In about half the world–mostly those where people live under socialism, communism, dictators, or autocracies–law and order is decided for the people. In the 1700’s, when the brand new United States of America, newly liberated from the British aristocratic rule that relied on Kings and Queens, wrote its very first Constitution and Bill of Rights, it decided to establish a system of government by the people. Called ‘the Grand Experiment’, the founders empowered ordinary citizens–such as farmers, shopkeepers, laborers, and seamstresses–to elect the individuals who would protect America’s shores, our freedoms, and our way of life.
Over two hundred years after that mandate, it is still unclear whether it will work. In the 1850’s, Abraham Lincoln warned:
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
A hundred years after that, Gore Vidal bemoaned:
“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”
Winston Churchill called democracy “…the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.… “. In short, it is messy.
Still, every four years, Americans must make critical choices that will shape our nation’s democracy. Citizens are expected to research their options and then vote for the candidates most qualified to fulfill the country’s goals. Thomas Jefferson called education a “…vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
This year, on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, we will elect every one of 435 members of the House of Representatives, one-third of the one hundred Senators, and the most powerful position in the country, the President. I’ve curated a list of websites to provide students with the background knowledge on the election process that will prepare them for the day they’ll be asked to cast their vote and decide the future. The first few explain elections in general and the next teach the process through gamification.
We wrote about fake news earlier this week (How to defeat fake news–one teacher’s ideas). Here are additional resources you’ll find helpful in teaching about this topic:
- Fake News game— from BBC
- How to spot fake news — a video
- Interview with a fake news creator
- Make your own Fake News–with the Inspect tool (video); idea: change a website; ask students if they can tell it’s now fake
- Spot the Troll–recognize fake SM accounts
- TEDEd–how to choose your news
- Why People Fall for Misinformation--Video)
Differentiating between reliable websites, books, information has always been a topic in classrooms. Kids tend to think if a site is at the top of the Google hit list, it is the most reliable. It requires teaching to explain why that isn’t true. What has increased in the last decade is the prevalence of ‘fake new’, what used to be called ‘yellow journalism’, where news is presented ina way that garners views and clicks rather than disseminates the truth.
Education Week tackles this issue as a teacher describes efforts to defeat fake news online. Here the article:
Students prefer images instead of written analysis of world events, which Chris Doyle, a teacher at a Connecticut school, describes as “TikTok over The New York Times.” Yet, Doyle writes in this blog post that imagery can be deceptive, fabricated and even outright propaganda, as Doyle works to debunk them, leading to concerns about the information students are consuming.
Ask a Tech Teacher has quite a few articles and resources on this topic. Here are a few:
Teaching students about current events used to be as easy as picking a trusted newspaper and reading their headlines. Those days are gone with fake news, yellow journalism, and opinions dressed up as news stories. So how to you talk about what’s in the news? Marcee Harris over at Teaching Channel has a lesson plan to help you:
By Marcee Harris on March 31, 2021
When our students enter our classrooms, they come with bits and pieces of news from home, their social media feeds, and from conversations with friends. This news can create a sense of fear and worry for some, as well as generate lots of unanswered questions. Tackling these tough topics in the classroom can be a challenge, especially for educators who come from different backgrounds than their students. Despite the uncertainty of what to say, it’s imperative that we honor our kids’ news and engage in dialogue that explores their questions. This process will open students up to a range of perspectives and nurture critical thinking skills.
More from Ask a Tech Teacher on news, sources, teaching with it:
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.
Here are great ideas for how to address the difficult topic of war in the Ukraine, from Ask a Tech Teacher collaborator, Christian Miraglia, recently retired from teaching after thirty-six years:
As events unfold in Ukraine, people want to know how the situation might play out. Glancing at the Apple Newsfeed or Twitter for minute-to-minute updates becomes an obsession. For many students, checking on Tik-Tok and Instagram is their source of information. In the classroom, questions on the location of Ukraine, the why of the Russian invasion, and what does the future hold are commonplace. So how does a teacher navigate these conversations?
As a history teacher, I made it a priority to teach my students how to check the reliability of sources. This became increasingly important over the past decade as social media became the primary source for news. It was not uncommon for a class to start with a comment, “Did you see …?” My response to the student was, “What was the source of information, and how do you know if it is reliable?” A typical year in the class began with learning how to source information using the Reading Like a Historian lessons from the Stanford History Education Group. I also utilized the Civic Reasoning curriculum, which focused on developing critical thinking skills to navigate social media and news. With Ukraine dominating the news cycle, these skills are still essential.
Here are some basic principles and resources that can be helpful when addressing the conflict in Ukraine. These tenents are applicable for any sensitive topic or event discussed in class.
- As with any subject when using social media as a tool for study, teachers should review postings as some material may not be suitable for student consumption.
- Use the Civil Discourse materials from Facing History and Ourselves at the beginning of the year so that both you, as a teacher and students, have a framework for approaching complex subjects. Some students may have family or friends serving in the military or have students who may have family from Ukraine.
- Ask the student about the source of information. Check social media feeds and news feeds so students can compare the credibility of sources. Providing students with sentence frames for responding to the question is necessary.
- Ask students why the event is important. Keep in mind that our students may be asking questions based on their fears. For example, students may ask if the events in Ukraine will lead to World War III.
- Make use of geography tools such as Google Maps or the history of Ukraine in maps found on the Washington Post site, as many students do not have a sense of the expansiveness of the world.
- Use proven resources such as Brown University’s Choices Program, which provides teachers with comprehensive lessons on the crisis.
The past five years have created challenges for teachers time and time again with global and national events. Our students are on a similar journey. The description on the Stanford History Education Group’s Civic Reasoning page reads, “Students are confused about how to evaluate online information. We all are.” With each critical piece of news comes a chance to provide our students a platform to voice their concerns and synthesize the information they consume. One might call these “hard conversations,” but embracing these opportunities with the proper resources ultimately builds the foundations of becoming informed citizens.
Christian Miraglia is a recently retired 36-year educator and now Educational Technology Consultant at t4edtech where he also blogs at Edtech and Things Related. He can be found on Twitter @T4edtech, Linkedin, and on his YouTube Channel Transformative Edtech.
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It’s America’s birthday and I’m celebrating. My Army Sergeant son is in Japan–Okinawa. My Navy LT CDR daughter’s in the DC area. I thank both of them and all those soldiers who fought for America’s uncertain future so long ago.
God be with all of us.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDkP2WaEYFE&w=560&h=349] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJvcJczKRB0&w=425&h=349] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUDs-8SxfUE&w=425&h=349] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65KZIqay4E&w=425&h=349]
I want to include all my efriends from Canada in the celebrations though I’m a few days late for Canada Day:
Keeping up with national and international events was a lot easier when all the news came from one of three major TV news outlets and a few newspapers like The New York Times. Now, there are dozens of channels, hundreds of newspapers, thousands of bloggers, and tens of thousands of social media journalists — all trying to get your attention with the latest apocalyptic news flash. Stories based on gossip as much as fact used to be designated Yellow Journalism. Now, in what has been called a post-truth society (defined by Oxford Dictionary as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”), it is the reader’s responsibility to differentiate between fact and fake news.
What is fake news?
Here are two definitions of fake news:
“false stories that appear to be news, spread on the Internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke” — Cambridge English Dictionary
“a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.” — Wikipedia
“Fake news is information reported as fact without reliable evidence, trustworthy sources, and/or proper vetting” — Jacqui Murray
Sounds like something every thinking person would want to avoid but a recent Stanford Graduate School of Education report shows that 80-90% of high school students had difficulty judging the credibility of news. So how do we teach students to know the difference?
As many of you know, I have a daughter in the Navy and a son in the Army. I love them both and live every day worried. But through it all, I appreciate what they are doing to make America what so many need it to be.
I love America. I love our military. I love my daughter and son.
You don’t have to watch all of these. I got carried away on YouTube. I just couldn’t pick a favorite…
And the ever-favorite (17 million views):