"Young Canadians aren't just passive consumers of media anymore – they're broadcasters too. It's harder than ever to tell the difference between accurate information and advertising, misinformation and parody, and it's easy for any of us to inadvertently spread false information."
(Cathy Wing, co-Executive Director, MediaSmarts, 2018)
Media plays a huge role in the lives of our students. It provides a window to the world; it allows us to communicate across borders; it informs and teaches us about so many things in so many ways.
This year’s theme for MediaSmarts, Canada's centre for digital and media literacy, and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, is “Fact or Fake: Help the World Stop Misinformation in Its Tracks.” With so much information out there, students need to ensure that what they are reading and sharing online is factual, unbiased, and reliable.
As digital citizens in today’s wired world, it is important that students learn to be critical users of media. By asking questions, making comments, and sharing opinions, students can play a role in shaping media representations, including the importance of inclusivity in all media.
For younger children it is important to teach them that media products are constructions. A media product (e.g., an ad, a movie, a TV show, a billboard) has been created by a group of individuals. It has been designed for a particular audience for a particular purpose.
Bring in a series of print ads for food. Distribute them to students in small groups. Explain that the people who create the advertising for these products have a goal: to sell their product. Ask students to go through the ads and circle any cartoon characters that may be part of the advertising. Explain that these characters have been added to the product advertising to attract children. If children like the look of the character on a box of cereal, for example, they are more likely to ask their parents to buy it.
Ask students to look through the ads and identify other ways the ads attract attention. Think of colours, shapes, prizes, pictures of the food etc.
Ask students to explore the products they have in their own homes and notice what the advertiser has done to make them want to buy the product.
Tell them to share this information with their families in an effort to help everyone to be more media wise!
For additional ideas, connect to the MediaSmarts website.
Activity for 2018’s theme
Ask students if they have ever seen a clam eating. If so, invite them to describe the process. Explain that they are going to watch a video entitled, “Live clam eats salt on table.”
Watch the following You Tube video found here.
Explain the science behind what the clam is doing in this video. The “tongue” is actually the clam’s foot. The action we see is not “licking” but the movement a beached clam does to drag itself back into the water. The salt has nothing to do with what is going on; the salt was on the table and the clam’s action simply looks like it is related to the salt.
Ask students now to consider these questions:
Confirm with students that the video “Live clam licks salt on a table” consists of real footage, but it is not truthful. If viewers aren’t familiar with clam biology, they might be willing to believe that they’re watching a clam’s tongue licking at flavourful salt – maybe because it resembles a human action we are familiar with. Add the caption “Live clam eats salt on table,” and viewers may feel convinced that this is what the video is showing.
As MediaSmarts reminds us, “There are two basic components to authenticating online information: critical thinking skills that let you ask key questions and the technical skills that help you answer them.”
That’s why it is important to ask questions about what we see in the media and think about how to check both the authenticity and the truthfulness of what is presented to us. Ask students to suggest ways they could check whether a video like the one you watched is truthful.
For more information about this video and the authentication process, go to the following link on the MediaSmart website here.
Activity for the 2018 theme:
Share the information in the Introduction and this year’s theme with students and ask what they understand by the term “fake news.” Invite them to share examples they can recall of information that was publicized in the media that later turned out to be untrue (or, not the “whole story”).
MediaSmarts and Facebook Canada have partnered together to develop the Reality Check! program. Watch the following video with students entitled “News You Can Use.” found here.
Divide students into small groups and pass out the “News You Can Use’ from the MediaSmart website here.
Assign groups to review one of the three tips on the sheet.
Following their review, close by asking: