Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Teaching Conspiracy Theories & Media Literacy to 6th Graders

My favorite unit to teach the last two years to my middle school students has been on “Fruit Loop Conspiracy Theories.” Rather than study and discuss controversial political topics, we focus on the Apollo Moon landings and the skeptics (who are sometimes also “flat-earthers” on YouTube) who believe NASA never landed on the Moon, and the entire historical episode was faked thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s moviemaking special effects. This lesson was the result of summer work I did with my Chicago colleague Brian Turnbaugh (@wegotwits) in 2020, which I archived on the website, “Fact or Fiction? Apollo Moon Landings.” Brian and I met through the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in Rhode Island. I’ve served as faculty for the Institute the past two summers, in 2020 and 2021.

Froot Loops Cereal by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Froot Loops Cereal” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

In the unit we focus on learning how to use the “SIFT” web literacy framework developed by Mike Caufield (@holden) as part of his work in the Digital Polarization Project. This is a CC-BY licensed poster I have printed in my classroom, which we use throughout the unit to discuss the different elements of the framework. 

The SIFT Web Literacy Framework by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
The SIFT Web Literacy Framework” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

This is an example of one of my 6th graders’ final video projects from the unit last year, which was created with Adobe Spark Video (now Adobe Creative Cloud Express.)

Media literacy and web literacy skills are SO important! In the months and years ahead, I hope to continue building the media literacy project, “Conspiracies and Culture Wars” so these lessons and skills can be shared and used with and by even more students and teachers. This is a sample lesson from the “Froot Loop Conspiracy Theories” unit that I recorded in October 2021, and added to my online teaching portfolio. If you have questions about this lesson, unit, or anything else “media literacy,” please let me know! Twitter (@wfryer) is the fastest way to contact me!

(This is a public cross-post of a blog post I shared in on my Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) blog.)

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