My work these days as a consultant is very focused on reading and making sense of information, media (to some degree) and the world around us. I work with teachers, and by extension, students, on learning strategies to do this very thing. So instead, I am going to focus on the parts of my day outside of work and what that looks like for me.
I no longer have time to read lengthy works in my “off time”, other than professional books, so most of what I read are articles, Tweets, and blog posts. I was an occasional Twitter reader before but have been reading that a lot more frequently since beginning this class. I have used Flipboard for a long time, and while there are likely better apps out there, I still use it to get articles and posts about topics of interest to me. I also have a number of blogs and regular sites that I visit often. I regularly check the LeaderPost and CBC News apps for local/national stories, and those apps often prompt me to look up stories from other sources. I even read some of the articles that friends and colleagues have posted to Facebook. Regardless of what I am reading, I do have strategies I use as a reader to help me evaluate the things I read.
Photo Credit: d_t_vos Flickr via Compfight cc
When I was creating my vlog about emerging literacy challenges in a fake news world, I did a lot of thinking about my own literacy practices. Maybe because of the literacy work I do now and my former work as a teacher librarian, I realized that critically thinking about information and evaluating media is something I do fairly automatically now. Unless I am reading something like the blog of an author I have followed for years, or something that doesn’t really need to be checked, I am often a lateral reader. (I did not have a name for what I was doing before my vlog research.) Without even consciously thinking about it, I realized I often search online for the topic or news story I am reading to see what else is being said about it. Who else has written about this idea? What other agencies are reporting on this? What do I know about the sources? I am not saying I do this 100% of the time, but if the story is important, controversial, seems questionable or has facts I think should be corroborated, then I usually do this.
The funny thing is, it doesn’t even take that much time to be a critical thinker in this way. Sometimes, I don’t have time, or I don’t want/need to dig deeper, but I will often look something up again later, when I can. Back in the day, I used to teach students (and teachers) about website evaluation – how do I know if it is trustworthy? We had checklists of things to “look out for”. We know more now, and that is no longer effective as a strategy to help students. It certainly doesn’t work for me in my daily reading, so why would we teach students something that won’t help them in theirs?
In my research for the vlog, I found several videos that were really good on the topic of fake news and being critical. The video below is powerful as it is an example of fake news affecting lives and strategies to combat it. I thought I would leave you with her thoughts about how our reading behaviours can have real life impact.