MediaLit Moments

Checking the Fact-Checkers

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As concerns about disinformation and misinformation have grown in recent years, a new form of journalism has emerged: fact checking. Numerous websites are now devoted to fact checking, some with specialized topics like environmental or climate change fact checking, some with an emphasis on politics, some with an emphasis on a particular geographic location. There are as many topics for fact-checking as there are for the news itself.

The aim of these sites is to provide “unbiased” information that are verified by professional fact-checkers according to criteria established previously, and often disclosed for public perusal. But like all media messages, these websites should be critically analyzed to find the bias, because bias always exists in an imperfect world of information. This is not to say that fact checking is unhelpful – it can certainly provide more information and other perspectives – but it is no substitute for individual judgment about the framing and content of media messages.

AHA! There may be different interpretations of facts!

Key Question #3 How might different people understand this message differently?

Core Concept #3: Different people experience the same media message differently.

Key Word: Audience

Key Question #4 What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in – or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #4: Media messages have embedded values and points of view.

Key Word:  Content

Grade Level: 6-12

Materials: Do an internet search and identify a fact-checking website of interest. Display on a screen(s) available to the class.

ACTIVITY: Discuss with students ideas about fact-checking and why fact-checking has become a new offering of numerous publishers. Ask students to break into groups of 3-5, and then to discuss amongst themselves what might be useful for them in regards to fact-checking websites, and also, what criteria they might expect fact-checkers to use to verify the information that they present: what examples might they cite of best practices for fact-checkers?

Then, select a fact-checking website to explore in depth with students. Use the Five Key Questions of Media Literacy to deconstruct the site, as a beginning to And why? Fact checking raises as many questions as it answers, but ultimately, the questions are ours to answer.Then, break students into groups again and ask them to find out as much information about the site as possible, using the 5 Key Questions as a starting point: who publishes the site? Who does the fact-checking? What kind of branding is associated with the site? What kinds of techniques are used? How is the site financed? Is there any information about how much financing the site receives, and from whom? What audience does the site serve? Who is targeted and why? What is the bias of the site? Is it easy to tell? What is the site’s reputation? Who says?understanding more about how the site is constructed. Ask the students to cite evidence for their opinions and assumptions about the site: how do they know?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2019 20:49

Seeing the Pitch: Techniques of Persuasion in Action

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What is being told? What is being sold? These are two questions that even young children can learn to sort out, and such sorting is essential to critical thinking and decision-making. We are faced with sales pitches each and every day, yet we often don’t think consciously about what decisions we are making and why. Although life would become too complicated to be actively conscious of the process we use when we are choosing red shoes or green shoes to wear, it is still important to have some awareness and practice – occasionally – for what the process of choice entails, so that we can improve our track record of making wise choices that better fit our needs.

CML has identified 10 Techniques of Persuasion that are often at the core of sales pitches – whether those sales pitches are coming from social media influencers or from advertising messages that are clearly labelled. Seeing the pitch is essential to catching the pitch and even to making a pitch!

AHA! This is how I’m being sold!

Grade Level: 3-6

Materials: Varied pictures or magazines with pictures to be torn from the magazine.Tape or pins.

Key Question/Core Concept #2 Deconstruction:    What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

10 Posters or signs that show one of the 10 Techniques of Persuasion:

  • Humor (Funny or crazy images)
  • Macho (Strong, tough, powerful. May have weapons!)
  • Friends (Groups together, smiling, buddies, pals, friendship)
  • Family (Mother, father, children or family. Intergenerational, possibly)
  • Fun (Everone is happy, smiling and laughing. Images of fun times by self too, or with others)
  • Nature (Outdoor settings. May or may not include people)
  • Sexy (Emphasis on physical, usually female, perhaps with revealing clothing or flirting through attitude or body language)
  • Cartoon (People or animals as drawings or animation, often humorous)
  • Celebrity (Influencers or athletes, musicians, politicians, “stars”)
  • Wealth (Expensive or elegant places and things.  Big houses, new cars, jewelry, designer clothing, etc.)

There is a lot to be learned from the discussion and from each student’s perceptions. Ask students if they have learned from each other, and what they have learned.After students do their labeling of the photos, show each poster or sign area and discuss what students found – and let the students talk about why they made their choices and what “pitch” they see. Ask the students to find any examples that don’t fit very well, and ask them to tell why they don’t think the example is a fit for a particular Technique of Persuasion. Ask them which Technique might be a better fit, and why.Then, talk about the 10 Techniques of Persuasion and show an example. Tell the students that it’s important for them to be able to identify techniques of persuasion, so they know whether they are being “told something” or “sold something.” Give  them photos or magazines to use, and ask them to find examples of each of the 10 Techniques of Persuasion, and to tape or pin the examples they find to the posters or signs which label each of the 10 Techniques.ACTIVITY: Discuss with students what persuasion is – how persuasion is voluntary, and how persuasion is geared towards meeting our own needs, so that we want to do something or try something or change our minds about something. Give some examples of what persuasion is in everyday life.
Last Updated on Sunday, 02 June 2019 09:53

Confirmation Bias: How do I argue against myself?

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Research shows that we are more than twice as likely to seek out information that confirms and conforms to our opinion than information that contradicts or disproves our opinion. This is called confirmation bias. But only seeking out information that confirms our current opinion is a hindrance to expanding our knowledge base and making a truly informed decision. How can we overcome our confirmation bias? Instead of reading articles or reports that confirm your opinion, you need to seek out credible information from reliable sources that claim the opposite. Can you rationally counter-argue to other argument, and can you back it up with unbiased data? If you can’t it doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but you have a new set of questions to answer and research to pursue. The important point is to argue against yourself! It will force you to think hard about why you could be wrong. Not only does it force you to expose yourself to confirming ideas and data, but it can strengthen your original opinion and enhance your overall knowledge level.

AHA! I like to be right, so I look for information that confirms my opinions.

Materials: Projector to show the activity
Grade Level: 9-12

Key Question #3/Consumer: How might different people understand this message differently?

Core Concept #3: Different people understand the same media message differently.


Suppose we lay out the following 4 cards like this.*

Then we give you the following statement.

If a card has a vowel on one side then it has an even number on the other side.

Our question to you is which two cards do you need to flip over to prove this

statement true?

• A & 4

• A & 7

• D & 4

• D & 7

Did you choose A & 4?

Then you're like the majority of people, wrong.

People flip over these two cards to confirm the statement. If they flip over the A card and a vowel appears the statement is correct. If they flip over the 4 card and a vowel is on the other side then the statement is also proved correct.

Instead of asking you to prove the statement true, what if we asked you to prove the statement false. Which two cards would you flip over now?

• A & 4

• A & 7

• D & 4

• D & 7

The answer is A & 7.

Flipping over the A card can confirm the statement but also disprove the statement if

an odd number is on the other side. You would flip over the 7 card because you can

disprove the statement if a vowel was on the other side.

*This test is the Wason Selection Test and it shows our confirmation bias in action.

This activity is adapted with permission from an investment newsletter published by

American Money Management LLC, P.O. Box 675203, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2019 18:50

How do Logos Look — and Why?

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Brands play a key role in the representations of organizations, as well as their products and services. Although branding strategies go beyond the visual representations that logos offer, the logos themselves are worthy of observation and study, since they provide the symbolism that represents the organizations and their structures, as well as the products and services offered. Logos provide a “seal,” a trusted and quick way to identify the origins or the integrity of a company and its offerings.  Although logos are ubiquitous and often overlooked, what might be the consequences when logos are faked, or subtly changed? What happens to the value of the company brand, or to the trust that we may have for an organization?

AHA! There’s more to logos than the image itself.
Grade Level: 6-9
Materials: Article: Can you spot the real brand from the fake? We’ve slightly altered 16 well known labels to test your brain (The Sun, Aug. 30, 2017): https://www.thesun. co.uk/living/4350996/can-you-spot-the-real-brand-from-the-fake-weve-slightly-altered- 16-well-known-labels-to-test-your-brain/

Key Question #2/Consumer: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
Key Word: Format
Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
Key Question #5/Producer: Have I communicated my purpose effectively?
Key Word: Purpose
Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized for profit and/or power.

Activity: Explain to students that logos are visual symbols that represent – or re-present – organizations, and their products and services. Ask students to give examples of logos that they have seen, and why they think that having logos is important. Then, tell students that sometimes, logos are sometimes “faked,” so that people can become confused about what is a product actually manufactured by a company – or not. Then, tell them that they are going to take a quiz that has some “real” logos and some “fake” logos – and they can see how many logos they recognize. After taking the quiz and seeing how many answers they got correct, divide the students into pairs, and ask them to discuss with each other:

      1. What kinds of mistakes did you make in recognizing the logo?
      2. Was this quiz easy for you, or hard? Why?
      3.  What do you think might happen if a company’s logo is “faked” and shown on products or advertised with services? List at least two ideas of these consequences.
      4.  Do you think that companies care about their logos and how they are used? Why or why not?
      5.  What can consumers do to make sure that the products or services they are using are really being provided by the company whose logo appears?
      6.  If a logo is being misused, what can a consumer do? 
          (Report to the company; report to the store where the product is purchased; in the U.S., report to the Federal Trade Commission).

After students have a chance to discuss, ask each pair to report to the class what they learned in their discussion with their partner.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, © 2002-2019, Center for Media Literacy

Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2019 18:48

YouTubers "behind the scenes"

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YouTubers are a popular presence in many of our lives, but is their constant posting a healthy and happy way to live – or is it more about being lonely with a crowd? Recently, the BBC did a report on YouTubers who have millions of followers, but few real friends:

When watching entertaining videos, it’s easy to forget – and we’re encouraged to forget – that the video is a construction, a product that’s put together to entertain us or inform us or to “sell us.” And when we post on our own social media platforms, it’s important to remember that we are only showing a part of ourselves or our day – which is no substitute for the “real” us.

AHA! YouTubers images may not be as real as they seem online.
Grade Level: 9-12
Materials: YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUrNbl1lNV4

Key Question #1/Consumer: Who created this message?
Core Concept #1: Media messages are constructed
Key Question #1/Producer: What am I authoring?
Key Word: Authorship

Activity: Show the YouTube video that gives a “behind the scenes” look at YouTubers. Divide the students into pairs, and ask them to discuss with each other:

  1. What effect did being a YouTuber have on the lives of these young people? Give some specific examples.
  2. There was mention of an algorithm that drives the number of views. Who makes the algorithm? Does this algorithm have feelings? Does the algorithm have purpose?
  3. When you post on social media, what do you typically share? Do you feel that people who see your shares really know you?

After students have a chance to discuss, ask each pair to report to the class what surprised them the most about their discussion with their partner.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, © 2002-2019, Center for Media Literacy

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 January 2019 02:28
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