June 19, 2024

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Wisconsin students learning how to identify misinformation

National News Literacy Week is in full swing.

It’s a time to examine whether you have the skills to identify misinformation. PBS Wisconsin helps train educators in teaching those lessons to students.

Katie Miller has been teaching elementary music in Waukesha for 18 years. Every one of her students has a laptop they can use for school and homework.

“But they are also on places like YouTube. They know how to use Alexa and Siri, they can Google answers to things,” Miller says. “They are doing all of the same things that we are doing.”

She says her students do have some idea how to identify misinformation or bias.

“They had been taught along the way as they were researching things.”

But they didn’t always know what was actually a good indicator of credibility.

“So, subscribers, likes on post, are a big deal, because that’s how YouTube and some of those other social media apps work,” Miller says. “So that’s more important to them and it’s something they thought would make it credible.”

That’s part of the reason PBS Wisconsin offers a Media Literacy Certification program for teachers. Jessie Nixon is one of the instructors and says even young kids should be able to ask critical questions about the information they’re consuming.

“Where’s our media coming from, who made it, why did they make it and what message are they trying to create?” Nixon says.

PBS Wisconsin offers the Media Literacy Certification and all its other educational programming for free. Nixon says PBS really believes in the importance of having these skills, not just for students, but for teachers as well.

Nixon says teachers in each cohort work together to find and implement learning techniques for their classrooms – including one called “lateral reading.”

“Look up who is the person that wrote that web piece, look up that statistic and see if you can find it on another website, pull up another tab and look at what somebody else is saying about the same topic,” Nixon says.

Those skills are important for students, whether they’re watching the news or scrolling through TikTok, and no matter what subject they’re studying.

“It’s all of our jobs, really, to help young people become critical consumers,” Nixon says.

“Especially post pandemic,” Miller adds. “I feel like a lot more teachers are using technology more frequently because it was not an option any longer. It is something that is worth the time, for yourself and for your students.”

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