We are living into a very interesting chapter of earth history this week. As I type this post on Sunday night, March 8, 2020, the confluence of several political decisions as well as the predictable mathematical results of exponential growth are combining to setup a week which will be filled with alarmist voices in both mainstream news media as well as social media focusing on the coronavirus global outbreak. Alongside credible, expert voices, the youth in our classrooms and homes will continue to be inundated by a flood of memes and videos in their social media feeds which will likely obfuscate reality for them and make it very difficult to ascertain if anything “serious” is happening with respect to the coronavirus outbreak, at least for awhile. This will also be true for many adults, whose cognitive perceptions are not directly complicated at this point by TikTok and Snapchat, but are none-the-less very challenged by the conflicting voices and opinions circulating about coronavirus.
In this post, I want to share some suggestions for how this is an ideal “teachable moment” with students to discuss various aspects of media literacy. In addition, I will share with you the expert voices whose views I accessed yesterday thanks to my Pocketcasts podcast subscriptions, who convinced me we are indeed facing a real global pandemic, and we need to prepare our families as well as organizations for a “marathon experience” that will last at least 12 to 18 months and in many ways redefine what we consider “normal, everyday life.” Large swathes of our earth’s population are about to “wake up” to this reality, and if you can understand these issues early, it can directly benefit you through the reasonable preparatory steps you can take in the days and weeks ahead.
First, let’s talk about the media literacy opportunities this situation presents with students for those of us fortunate to teach. Last Thursday and Friday with my 5th and 6th grade Computer Class students, I asked them to share with me:
- What they have heard about the coronavirus?
- How we can tell what websites and news reports to believe?
- What they can do to verify something is likely accurate before sharing it with others?
We had this discussion ahead of our “Good Role Model Reflection” lesson, which involves a discussion about the merits as well as limitations of WikiPedia. We discuss how WikiPedia articles are extensively cited, how images shared there are cleared for educational re-use, and how “talk pages” often reveal how different contributors / editors are debating about content added, deleted, or edited on pages.
As a visual backdrop to our discussion about coronavirus, I showed students the Johns Hopkins updated coronavirus tracking map, which I also added to our classroom “Wonder Links” webpage. I explained to students this is NOT a time to panic. It’s not a time to “joke” about these issues, either. We need to discuss what we know, what is being done now to keep us safe, and how we can decide whether or not to believe something we hear, read or see online in upcoming weeks from a friend or someone else.
On the subject of checking to determine the accuracy and trustworthiness of a website, we talked about the benefit of learning what websites and news sources adults in their life trust, like parents and teachers. We also discussed the importance of LATERAL READING instead of just viewing the “About page” on a website to evaluate credibility, and how important it is to beware of media content which makes us upset or emotional. That is one reason why the “S” in Mike Caufield’s SIFT web literacy framework stands for STOP. (@holden)
There are more media literacy discussion topics and skills which can and should be discussed with students, but those are good places to start in the context of cornonavirus.
Secondly in this post, I’ll share the three primary podcasts I listened to on Saturday which included “expert voices” speaking to the “new coronavirus” outbreak and whether or not this has already become a global pandemic which will affect nearly every human being on our planet. Spoiler alert: It IS, and it WILL. A “pandemic” by the way, is:
an epidemic of disease that has spread across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or worldwide.“Pandemic.” Wikipedia, 9 Mar. 2020. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pandemic&oldid=944640743.
My first coronavirus-related podcast on Saturday was the March 5, 2020, episode of the New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast, titled, “The Coronavirus in Washington State.” Not only does this podcast do an excellent job of humanizing this crisis, including interview audio with a woman whose mother is quarantined in a retirement community in Seattle where multiple residents have already died, it also explains how DNA analysis has revealed the virus has likely infected hundreds or possibly thousands of others already in the area. This will be a theme I’ll mention again in other podcasts, and it’s important to understand: Because of the way the U.S. Government set requirements for coronavirus testing initially, everyone was prevented from knowing the full extent of the outbreak here. Limited access to tests meant people who had symptoms could not be tested, which led to underreporting of the virus’ spread. That appears likely to to change this week. This podcast runs just over 30 minutes long.
The second podcast is almost an hour long, and offers multiple perspectives from experts on pandemics and the coronavirus specifically. This is the March 6, 2020, episode of the World Affairs Council podcast, titled, “Coronavirus: Bracing for a Global Pandemic.” The description explains:
On this week’s episode, Ray Suarez talks with Larry Brilliant, a renowned epidemiologist, credited with playing a major role in eradicating smallpox, and Pulitzer Prize-winning global health journalist Laurie Garrett. We also get dispatches from Rafael Suarez in China, Christopher Livesay in Italy and Peter Kenyon, who recently returned from Iran.WorldAffairs?: Coronavirus: Bracing for a Global Pandemic. http://worldaffairs.libsyn.com/coronavirus-bracing-for-a-global-pandemic. Accessed 8 Mar. 2020.
This is an impressive lineup of expert voices, and I strongly encourage you to listen to the entire podcast. Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) is the author of the 1995 book, “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance” and the 2011 book, “Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health.” Laurie has been a proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for pandemics for years, and most global leaders have not heeded her warnings and recommendations. Now we are about to pay the price. Her criticism of the way the U.S. administration has mishandled this crisis (as of that recording March 5, 2020) is scathing and persuasive. Unfortunately those decisions are likely to not just just have negative electoral consequences for President Trump (that’s my analysis, btw) it also may lead to the preventable deaths of many people. As I said at the outset of this post, we’re living into extremely interesting times right now. “Interesting” is actually not a sufficient word here. “Very challenging” is more appropriate.
Larry Brilliant (@larrybrilliant) is another pandemic scientific expert included in this podcast. The World Affairs Council podcast (@world_affairs), by the way, is one of my favorite free subscriptions now out of more than 100 on PocketCasts on my iPhone. Experts like the scientific and scholarly folks included in this podcast are EXACTLY the kind of voices we need to be listening to right now.
The third and last podcast I listened to on Saturday about coronavirus was the latest Science Friday podcast. Again they referenced the role genetic testing and DNA is playing in understanding the spread and scope of the coronavirus in Washington State and elsewhere. The numbers are high, and when we FINALLY deploy coronavirus testing kits in the large numbers which are required now, we’ll get a more statistically accurate picture of the true scope of this outbreak. Yes, it’s a pandemic.
I’ve shared a few posts on Facebook the past two days (here and here) about some of the family preparations I’ve made and consider reasonable. I’ve heard plenty of smart people at school and our church dismiss this entire situation in the past 4 days as “just media hype,” “more political disinformation,” and other things. My analysis could certainly be wrong here, but as I’ve explained in this post, my thinking is directly shaped by the repeated, mutually-affirming perspectives and opinions of scientific experts and scholars.
Whatever opinions you hold now about coronavirus, hopefully we can agree it’s a great opportunity to talk about media literacy with students. Who are you choosing to believe, and why? How are you fact-checking before sharing? These are great conversations for people of all ages who are online. These discussions also have real implications.
It’s going to be an exciting week.
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On this day..
- March is Teen DIY Tech Month at OKC Metro Libraries - 2014
- Free K12 Lesson Plans from K20ALT for STEM & More! (Audio Podcast with Adam Zodrow) - 2012
- The Legacy of Sandy Garrett in Oklahoma: A Case Study of "Whistleblower Needed" - 2012
- Summarizing the 2011 MACE Keynote with Mobile Video and Glogster - 2011
- Presentation Links from the 2011 Heartland eLearning Conference #heartlandconf11 - 2011
- The Visions of Students Today by @mwesch #heartlandconf11 - 2011
- How to Boil the Ocean: Lessons of Blogging for Online Discussions by @berlinf #heartlandconf11 - 2011
- Cloudy is a Good Thing!: Enhancing Instruction with Tools from the Cloud #heartlandconf11 - 2011
- Michael Wesch Keynote at 2011 Heartland eLearning Conference #heartlandconf11 - 2011
- Don't just blame the kids: Adults face social media challenges too - 2010