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News Literacy Project: Module 1: Filtering Information

Filter Information
News Literacy Project: Module 1: Filtering Information

Module One of the News Literacy Project teaches students about Filtering News and Information.

In examining the News Literacy Project’s curriculum, I wanted to experience it the way a student would, so I avoided looking at the Teacher’s Guide that was available to download.  The first module is called ‘Filtering News and Information’.  This module has four core lessons, though the introduction merely shows students the features:

  • Introduction to the checkology Virtual Classroom
  • Know Your Zone: Sorting Information
  • What Is News?
  • Be the Editor: Deciding the Day’s Top News Stories

Know Your Zone

This segment introduces students to the different ‘zones’ that information can fall into.  It begins with explaining how much information is available to people today, but cautions that much of it is unverified, meaning it hasn’t been checked for accuracy by an editor or expert.  The goal is to help students identify the primary purpose of different types of information.  The categories, or Info Zones, students were given were:

  • News
  • Opinion
  • Entertainment
  • Advertising
  • Publicity
  • Propaganda
  • Raw Information

I completed the section on sorting information into the above categories.  I did reasonably well, but there were a few that I mislabeled, probably due to my bias or to following the directions and skimming an article instead of reading it.  Go ahead and try some of these if you like, based only on my description, and I’ll put the answers they gave at the bottom of this post.  I spotted you the last one because it was an ad that looked like a long photojournalism piece. It’s a difficult exercise given the short descriptions, but it will give you an idea of what students see.

  • an NPR report on water fluoridation
  • an editorial cartoon on fracking
  • an Info Wars segment on government drugging the water supply
  • John Oliver segment on Trump and the Wall
  • an informative segment about a water filter to make alkaline water
  • a WH press release
  • a Ben Carson article on immigration
  • an instagram post on immigrant rights
  • the Super Bowl 84 Lumber border wall ad
  • a social media graphic on Islamic Domination plans
  • a tweet with about 25 seconds of video at a protest
  • an ad for The Knick that was very much like news and which totally fooled me because I skimmed as directed (advertising)
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What Is News?

The second segment, ‘What Is News?’, is designed to help students figure out what qualifies as news.  Students are supposed to put news through an examination of 4 measurements to determine a story’s newsworthiness:

  • Timeliness
  • Important for the public to know
  • Interesting
  • Unusual

First they paired two stories with a headline and bullet points and asked which was more newsworthy. There were no absolute right answers, but they included the caveat that in real newsrooms, reporters often have to defend why they think a story is worth covering.  Examples were:

  • tornado damage v. a mayor’s reelection campaign announcement
  • presidential candidates visiting town v. a possible state government shutdown
  • a large quantity of gum on a particular sidewalk v. video of a celeb yelling at his assistant for buying the wrong gum
  • the classic dog bites man v. man bites dog

Next they presented a series of news pieces with the opportunity to rank each on the aforementioned 4 qualities, then students were supposed to explain their rating on each in a text field.  Examples included:

  • A story on an African warlord kidnapping kids to be in his army
  • Chicago police shooting of Laquan McDonald
  • A lady finding a hat up in a tree
  • A sheepdog having 17 puppies in a litter
  • A Russian man facing jail for atheist comments on social media
  • A local news segment on ‘superbrain yoga’

Be the Editor

Section 3 was the ‘Be The Editor’ section.  Students are given 20 or so headlines and accompanying stories, and must choose 5 to publish, then prioritize them for layout on a web page.  An added level of difficulty came in the form of a pop-up window after the student selected his five stories.  A Breaking News item was added to the list, and students had to decide whether to bump another story to include it.

Topics included:

  • A major storm on the way
  • a warehouse accident with five fatalities
  • a grand jury declining to indict an officer in an unarmed teen’s death
  • a mayor taking campaign donations from organized crime
  • a teen arrested after bringing a science fair project to school
  • food poisoning in a local school
  • a Grammy-winning musician arrested in TN
  • Chinese herbal medicine story
  • a suicide bomber in Baghdad
  • a windshield wiper recall
  • the latest jobs report

Once the students selected their top five stories, they were asked to justify their choices with a series of questions following their page’s ‘publication’.

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Real News, Fake Message

 

Overall, I thought the Filtering News and Information module was a highly valuable set of exercises for anyone to attempt, not just public school students.  The lesson progression was logical and purposeful, and the skills of sorting information, identifying news, and prioritizing the importance of different news items are very useful ones to any news consumer.  If this module was the sum total of this project’s ambitions, I could recommend it without reservation.

We’re still in the basics with Module One, and so far I’m on board.  The program provides additional exercises for students to work on, and a message board to discuss the different exercises since some of them are somewhat subjective.  The program asks students to explain their answers, a feature I like a lot.

I still have three modules to go: Exercising Civic Freedoms, Navigating Today’s Information Landscape, and How To Know What To Believe.  Things could go downhill fast, I just don’t know.

I intend to get through all of them, and report on what I learn.  I don’t trust the mainstream media, and I smell an agenda.  But I’m also open to this being an asset, and I will tell you if it is.  I WANT it to be, if only because it would be grand if people were critical of news no matter where it was from.

Info Zones Answers:

  • an NPR report on water fluoridation (news)
  • an editorial cartoon on fracking (opinion)
  • an Info Wars segment on government drugging the water supply (propaganda)
  • John Oliver segment on Trump and the Wall (entertainment)
  • an informative segment about a water filter to make alkaline water (advertising)
  • a WH press release (raw information)
  • a Ben Carson article on immigration (opinion)
  • an instagram post on immigrant rights (publicity)
  • the Super Bowl 84 lumber wall ad (advertising)
  • a social media graphic on Islamic Domination plans (propaganda)
  • a tweet with about 25 seconds of video at a protest (raw information)
  • an ad for The Knick that was very much like news and which totally fooled me because I skimmed as directed (advertising)

If you missed the rest of the series, start with the introduction HERE.

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Felicia Cravens
About Felicia Cravens 37 Articles
Felicia Cravens is a freelance writer and conservative activist who has worked in Republican leadership for nearly two decades. She founded the Houston Tea Party Society and has spent years training and speaking to activists about party participation, conventions, parliamentary procedure, and messaging. Her work can also be found at Free Radical Network.

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