Newsletter: How We Examine All the News that is Fit to Print in a Constant News Cycle

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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The focus of this newsletter began with an introduction to one librarian and reconnecting with another on a contemporary concern for our students and our citizenry: News Literacy. What is it? Why should we care about it? What skills are essential to it? And how do we grow it?

What It Is:
While there are several strong definitions out there, (here is one of my favorites) it boils down to someone’s ability to discern truth as they are reading or viewing a news headline or story. To do this, readers and viewers have to examine texts from a diverse range of sources to separate out fact from opinion, look for bias both in the authorship as well as in the audience, and make appropriate judgments informed by data.

Why Should We Care About It:
In this day and age, we are inundated with information. In our attempt to stay informed, we typically hone in on a handful of sources and platforms to inform us as well as spread ideas to others. Yet, there are real concerns with how we are seeking out information as well as how we are internalizing and sharing that with others. According to the Center for News Literacy:

“Humans prefer information that supports our beliefs, and the Internet and social media make it much easier for us to select only the information that supports our ideas, reinforcing rather than challenging them.”

This preference continues to polarize our citizenry and make it more unlikely to listen with understanding and empathy and think interdependently as we seek to benefit from our collective experiences.

What Skills Are Essential to It:
Critical thinking, critical thinking, critical thinking. According to Jacquelyn Whiting and Michelle Luhtala in their powerful and practical book News Literacy: The Key to Combating Fake News (2018), “As participants in the process of information transmission, [students] have a civic obligation to critically examine the information they encounter and think before they like.”

How Do We Grow It:
That is where Michelle and Jacquelyn come in. Michelle and I met one another virtually about two years ago when we were approached by Teacher Librarian to write an article on what personalizing learning looks like in the library. Jacquelyn and I met early January when I was presenting a workshop on personalizing learning for the Bold Moves Tri-State Series. After connecting, I bought News Literacy and after the first couple pages I was hooked because of their powerful prose and their helpful tools relevant for teacher and librarian alike. (“Propaganda, Hoaxes, and Other Forms of Manipulation” and “Anatomy of a Stump Speech” are two of my favorites.) So this newsletter is devoted to making sense of News Literacy.

  • Starting with a video interview I did with the two authors where we chat about the timeliness of the topic as well as growing key evaluative skills.
  • After the conversation was over we chatted about what would be helpful to grow the thinking as to how to embed News Literacy in classrooms as well as library media spaces. Jacquelyn Whiting drafted a blog post that features three essential websites to visit. Jacquelyn and Michelle also drafted a blog post on the value of “old school” citations instead of automatic generators. Hint: it’s about the quality of the research.
  • I reached out to Janine Johnson, a middle school librarian, to get her take on how she works with 6th-8th graders. Her response:
    • I spearheaded, along with three other people in our Library Leadership group (shortly after the election), the creation of a district Information Literacy website and created Google Slides that were given to all the LMSs in our district so they could “deliver” the same lessons to the teachers in their building, creating a somewhat uniform understanding among our districts’ teachers. They could then consider how to embed concepts in the classroom. These slides included opportunities for them to determine ‘real vs fake’ websites, photos, articles, etc. Our Tech Director also did a Facebook Live session using the same resources for parents/adults in the community. Would love to hear what other middle school LMS’s are trying…
  • Finally, high school Social Studies teacher Paul Wright adds his voice to the mix on how he embeds this in his work with 9th and 11th graders. His blog post describes the “mental heavy lifting” that is necessary and worth the effort.

UPCOMING EVENTS: I will be presenting three separate sessions during this year’s ASCD Conference:

  • The Synergy of Equity and Personalized Learning: The Why and the How – Sat., Mar 16 (8:15 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.)
  • Road Trip to Finland: Our Reflections on and Takeaways for Reimagining School – Sat., Mar 16 (1:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.)
  • Student-Facing Curriculum: Students Designing Learning Experiences to Measure What Matters – Sun., Mar 17 (8:15 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.)

Thank you for continuing to engage this content!

All the best,
Allison

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