and international news — including the mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, and San Bernardino, California.

Before joining the paper, Phillip was a digital reporter for politics at ABC News. She also covered the Obama White House for POLITICO as well as campaign finance and lobbying.

A graduate of Harvard University, Phillip is working on her first book, THE DREAM DEFERRED: Jesse Jackson, Black Political Power, and the Year that Changed America, which will be released in 2022. It will be the first major contemporary book on the life and political legacy of Jackson, focusing on his groundbreaking run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.

News literacy ambassador brings ‘seasoned’ approach to education

Sandra Street, news literacy ambassadorWhen you view educator Sandra Street’s LinkedIn profile, your gaze quickly finds the word “seasoned,” which appears directly under her name at the top of the page. In this understated way, she makes her wealth of experience and expertise evident.

An award-winning history teacher at the Gordon Parks School for Inquisitive Minds in Queens, New York, and a news literacy ambassador for NLP, Street is committed to elevating her students’ learning experience through her “seasoned” approach.

“I remember many years ago, I bought a wok and was washing it out. My brother said, ‘Don’t wash it with soap and water, just wipe it out so that every time you cook, it seasons the food,’” she recalls. “When you add a little heat to something, you bring a whole lot of different flavors.”

This cooking metaphor, she believes, applies to teaching.

Street, who became an educator after working on Wall Street, harvests the flavors from a diversity of experiences and opportunities that she brings to the classroom. Here are just a few examples. She is a member of the New York State Council for the Social Studies Supervisory Committee and completed New York City’s Leaders in Education Apprentice Program. She studied the African diaspora at New York University and attended the Tufts in London program. Also, she earned a certificate in education leadership and administration from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

News literacy ambassador, teacher

This ever-curious and engaged approach to learning and life led her to make news literacy education an imperative. “I have been teaching it because I’m compelled to do so. Because we’re living it,” says Street. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, she teaches history remotely to 74 eighth-graders.

NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom is a main ingredient in this instruction. “When I went into Checkology, I just wanted to stay in there all day,” Street says. She considers the guidance to stop and weigh information before believing, sharing or taking action a fundamental lesson. “I use that in the classroom. I’ll say, ‘Let’s pause. Before you make a decision, make sure you are well informed.’”

Relying on events both current and historical, she encourages students to make their own realizations about the information they encounter. She reminds them, “I’m not here to tell you what to think; it’s my goal to get you to think.”

A mom herself, Street brings a maternal concern to the classroom. “What I want for my children, I want for other children: Access and exposure to information where they can find their truth,” she says.

As an NLP ambassador, Street advocates for news literacy education and support educators who join NLP’s News Literacy Educator Network — NewsLit Nation. This role gives her a new and important way to bring a little extra seasoning to the education system, and to her life.

Black History Month: Pioneering journalists, media

This February, during Black History Month, we’re shining a light on pioneering Black journalists and news media from the past two centuries. Many of these reporters and outlets overcame incredible obstacles and discriminatory systemic structures to report the facts in their communities. Many are also relatively unknown to the news-consuming public. We hope to help change that. Follow our Twitter thread throughout February as we highlight a journalist and/or news outlet each weekday.

We began by highlighting the Freedom’s Journal, the first Black-owned and -operated newspaper in the United States. The four-page, four-column paper debuted in 1827, the same year that slavery was abolished in New York State. Like many of the publications operated by or created for Black Americans that would follow, Freedom’s Journal served to counter racist commentary published in the mainstream press.

Twenty years later, Frederick Douglass and Martin Delaney launched The North Star. The abolitionist newspaper would become the most influential anti-slavery publication of the 19th century, focusing on anti-slavery progress, women’s rights and Black empowerment. The North Star published 565 issues between 1847 and 1851, according to the Library of Congress. In the late 1800s, Black investigative journalism rose to the forefront as Ida B. Wells exposed the widespread practice of lynching, particularly of Black men. Wells’ work is featured in our Checkology® lesson “Democracy’s Watchdog.”

Still publishing today

The 1900s saw the creation of more Black-owned newspapers, including two of the most respected publications that still publish today. Robert Sengstacke Abbott founded The Chicago Defender in 1905, and shepherded its growth into a local paper with a weekly circulation of 16,000 in its first decade. James H. Anderson put out the first edition of the Amsterdam News, a New York paper, on Dec. 4, 1909, with six sheets of paper and a $10 investment. The publication grew quickly to cover not just local stories but national news as well. A year later, in 1910, W.E.B. Du Bois served as the editor of the NAACP’s first issue of The Crisis, its official magazine. It took off from there.

Continuing chronologically through the 1900s, we’re highlighting just some of the many Black journalists that made indelible impacts with their reporting. From Charlotta A. Bass to Ted Poston and on and on, follow our Twitter thread for more throughout February.

New education secretary must prioritize civics education

Strengthening our democracy by transforming civics education  

Miguel CardonaAs the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation hearing for Miguel Cardona to become the next Secretary of Education, it must ensure that he prioritizes a robust civics curriculum for the nation’s middle schools and high schools that includes news literacy education.

One of the primary purposes of public education is to teach the next generation about the functioning of a democratic society — and to foster its engagement as equal and engaged participants who will seek to preserve and improve democratic norms and practices. But those who lead by falsehoods represent a threat to our democracy, in part because many people lack an understanding of how our system of government works and how they can become informed about it. If we fail to teach civics, our young people — tomorrow’s voters — will be at a great disadvantage. And the fewer people who can engage in rational, fact-based debate, the greater the chance that we will be unable to govern ourselves, jeopardizing the future of our democratic way of life.

We can commit to resolve this problem by making civics the centerpiece of a quality education. An effective civics curriculum must include news literacy at its core to help young people develop critical thinking skills to discern fact from fiction and determine the credibility of the news and other content that bombards them daily. News literacy gives people the ability to become smart, active and engaged consumers of news and information and empowers them to participate in the civic life of their communities and country.

We understand the many challenges that Secretary of Education nominee Cardona faces in overcoming the unprecedented obstacles imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this moment is too important to let civics fall by the wayside. As President Biden said in his inaugural address, “We must reject the culture where facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” Cardona can take the lead on this by recommitting the country and our education system to a civics education that has news literacy has a key component.

NLP launches NewsLit Nation, the News Literacy Educator Network

Nationwide community of teachers, librarians and administrators advocate news literacy education

teacher working with studentTo work toward reducing the harmful effects of misinformation on young minds, NLP is launching NewsLit Nation, the home of its News Literacy Educator Network. NewsLit Nation members advocate for news literacy education and support educators helping students navigate the complex digital news ecosystem.

With educators on the frontline of the fight against misinformation, NewsLit Nation provides resources and know-how for this urgent and important work. The network also organizes locally to enable educators to push for news literacy instruction in their schools and communities, says Ebonee Rice, NLP’s vice president of the educator network.

“We’re building an army of news literacy educators to mobilize their peers and create a future founded on facts,” she says.  “We’re here to empower educators with the tools they need to actively teach students the abilities to become equal and engaged participants in our democracy.’’

What is NewsLit Nation?

NewsLit Nation:

  • Trains teachers, librarians and school administrators across the country to advocate on behalf of a news literacy curriculum.
  • Helps you find opportunities for local partnerships and build channels of communication for your communities as local news literacy champions.
  • Gives you access to exclusive professional development opportunities, webinars, other training and additional support through online forums and message boards.

And, NewsLit Nation includes a network of ambassadors — educators working to create a sense of community in their local and regional school districts. (Thirteen news literacy ambassadors are already  working in 10 cities across the country.)

Educators can easily join the network by registering here.

NewsLit Week | Wisconsin students win PSA contest

Students in Lisa Ruehlow’s Media Literacy class at Amery High School in Wisconsin combined creativity and their Checkology® lessons to create public service announcements about the importance of news literacy for young people. And two of them took top honors for the national PSA contest sponsored by the News Literacy Project (NLP) and The E.W. Scripps Company. The new contest was part of National News Literacy Week (Jan. 25-29.) One of Ruehlow’s students won first prize, and another was selected as runner-up.

The winners are:

First prize: Nicholas Hahn, senior

His video featured clips from current events to demonstrate the real — and often harmful — impacts of misinformation. Watch Nicholas’ PSA.

Runner-up: Mary Mallum, senior

She used animated graphics to provide tips for parsing the false from the factual. Watch Mary’s PSA.

NLP and Scripps, sponsors of National News Literacy Week, asked students taking Checkology virtual classroom lessons to submit a 30-second video PSA related to the week’s theme: Get NewsLit fit. The PSA contest aimed to encourage young people to promote news literacy to their peers.

The winning students took a new course that Ruehlow created and taught for the first time last  fall. The class of 20 included mostly seniors, plus a few juniors and sophomores. All completed the PSA assignment for class. Throughout the semester the students enthusiastically embraced the topic of news literacy, Ruehlow says.

“I am exceedingly happy that students see the value of the tools they have learned — they are sharing their insights with others, and are quite passionate about it,” she says. “Many have told me that they think this class should be required of every high school student since this topic is so incredibly important to their daily lives.”

The importance of media literacy

When she asked students why they thought media literacy was important, they offered thoughtful responses.

  • “Media Literacy is more critical than ever as people spend so much time on social media, where anyone can post something and claim it as ‘news.’”
  • “It’s important to know what’s true and how to verify or debunk it for ourselves. With people spending so much time-consuming media, it can help our relationships, our country, and our digital communities by knowing what’s real and not allowing it to evoke such a severe emotional response.”
  • “Media literacy is important because being misled by false information can result in harmful or incomplete understandings. That can result in action being taken, such as storming the Capitol.”

Her students clearly grasp the significance and urgency of becoming more news-literate.  Ruehlow — and other educators like her — who are dedicated to this work — make that possible.

NewsLit Week | Use ‘PEP’ to talk to conspiracy believers

In Texas, an air conditioning repairman is run off the road and assaulted by a former police captain trying to find forged presidential election ballots. Closer to home, you learn your cousin is convinced of widespread voter fraud. A suicide bomber detonates a massive explosion in downtown Nashville, possibly targeting the AT&T building over 5G technology paranoia.

Meanwhile, your college roommate frequently posts about 5G causing coronavirus. A Wisconsin pharmacist is accused of deliberately ruining doses of the COVID-19 vaccine because he believed it would alter human DNA; your spouse is worried the vaccine contains a microchip.

Conspiratorial beliefs are seemingly everywhere, and they’re being shared by friends, family and loved ones.

Talking to conspiracy believers

You might be struggling with how to talk to these otherwise rational people about obviously irrational beliefs — and you’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of U.S. adults have heard one or more conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak and 25% see at least some truth in them. You may feel like there’s nothing you can say or do to persuade friends or family from beliefs like these that are thoroughly and credibly proven false. You might feel too discouraged to even try, but you’re not powerless to confront this.

Addressing a person with entrenched false beliefs requires what I call an ongoing “PEP” talk – an approach based on patience, empathy and persistence. It’s more than just one difficult conversation. You’ll need to understand the feelings and emotions that motivate people to dive deeper into these false narratives. You’ll have to recognize that these are genuine beliefs that “feel” true to the people who share them. Do not criticize or attack. This causes a “backfire effect,” making the person reject contradictory information and hold tighter to anything that reinforces their belief.  You need a base level of respect and a genuine desire to commit to a shared set of facts to succeed.

Start with patience, then empathy

The person you care about did not develop these beliefs overnight. Your friend or relative may have joined an online community of believers and soon become immersed in their echo chamber.  You must listen to how and why they formed their beliefs and understand the sources of their information. This can be frustrating. Take a deep breath and pause before getting angry and shutting down any conversation.

Confronting someone to tell them they may be wrong about something they firmly believe in is uncomfortable – for both sides involved. That’s why empathy is so important. Respect that this person genuinely believes their thinking is accurate and recognize how they arrived at it.  Many had fears and anxieties that they sought to alleviate, leading them to these new beliefs. This likely led to conflicting and contradictory ideas and cognitive dissonance, a form of psychological and emotional stress created by those conflicted feelings. They engaged in motivated reasoning, or the active searching for any and all information that reinforces the belief and eases the stress. The belief was reinforced in their new community and eventually became part of their identity, making it significantly more difficult to dissuade them. Understanding this will help you to be empathetic about their feelings.

Be persistent

Finally, use persistence. Regularly share new, verified information in a way that encourages the person to evaluate that information for themselves and to begin questioning their existing beliefs. Ask them, politely, to read new articles, consider new sources and tell you what they think. Express your feelings about their sources as skepticism, not outright rejection, and ask them to explain how and why they trust them. Using their criteria for a trustworthy source, share more reputable sources that might meet them and discuss why you trust them. Make this a dialogue, focusing on sharing ideas, beliefs and information.

Resolve to not give up on your friend or relative. Consider including other friends or loved ones who share your approach. The News Literacy Project has created a new Checkology® lesson to help people understand how conspiratorial thinking works; be sure to share it. Try to keep an the conversation going, without pestering. The goal is to ensure that your friend or relative gradually will accept your guidance and recognize your effort is out of love, respect and friendship, not derision and mockery.

Many of us are dealing with deep rifts among friends, family and loved ones, which are only likely to expand with persistent conspiracy theories, like recent false claims about COVID-19 vaccines. We can stop this from tearing us apart, if we devote the effort to trying. That’s at least one thing we can all agree on.

NewsLit Week | Seventh-graders connect dangers of misinformation to daily lives

A student's poster depicting the information "ecosystem" through InfoZone categories.

A student’s poster depicting the information ecosystem as the solar system using InfoZone categories.

During a news literacy unit, seventh-graders in Jeff Rosen’s history class learned about different categories of information and the dangers of misinformation. They also learned about themselves and their place in the information ecosystem.

“They began to identify some of the harmful things they were seeing,” says Rosen, a social studies teacher at The Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, Illinois. “I don’t think the kids knew they were being exposed to misinformation.”

An educator for 14 years, Rosen led his history class through a two-week unit on media literacy using NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom. He focused on the “InfoZones” and “Misinformation” lessons and COVID-19 misinformation resources. But the learning didn’t end there.

“I try to find ways for the kids to apply the skills they learn to their everyday lives through tracking documents and reflection,” he says. “There’s a really urgent need to learn this now. They’re consuming information every day from a variety of sources and are not equipped with skills to differentiate what they are seeing.”

Measuring behavior

To accomplish this, students connected what they learned to their own lives by tracking information they consumed over two days. They categorized content by primary purpose — news, opinion, entertainment, advertising, raw information and propaganda/misinformation. Students then illustrated their findings in pie charts and reflected on what they found.

Examples of student work tracking their media consumption and reflecting on their habits. Shown on two pages with a pie chart and written reflections.

Examples of student work tracking their media consumption and reflecting on their habits.

 

Here is one student’s honest insight.

“I spent 90% of my time watching entertainment. One positive is that I read the news and saw some respectful opinions on the internet, which shows that not all opinions are bad propaganda. However, I only read one news article. This was disappointing to me because if I don’t read articles or watch TV, the only news I will see is the posts on Instagram. I want to be more aware of all the problems in the world, not just the ones that make it onto people’s stories.”

Recognizing dangers of misinformation

The students also discovered that so-called “fake news” is actually part of the information they see and engage with every day, underscoring the dangers of misinformation.

To reinforce this, Rosen had his class delve deeper by creating posters that describe a system with symbols for the “InfoZones” categories. They then demonstrated how misinformation poses a threat to a healthy system. One student represented misinformation as an asteroid in the solar system. Another labeled misinformation as pollution in a marine ecosystem.

“This shows that the kids have a deep understanding of these kinds of information. Applying symbols to them requires abstract thinking,” Rosen says. “It’s not just a surface skill they’re learning. They’re starting to internalize it and put it into practice.”

Rosen has also learned a good deal over the four years that he has been teaching Checkology. Originally, students simply enjoyed Checkology’s use of examples they could relate to — familiar YouTube stars or advertisements for favorite products.

“Now kids really recognize the importance of being able to identify what they’re seeing, and it’s an important skill to them. I’ve seen a change in their attitudes toward the media. Kids recognize the importance and urgency of being able to do this,” he says.

And that urgency and importance are never going away, Rosen notes. “We’re never going back. We’re never going to be able to say ‘don’t use these platforms.’ There’s so much good information out there but so much that’s bad. We need to teach them how to navigate it.”

With his creative approach, Rosen is doing just that.

Delivering news literacy to journalism students, remotely

When the Houston Independent School District started the 2020-21 school year with 100% remote learning, journalism educator David Fanucchi needed to find an engaging way to teach news literacy to his students at Margaret Long Wisdom High School.

A colleague at Houston’s Bellaire High School, Andrea Negri, suggested NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom. The browser based, e-learning platform with interactive lessons that students can do independently was exactly what Fanucchi was looking for.

“I thought Checkology provided a fantastic way for students to complete some relevant online lessons about journalism at a time when it is so difficult to keep their attention remotely,” Fanucchi says. “Teachers are struggling to find tools like that to use, and I was just so excited that these easy-to-understand modules were created and that I could use them in my classes.”

He assigned all seven of his classes the Checkology 101 course, which explores essential news literacy topics through the lessons “InfoZones,” “The First Amendment,” “Democracy’s Watchdog,” “Practicing Quality Journalism,” “Understanding Bias” and “Misinformation.” The course also includes related activities, such as source detection and evidence evaluation “missions” to reinforce the lessons.

“We went through them all in about three weeks (a total of six or seven class periods that each lasts about 90 minutes),” Fanucchi explains. “This was all done virtually on their own laptops.”

A deepened understanding

Dulce Macha, a sophomore in one of Fanucchi’s journalism classes, had a basic understanding of news literacy before she began using Checkology. “What I had known about news literacy was that it helps you judge the reliability and credibility of information given,” she says.

But the lessons deepened her knowledge. “The most surprising thing that I learned during the course was that there are many steps that go into a journalist’s work, such as checking for credibility and staying away from bias,” Macha says.

Fanucchi found the “Practicing Quality Journalism” lesson particularly valuable to his student journalists. “It taught them a real-life scenario of being a news reporter and covering the scene of a car crash. I think it did a phenomenal job of giving the students a real feeling of what a journalist does to ensure accuracy in his/her reporting,” he says.

Macha enjoyed that assignment and how Checkology enabled her to illustrate what she learned in different ways. “What I liked about the lessons was that they had areas where we had to choose the right answer and also areas where we had to be in the journalist’s shoes, and write our opinions on it,” she says.

‘Extremely important during these times’

Fanucchi says students need help understanding how credible journalism works and identifying reliable sources and fact-based information. “It is extremely important during these times of so much chaos in the news business. Students are having a harder time every day figuring out what the truth is,” he says.

Since studying news literacy, Macha is having an easier time doing just that. “It has changed the way I consume the news and judge content and sources. This course has given me a way of judging the credibility of the news that I read and judging whether it could be fake or not,” she says.

Macha has not yet needed to help friends or family members avoid being fooled by misinformation, but she is prepared to do so. “If there was a point where something like that happened, I would certainly help them out and talk to them about the ways they should judge the credibility and reliability of the information given,” she says.

Making civics relevant through news literacy

Scott Zwierzchowski

Scott Zwierzchowski teaches civics to students in grades 11 and 12 at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago. In September 2020, he and his colleagues implemented a short news literacy unit. Their goal is to prepare students to evaluate sources and sort fact from fiction throughout the year. NLP recently checked in with Scott to learn more about how he incorporates news literacy into his courses. Teaching is taking place in a fully remote learning environment due to the COVID-19  public health crisis.

NLP: Why did you decide to use Checkology®?

SZ: [My colleagues and I] had a conversation about the continual need to connect civics and government topics to modern day issues and debates/discussions, and thus a need for quality news literacy. After finding more out about Checkology, I was really psyched about it. Looking at how interactive Checkology was, and how it was really tailored to ease of use and quality engagement tools, we knew it would be helpful for us. In addition, the option to bring in a vetted, professional journalist into the classroom was a very intriguing option — although we ultimately did not do it for time constraints, I think we would pursue it in the future..

NLP: How did it fit in with your civics/law focus?

SZ: We try to start out the year with a unit on news literacy. Our plan has been to introduce topics of news literacy and continually refer back to them throughout each unit of study, but that is a continual process of development. My colleagues and I are working on ways, for example, for students to use the summative assignment they make throughout the year to evaluate sources they find online.

NLP: What did fully remote implementation of Checkology look like?

SZ: It looked different on different days! On some days, we would introduce the topic synchronously in our Google Meet, for about 10 to 15 minutes, then let the students loose to do the lesson on their own, and I would give feedback to the students as they completed it. On one day, we did it together by me projecting the lesson and them answering the questions on their own devices. That worked decently well, as they were already a bit familiar with that format through PearDeck.

NLP: What did students think about using the platform?

SZ: Students reported really liking the asynchronous aspect. They also reported really liking the format — they said it was easy to navigate, easy to answer questions, and was super simple to provide their ideas. They thought it was clear, and mentioned that they learned from it, and also mentioned that it wasn’t too hard, or too easy.

NLP: What kind of impact have the lessons had on your civics students?

SZ: I think our teachers on the team have seen some great improvements! As we dive into our elections unit, the students are demonstrating skills of being keenly aware of the author of the source, biases of sources, and have pointed out even logical fallacies of their peers, other teachers, and administrators.

NLP: Do you plan on using Checkology in the future?

SZ: We DEFINITELY plan on using it in the future. I’ve been recommending it to colleagues who teach the AP Government and Politics course, and others throughout our school, and how beneficial it is. Ultimately, I’d love to create more plans to bring a full, longer unit into fruition.

Check out this civics news literacy unit

Checkology teachers: assign Scott’s course to your class. Click here for instructions.

Essential question

What does it look like to be an educated information consumer?

Objectives

Students will be able to achieve mastery in the following unit content topics and skills.

Topics

  • Defining news
  • Media bias
  • Language in news
  • Commentary vs. news

Skills

  • Identify news source information
  • Analyze news sources for purpose and content
  • Evaluate news sources for bias and logical fallacies

Unit plan

Day 1: What is News?

What factors determine the newsworthiness of a story? Students learned about Checkology’s “Big Four” factors in the lesson “What is News.” They are the extent to which something is timely, interesting, important and unique.

Day 2: Understanding Bias

Students completed the Checkology lesson. Then, they examined three news stories in groups and analyzed the types and forms of bias that they may have detected in the stories.

Days 3 and 4: The Power of Language with Checkology’s “Arguments and Evidence” lesson

On day 3, students completed “Arguments and Evidence” asynchronously. Then, together in class on day 4, students debriefed on the lesson and further practiced together remotely using the “Spot the Logical Fallacy” exercise from Checkology.

Day 5: Fact-checking in the digital age

Students supplemented Scott’s fact-checking lesson with the Checkology fact-checking mission “Verifying social media content” with David Clinch from Storyful.

  • Note: The class went through Hurricane Sandy photos [in this slide deck] and discussed “How might people who are trying to get information about the hurricane have been influenced by the images?” Discussing how altered images and unconfirmed sources affect one’s perception of the world helped us ground some of our initial ideas on verifying online content. Discussing the Truman photo and its impact helped us further discuss why verifying information in all forms of news media is important (which we’ll definitely be talking about in class this week post-election). We had used this fact-checking in the digital age handout, but found that many students have used this site before in their computer science classes. Therefore we went with the Checkology lesson. Students said the lesson made the task easy to accomplish and helped them better understand the steps for fact-checking. The Checkology lesson also provided them with a more realistic example of what they would see every day, versus examples concocted for classroom purposes.

Days 6 and 7: End-of-unit project

Students created a process to help them determine the credibility of a news source. This process is meant to be used throughout the year when studying other topics and referencing news sources. View the assignment and a template You can also use Checkology’s Quick Check widget in the Check Center to help guide students through the process of determining the credibility of a claim or a source.

NLP offers new, urgently needed lesson on conspiratorial thinking

As recent events have demonstrated, false conspiracy theories online can fuel dangerous actions in real life.  In this context, NLP is introducing a new lesson to educate students and the public about how conspiratorial thinking develops and its effects.

The comprehensive “Conspiratorial Thinking” lesson, included with NLP’s free Checkology® e-learning platform, seeks to help people understand the factors that allow conspiratorial thinking to take hold and conspiracy theories to flourish. It is available to educators and the general public.

You can preview the lesson here. For the best experience, register here to explore this and all Checkology lessons.

“The need to educate about conspiracy theories and why people believe them cannot be understated,” said John Silva, NLP’s senior director of education and training. “This is why we developed a lesson to teach young people about conspiratorial thinking and how it leads to a breakdown of critical, rational thought and belief becoming more important than facts. We must address the warning signs of cognitive dissonance and motivated reasoning — the thought processes that make us seek any information to support a belief.”

Renée DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory who investigates the spread of false narratives across social networks and assists policymakers in understanding and responding to them, hosts the lesson.

The new lesson teaches people to understand key components of conspiratorial thinking, including:

  • What a conspiracy theory is and what separates it from other kinds of misinformation.
  • How it can be captivating despite a lack of evidence to support it.
  • The real-world consequences and the political and social impact of conspiracy theories.

“More importantly, added Silva, “people will learn how to recognize forms of cognitive biases that make false information seem true and how to evaluate sources and accept information as true only if it is verifiable and credible.”

“Conspiratorial Thinking” is the 14th lesson in NLP’s browser-based platform, which teaches students how to navigate the digital landscape by developing news literacy knowledge, skills and habits of mind.

NewsLit Week | NLP, Scripps team up for National News Literacy Week 2021

illustration of people leaning on an iPhone that says "news feed"With information – and misinformation – surging around recent national events, the News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company are teaming up for National News Literacy Week 2021, which begins with a national public awareness campaign to promote news literacy and the role of a free press in American democracy.

This second annual National News Literacy Week (Jan. 25-29) aims to promote news literacy as a fundamental life skill and to provide the public with the tools needed to be an informed and empowered populace.

The public service announcement, an animated video that challenges people to test their “news literacy fitness” and to resolve to be healthier news consumers, will run in both Spanish and English across Scripps’ social, digital and broadcast channels including its 60 local broadcast television stations; national networks Newsy, Court TV, Bounce, Laff, Grit and Court TV Mystery; and promotions from the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Simplemost and Triton Digital.

Media partners large and small are offering pro bono ad space to further amplify the campaign’s message: The Associated Press, BuzzFeed News, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Pro Publica, Vox Media, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and members of the Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium are among the organizations committing space to the effort.

Engagement with students, educators, public

The News Literacy Project (NLP) will engage educators, students and the public throughout the week with quizzes, tips and tools featured through its social media channels and on the NewsLiteracyWeek.org landing page. A national professional development event, NewsLitCamp®, will be held on Jan. 26 in partnership with CNN, as well as a #NewsLiteracyWeek Twitter chat on Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. ET and an edWeb session on conspiratorial thinking with NLP’s education team on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. ET. NLP will also formally launch its NewsLit Nation educator network, which will support local ambassadors advocating for news literacy to be taught in their local schools.

Consequences for democracy

“In today’s complex information and media ecosystem, the proliferation of rumors, lies and the deliberate spread of misinformation has devastating consequences for our democracy,” said Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson. “At the same time, it’s harder than ever to distinguish verified facts and objective journalism from opinion, propaganda and even total fiction. It is our urgent responsibility – as friends, coworkers, teachers, parents and fellow citizens – to equip ourselves and younger generations with the tools necessary to discern truth from misinformation. With our partners at the News Literacy Project, Scripps is committed to bringing discussions about what it means to be news-literate into newsrooms, classrooms and living rooms across the country to empower the public to be stronger news consumers.”

“The corrosive threat of misinformation now permeates every aspect of our civic life,” said Alan C. Miller, founder and CEO of the News Literacy Project. “We’ve seen it surge in the past year around the global pandemic, racial justice protests and during the presidential election. As the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol demonstrated, this contagion of viral rumors and conspiracy theories can have deadly consequences. It’s time to confront this rising tide that threatens our democracy. Together, we must take personal responsibility for the news and other information we consume and share to assure a future founded on facts.”

During National News Literacy Week 2021, Scripps’ news teams will premiere stories related to the topic of news literacy on-air and online across Scripps’ platforms, with a selection available at the campaign landing page, NewsLiteracyWeek.org.

National News Literacy Week 2021: How to get involved

The public can get involved with National News Literacy Week, Jan. 25-29, in a number of ways:

  • Visit NewsLiteracyWeek.org to test your “news literacy fitness” and take the pledge to be news-literate.
  • Watch NLP’s new Checkology® virtual classroom lesson “Conspiratorial Thinking” to learn how and why conspiracy theories develop and how to prevent people from falling for them.
  • Join the conversation on social media at #NewsLiteracyWeek.

National News Literacy Week is part of an ongoing partnership between Scripps and NLP to advance awareness of news literacy.