The past two months I’ve been working on a media literacy project with fellow educator and colleague Brian Turnbaugh (@wegotwits) which we have titled, “Conspiracies and Culture Wars.” Tuesday Brian and I shared a 60 minute virtual workshop together about this project and its topics at the Summer Institute on Digital Literacy, and last week I shared the opening keynote at the Mountain Moot virtual conference focusing on these issues as well. In this post I want to share the recorded videos from both presentations, as well as some resources and observations from our approximately five hours of combined YouTube planning and brainstorming sessions. Our project resources (including all these videos on YouTube) are linked on medialiteracy.wesfryer.com/concw.

The opportunity to share a conference presentation or workshop can be a good catalyst for organizing and clarifying ideas around a topic. For the Mountain Moot keynote, the audience was a diverse group of K12 teachers, university faculty, online content and course developers, school administrators, virtual learning and instructional technology specialists, and vendor representatives. I wanted to share ideas about our need for more robust media literacy skills in an increasingly hostile information environment, “polluted” with disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation. Those are the terms scholars Whitney Phillips (@wphillips49) and Ryan M. Milner (@rmmilner) use in their excellent April 2020 book, “You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape.” I explicitly encouraged educators in the presentation to NOT use the phrase “fake news,” which has become a political term today seeking to discredit the perspectives and value of the mainstream press, and even “give up” entirely on the ideals of objectivity and truth. As Brian and I discussed at the end of one of our brainstorming sessions for this project in June and July, we want students (as well as adults) to develop healthy “skepticism without nihilism.”

Here is the link to my Mountain Moot keynote video and presentation slides. The talk was 56 minutes and 12 seconds long. Thanks to my friend and colleague Jason Neiffer (@techsavvyteach), who introduced me.

For this week’s workshop on “Conspiracy and Culture Wars” for the Summer Institute on Digital Literacy (SIDL), Brian and I focused on more tools and classroom lesson ideas for teachers to use with students. These included the “Fact of Fiction: Apollo Moon Landings?” lesson which we initially thought might be the entire focus of our SIDL workshop as well as other tools like the “Misinformation Tools” offered free by the Indiana University Observatory on Social Media. We started a Google Slideshow (and here’s a FORCE COPY link we used with workshop participants) we titled, “Media Exhibits for Digital Forensic Analysis,” which includes a variety of media artifacts (tweets, Facebook posts, videos, articles, etc.) including disinformation, misinformation, or malinformation.

The steps for our workshop breakout activity were for participants to use this slideshow and:

  1. Use your web literacy / media literacy skills and strategies to “interrogate” these “media exhibits.” Use your best “digital forensics” skills.
  2. Document & SHARE your thinking. Add to a class media collection using Padlet, Lino, Google Slides, etc. Share on Twitter using #MediaLit #ConCW

Here’s the link to our recorded SIDL workshop video, as well as our presentation slides. This video runs 53 minutes, 7 seconds.

I have gathered the four brainstorming and planning videos Brian and I recorded in advance of our SIDL workshop in June and July, as well as both these conference presentation recordings, in a YouTube playlist. I added both presentation videos to a larger YouTube playlist I’ve been curating for awhile, more broadly focused on “Digital and Media Literacy.”

All of these resources are aggregated on our “Conspiracies and Culture Wars” media literacy project website: medialiteracy.wesfryer.com/concw. We are continuing conversations today and tomorrow with other colleagues at SIDL, including a fantastic cohort of educators and community leaders from Brazil, about how this project will continue to grow and develop in the weeks and months ahead. We are discussing the possibility of offering a free, online course with monthly virtual meetups in 2020-21, and co-authoring a collaborative book. I hope to offer this as a high course (via MSON / the Malone Network) at our school in 2021-22. If you have any feedback or questions about these resources or this project, please reach out and let Brian or I know!

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