GLOBAL NEWS LITERACY CONFERENCE CONNECTS EDUCATORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Conference seeks to bolster collaboration between News Literacy teachers at home and abroad

BY JESSICA CHIN

The first global academic summit on fighting fake news brought together more than 40 educators from eight countries at Stony Brook University to discuss the future of News Literacy education in the age of fake news. Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy organized the conference, August 13-15, to encourage the development and sharing of best teaching practices of its innovative News Literacy curriculum to build critical thinking skills.

Confronting the challenges of what some have called the post-truth era will take more than improved algorithms and public service announcements. For the past five years, the Center for News Literacy through its Overseas Partnership Program has been sharing its curriculum with universities around the world. The participants represent universities and educational institutions from Argentina, Hong Kong, India, Poland, Russia and Vietnam. They presented 15 papers on topics ranging from "Tailoring News Literacy Lessons to Specific Localities" to "Measuring the Effectiveness of News Literacy Education."

The  innovative News Literacy course is the brainchild of the dean and founder of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, Howard Schneider.

“We are all here to build a kind of global support system, a global network because we are all tackling the same kinds of deficits and issues,” Schneider said.

The Overseas Partnership Program, which is funded by a generous anonymous donor, allows the center to partner with overseas universities whose faculty then tailor the News Literacy curriculum to their respective media societies.

Professor Dorota Piontek of Adam Mickiewiecz University in Poznan, Poland discussed using News Literacy concepts as a way of understanding the growth of populism in mass media populism.

Professor Anna Kachkaeva from the Faculty of Communications of the Higher School for Economics in Moscow, Russia explained how she and her colleagues are using News Literacy concepts to teach media literacy in both the formal and informal media education initiatives in Russia.

Huyen Nguyen, a lecturer at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City, spoke of her unique approach to teaching News Literacy.

“I ask my students to practice mindfulness – breathe in, breathe out – about five minutes before we start the class” she said. “They really love it.”

Nguyen has found that these simple mindfulness techniques help students not rush to judgement on news stories and to come up with more informed opinions.

Another workshop examined ways News Literacy education can be offered to the general public. Masato Kajimoto, a professor from the University of Hong Kong – the first partner university under the overseas program – presented the results of creating a Massive Open Online Course, also known as a MOOC, on News Literacy.

The six-week course, which is hosted on Coursera, was jointly launched in January by the Center for News Literacy and the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. The course is one of one of fourteen social-impact courses being promoted by Coursera.

Data from Coursera and from an optional survey at the end of the course “both indicated that many of our learners are highly educated, close to 80 percent of our learners have at least a bachelor’s degree, 53 percent even have a master’s degree,” he said.

Kajimoto suggested having educators that are teaching News Literacy courses integrate some of the online lessons into their classes in order for the MOOC course to possibly reach more audiences.

Many of the educators agreed that beginning to teach News Literacy at the university-level is too late.

“One of the things we are focusing on is reaching high school and middle school students, so we might have to simplify things,” said Jonathan Anzalone, lecturer and assistant director of the Center for News Literacy. “But, there’s also room for greater sophistication and introducing theories that aren’t in the introductory course.”

In the United States, at least three high schools and one middle school use Stony Brook’s curriculum to teach News Literacy.

As the conference came to a close, members of the Center for News Literacy tasked their colleagues with brainstorming a definition of News Literacy that all could agree on – a task that proved difficult. But the conversation is still ongoing, and the collaboration that will continue was one of the conference goals.

Richard Hornik, director of the Overseas Partnership Program at the Center for News Literacy, said the most important achievement of the conference was the building of professional relationships among the participants.

“These educators have been teaching news literacy in very challenging environments over the past five years, and they have a lot to learn from each other,” he said. “We hope that this will mark the beginning of real-time collaboration so that we can all improve how we teach this important curriculum."

Video & Photos by Gary Ghayrat

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