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BREAKOUT: What role should new digital technology play in shaping news literacy courses?

Three most important recommendations as of end of day on Thursday:

1. NLC is a clearinghouse for best practices -- and worst cases as lessons. Case studies. Mining for examples of TV stories that didn't get the other side. News media partners might contribute to the site. Including a news-literacy toolkit for providers. We believe this can be effectively taught online. Including an online resource center.

2. Develop in-service training for teachers -- ultimately at all grade levels -- for integrating technologies and application of technology -- including more collaborative, cross-authority learning.

3. Application to allow students to act as editors and defend their choices according to news literacy criteria. Encouraging comparisons by consumers, maybe without a full-blown application.

Background on the breakout

At the Stony Brook News Literacy conference March 12, 2009, breakout groups each took one of a set of questions as the basis for a one-hour discussion. A breakout convened by Andrew Heyward, former president, CBS News and senior advisor, Monitor Group, took the question: "What role should new digital technology play in shaping News Literacy courses?"

Our group broke down our presentation methodology:

  • Bill Densmore agreed to present the group's answer to: "What are your group's three most important recommendations for moving forward in the next 12 months to meet your challenge?"
  • Fabrice Florin agreed to present the group's answer to: "If Google or Microsoft provided $1 million for new pilot programs in this area, how would you spend the money?"
  • John McManus agreed to present the group's answer to: "Review a copy of Stony Brook's course outcomes, if you were creating a core news literacy syllabus, what outcomes would you add, delete or modify?"


Additional participants on Friday:

  • Rush Juskalian
  • Megan Barber, CJR
  • Jessica Goldfin, Knight Foundation
  • Albert Ibaguen, Knight Foundation

A synergistic idea:

Fabrice Florin summarizes his notes to set context for the proposal for the grant:

Digital tech group, how can we shape news literacy courses?

  • Solutions for students

-- Help track news consumption -- Reflect on their experience, adding pedagogical guidelines -- aggregate guidelines recomment -- inform their world view -- convey worldview

  • Solutions for teachers

-- Digital tech trainign -- lesson plans -- clearing houses for stories -- tools to categorize and rate -- tools to compare worldviews

  • Solutions for news media providers

-- News literacy guidebook -- Tips for increasing transparency -- ideas for context, realted stories -- Ideas enginagin the audience -- worldview construction kit

What could $1 million fund?

  • Teacher technology training
  • Online clearing house for lessons, plans stories
  • Tools for aggregating, labeling and rating the news
  • New application, "World View Construction Kit" -- game-like elements for students to track their own news consumption and help organize and label and share their world view.

FABRICE FLORIN: More discussion of World View Construction Kit: Provide a tracking tool to track their current news consumption, aggregate them together and separate facts from opinions. Take these raw ingredients and slot them into a World View Construction kit that would allow them to present the world as they see it.

DENSMORE: Idea for a weekly production of a five-minute program, streamed on YouTube and elsewhere, which picks a news event, shows clips of multiple reports on it and then invites criticism and analysis of it. Advantage: Can be dropped into a class as a "curriculumette". Most classrooms now have web access, this is Channel 1 with an entirely social agenda and just a few minutes streamed and timeshifted, not watching at a certain time. Newsy and KnowTheNews could put it together. Usable in any classroom, any curriculum, any course.

FLORIN: Densmore's idea could be part of the 60-seconds idea.

ANDREW HEYWARD: Don't micromanage the proposal. Modify World View Construction Kit to include that it would include aggegated newscasts from the students. Track, organize, share create.

FLORIN: "Fundamental idea is that it starts from the students' world view." He was in a classroom at 8 a.m. and there is evidence that students still don't have the critical assessment tools. "They need a little bit of structure to get there."

===What should be the SBU news literacy course outcomes?

We look at the "News Literacy: SBU's Course Outcomes: What students need to know and what they need to know how to do," document in our handouts.

JOHN MCMANUS -- Some problems with the approach:

  • It seems blind to commercial bias
  • It doesn't evaluate news quality

Suggested changes:

  • Nos. 1 and 5 seem very smiliar. Add a phrase to No. 1: "To empower individuals and a democratic society." If you add that to No. 1 you don't need No. 5.
  • Change No. 3 in key concepts: It reads understand how journalists work; change to: "Understand the personal limits of perception on the part of reporters and the audience as well as institutional constraints . . . . " The purpose of information is not just to create actional information.

HEYWARD: Likes No. 3, how about creating a new No. 5? Is the digital one too narrow?

Considerable discussion about whether political bias and commercial bias has an place in a news literacy curriculum or discussion. A lively debate about whether to include an output on news criticism, Heyward says.

HEYWARD: We decided to capture the narrower idea that this is an issue of concern.


Kinsey Wilson: News literacy is part of news coverage. Not enough to simply report the story. Basic to the news-gathering function. Lay bare the process a bit. Provide context.

Fabrice Florin: Engage the audience to actively compare and contrast. It's incumbent on the news provider to engage the audience to do this work. It's a muscle that needs exercise.

Wilson: There's a bit of eat your spinach in that. How do you make it fluid and spontaneous?

Evelyn Messinger: There's a similarity between journalists and professors.

Andrew Heyward: Have to enable the conversation at the university on the news provider level.

Messinger: Young people are missing from this conference.

Bill Densmore: Make the connection between effective engagement in a social context and news literacy.

Embed principles of news literacy in general curriculum.

Heyward: What about opening a Twitter account?

Florin: That doesn't solve the problem. Human thinking is a mix of emotional thinking and the rational mind. "What we want to do is help citizens find a harmonious balance between their emotional mind and their rational mind." Right now, emotions and pre-conceived notions about the news have an enormously influence on our judgement. How can we become aware of that?

The problem with just saying, have a blog, doesn't address the issue of how you are working with it. What's needed is some kind of effort to help people sort their own biases apart from their factual observations.

Wilson: There's a tendency to teach news literacy in terms of what news has been instead of how young consumers are now consuming news.

Densmore: Talks about the need, in K-12, to train teachers how to teach using the same tools that their students are using to create and consume media. That means PDAs, iPhones, computers and the platforms and networks which go with them.

Florin: COme up with modules that help a student moderate their own activity.

Heyward: Maybe students should be asked to create their own iGoogle page. Maybe one of our recommendations is digital literacy training for the faculty so that the teachers can communicate in the language their kids are using.

Wilson: Watching his kids and how they do research for an assignment. They go to much more than the standard, given sources.

Howard Finberg: There is a higher educational purpose to training not only the teachers but students to think critically beyond just use of the tools.

Marsha: "Facebook, you gotta go on Facebook. That is their digital ground.

Florin: And now it's moving over to Twitter.

Wilson: Their critical thinking skills are being learned in a different way.

Heyward: Circling aroudn an idea -- which is to insert digital newsgathering into the curricdulum.

Florin: What about a "world view construction kit." A way to drag this into a page that has structure. You would have to come up with a simple user interface. Anybody can say here is the world as I see it and you grab news stories and you slot it under the issues. Here is how I see Afghanistan.

Finberg: What if we got game designers involved in the UI of that, people who know how to have that activity reward. It would do the world view game but we wouldn't call it a game. You would have to have something at the end as a reward.

Densmore: And it should involve the ability to interact with other students and teachers. To draw teachers out of the we talk you listen mode to interaction across classrooms and across levels of authority.

Heyward: A version of Digg with rewards. You win by having selected the most news-literate world view. There are fun things built in.

Finberg: It becomes a group activity.

Florin: But there has to be moderation because Digg is a mob scene Heyward: Set it up so it is not the mob that scores you but the game does.

Florin: Or how well you did against a goal that was set by yourself. On Newstrust they are de-emphasizing judging and emphasizing more the tagging.

Kate: Sometimes students gang upon in a judging environment. As soon as you criticize, they won't realize what they've done is opinionated and if other kids are critizing you feel like you are under attack.

Florin: Maybe have a game-like interface but not turn it into a game. Only a small section of the audience that engages in games are highly competitive. More people like a crossword puzzle. At least half the poopulation will not touch a game with a win-lose component.

Heyward: What if each student had an avatar. The students would become an editor, they are aggregating the way they do research, as Kinsey said. The avatars compete in a way the rest of the community decides. Who came up with the best, most reliable overall coverage. Each is a news monkey aggregating links, the group Diggs to the top the one that is the most reliable.

Finberg: Poyner NewsU alreayd has a piece of this: "Be an editor," game.

Heyward: I would be interested in Kinsey's news world.

Florin: Here's an idea, it's called 60 seconds. Everyone has 60 seconds a day to produce a news show. Link a bunch of things and make a little slide show. You only have 60 seconds. YOu have all these 60 second shows. Put your show next to your friend's show -- a collage of 60-second shows which can then be rated. "The world as I see it today."

Messinger: Can we encourage students to write?

Densmore: What if you could give people hints and recommendations as they are creating it -- "6,000 other people chose this . . . people who chose this also chose that."

Wilson: YOu want to rate components in it, not the finished piece because otherwise it becomes too competitive.

Heyward: Provide a tool that allows students to work together as editors and then share their findings. It could be a world view or a particular topic for teachers to assign.

What's coming out of this:

  • Training for digital literacy

Wilson: It's not the tools, its the concepts.

Kate: We are talking about diffent ways of seeing the world and not all people are comfortable with other views of the world. It is not just about teaching the teachers how to do it mechanically, it is making a kind of leap of judgement or knowledge.

Wilson: To determine whether something is fair. There are ways to go about that. How do you determine what a fair outlook is on a subject. The tools are a means to an end.

Heyward: Another way of getting at this. Each class could create an online community and part of their assignment would be to submit stories that for whatever reason they feel meet the criteria of the class. You'd set up the community at the beginning of the class and over time you would see them become more sophisiticated editors. You might tag and submit stories about the Taliban to the Facebook group and then the teacher has a look at it and the students discuss their choice.

Wilson: Take for example earmarks. There are certain truths that Jon Stewart is going to embed in his comedy that are not apparent elsewhere.

Heyward: Each then comes and tells a story about earmarks with information they have aggregated and they have five minutes to present. And they speak about them in news literacy lexicon.

Kate: There also has to be an element about their writing and their prejudices and biases. We can't leave out the writing. It's critical to the way people think.

John McManus: They have to write. It's really important.

Florin: A labeling tool in the exercise is critical to label things that are facts, not verified, entertainment, etc. The labeling becomes a big part of the tool. It helps them differentiate different aspects of the challenge.

Messinger: YOu could use this in many different ways in different classes.

Finberg: It's curriculum independent. You have to explain what these labels means, however. Built into the label tool.

Heyward: Over time you become an online journalist.

Florin: Has to be aimed at consumers.

Heyward: But we are trying to help Stony Brook -- in the classroom.

Messinger: Student has a deadline, consumers do not.

Finberg: Make it for entry level college, and that can work for HS too.

Florin: Design it usable by lots of people. Sims City had a tremendous impact on the culture.

Densmore: It can be designed for consumers and still be perfectly helpful to Stony Brook in the classroom.

John McManus: Two ideas:

  • Use the potential of the Internet to compare multiple stories so they can use their tools about reliable to find which are more or less legitimate.
  • At the local level, invite people affected by a local story to come in and talk about it. Maybe a group powerfully affected. Who are the stakeholders? You could have class members invite comment on the story.

NLC is a clearinghouse for best practices. Case studies. Mining for examples of TV stories that didn't get the other side.

Finberg: YOu have to have the examples.

Messinger: TV is labor intensive. We can fine CNN reports online.

Just finding little gems.

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