DigCit Quick Hit: Media Bias

It’s mid-term political season in America and you’re likely to see political ads, statements and news surface in your social media feeds. A news story posted by your uncle, another shared by your best friend and another served by an advertiser all seem to contradict each other. Understanding how news can be skewed based on the writer’s viewpoints, intentionally and unintentionally,  is critical to making informed decisions in the modern world.

The heightened role of social media and the ease of sharing makes it more difficult to form our own opinions. Thankfully there are some resources that can help you as an individual and as an educator understand the bias that a source may hold.

AllSides offers news, issues and talking points through a lens of bias. Read how stories about the same topic are different based on who writes them. AllSides also houses a strong media bias rating system that uses “crowd-wisdom” and statistical analysis to identify sources as left, center and right.

Media Bias/Fact Check also provides a strong media bias rating system. It generally has information on more sources than AllSides and also rates the factual credibility of the site.

 

Activity

Here’s an activity to try with your students, teachers or building staff to open a conversation about media bias and explore how it impacts your community. Need a little help? Feel free to use this slide deck with the activity.

  1. Take note of the news sources in your social media feeds. This can be done in any grouping (individually, as a class, as a building) that might yield interesting perspectives.
  2. Use AllSides or Media Bias/Fact Check to check out the ratings of the sources you recorded.
  3. Create a line plot for the articles you see.
  4. Draw conclusions from your graph and discuss.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What does the shape of your graph say about your social media feed?
  2. How might getting information from these sources influence your thoughts and opinions?
  3. Is good or bad for Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, etc. to use an algorithm that serves you more posts, ads or articles that match your assumed political views?
  4. How might we use this information to build awareness of media bias in our community?

 


DigCit Quick Hits are short activities designed for educators to use with students, staff or community members. Our intention is to build awareness through open dialogue around pertinent topics in digital life that affect our communities. Please contact Keith Tramper at keithtramper@kentisd.org with questions, requests for support or feedback.

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Opening Up Conversation About Life Online

Digital Citizenship Week wrapped up last week as educators and schools around the world renewed their focus to help students become good citizens in the digital age. As we’re learning just how prolific devices are in our student’s lives, the separation between citizenship and digital citizenship is fading. A recent survey from Common Sense Media found that 89% of teens have their own smartphones and that they’re experiences with using them are generally positive.

As advocates for digital citizenship we encourage you to find ways to help your students develop a healthy relationship with technology and wield their devices to make a positive impact in their world. Here’s a few ideas that you might consider using with your learners to open up conversation about life online.

  • Challenge your students to make famous person Instagram posts. Think “If Abraham Lincoln had Instagram”. What hashtags would he use? Who would he be friends with? What would he say? What norms of digital citizenship would he exemplify or break?
  • Analyze why (mathematically) it’s important to create a strong password. Each additional character in a password is 95 times harder to crack. An 8 digit password has 95^8 possible combinations while a 6 digit password has 95^6 possible combinations. See here for more ideas. Take it further by seeing what students think about this popular xkcd comic about passwords or this article encouraging passphrases over passwords.
  • Discuss “digital equity” and why it is a major topic around the world. What does digital equity look like in your area? Nationally, check out the efforts of InternetEssentials. Internationally, check out Google’s Project Loon. Hold a design challenge to see how your students would solve the issue of Digital Equity in their neighborhood.
  • Craft short stories retelling a classic story in modern times. How would the internet impact their main characters? How might the internet empower Romeo and Juliet to have an alternate ending? What adversity might Odysseus face in his adventures with new technology?
  • Encourage students to experiment to decrease their screen time this week and document their experience in a daily journal. Have them describe their energy levels, health, relationships.

As always, don’t hesitate to let us know how we can support you and your students as you navigate the ever changing impact of technology in our lives.