In a world where individuals can access information with the touch of a button, it’s important for teachers and students to understand that not all information can be trusted. That’s why, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert invited Howard Schneider, executive director of Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy, to speak at Superintendent’s Conference Day on Nov. 5.
With the implementation of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s easy to read or share unverified information. In fact, numerous studies have shown that false information is six times more likely than reliable news to be spread.
That’s why it’s important to recognize the three different types of “information pollution,” including misinformation, which is the unintentional spread of unverified information, disinformation or “fake news,” which is intentionally fabricated, and malinformation, which is typically used to undermine or attack others.
Each of those falls within one of four “information neighborhoods,” which include promotion, entertainment, or raw information. The fourth neighborhood is journalism. Only information that is verified, independent and accountable falls within this category. Prof. Schneider warned that if just one of those is missing, the information is not factual and it is now news.
The goal of the News Literacy program is to help students develop critical thinking skills, interrogate rather than consume information and to read “laterally” and “become your own fact-checker.” “We are all vulnerable,” he said.
Recently, Schneider has partnered with local organizations and school districts across Long Island to spread the News Literacy message. “It’s way too late to be taught at the university level,” he said. “It needs to be brought into high schools and middle schools.”
Those “lighthouse districts” work with Stony Brook University to fully integrate the News Literacy program into their curriculum. Dr. Bossert said that the district’s administration is inspired to apply for a $35,000 grant to do so but ultimately will leave it up to the teachers to decide. Based on an initial response, all of the teachers who attended the keynote address were in favor of implementing the program into the district’s schools.