Spotlight on MediaWise: More Than Just Fact Checking

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Professional fact checkers and platforms alone cannot solve the problem of rampant online misinformation. There are too many hoaxers and too many opportunists. To fully combat the spread of misinformation online, we must teach a new generation to be more skilled evaluators of digital content.

That’s the goal with the groundbreaking non-profit project called MediaWise.

MediaWise is part of the Google News Initiative, funded by Google.org, and aims to teach 1 million teenagers how to spot fake news on the internet by 2020, with at least half of them coming from underserved or low-income communities.

What does MediaWise do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

Main Goal: Teach teenagers how to learn fact from fiction online.

Reach 1 million students by 2020 through:

-Stanford History Education group curriculum called ‘Civic Online Reasoning’

-events nationwide

-teen fact-checking network social media posts on @MediaWise

-Other social media engagement including help from influencers like John Green

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What makes MediaWise stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about MediaWise?

We have so many unique and inspiring parts of this project — I think each piece is equally fascinating and innovative.

The centerpiece of the project is a new curriculum being written by grant partner Stanford History Education Group that will be available to schools across the country in the fall of 2019. Stanford is writing this curriculum after studying how professional fact-checkers, college students and historians navigate digital information. The foundation of the Stanford lessons is built on skills that professional fact-checkers use after Stanford discovered that fact-checkers and journalists are more critical and think very differently about what they read on the internet and how they sort through misleading or flat-out false information.

While the curriculum is underway, we’re launching a widespread teen fact-checking network with high school and middle school students across the country. With their help, the MediaWise team creating original content on our own social media accounts showing what teens can do to figure what’s real and what’s not online, fact-checking misinformation on the internet in real-time. As of December 2018, there are more than 1 million impressions on @MediaWise fact-checking content across our social accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The third pillar of the project is in-person teaching sessions being held across the country with teens. Both big and small events are on the docket — everything from the Teen Vogue Summit where YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen helped teach 500 teens MediaWise skills in June 2018, to small community events with more hands-on training like our first workshop event held at the Poynter offices in St. Petersburg, Florida in October 2018 (watch video here!). We also just completed our first series of events in schools while on a visit to Houston in early January where we taught more than 5,000 students and teaching MediaWise skills.

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Some recent press from that Houston trip here:

Google blog post: Helping teens root out misinformation and get media savvy

Poynter: MediaWise training proves teens need — and want — help detecting misinformation online

Digiday: How Google-backed MediaWise is teaching teens media literacy

The Hill: Let’s teach 1 million teenagers how to spot fake news by 2020

KPRC 2 Houston: Teen fact-checking network event held at Memorial High School

In addition, we’re working with YouTube Creators like John Green, best-selling author of A Fault in Our Stars, host and co-creator of the CrashCourse YouTube channel (which has 8.5M subscribers), and other social media influencers to get our teachings and message out. CrashCourse recently launched a 10-part series called ‘Navigation Digital Information’ all about MediaWise that gives a sneak peek into Stanford’s curriculum.

What are recent projects or new resources that MediaWise would like to share with other NAMLE members?

Some SHEG lessons and materials teaching MediaWise skills are available free for download now here: https://sheg.stanford.edu/civic-online-reasoning

John Green’s CrashCourse series is an incredibly useful teaching tool as well. Links below:

Preview episode

Episode #1 Introduction to Navigating Online Information

Episode #2 The Facts about Fact Checking

Episode #3  Check Yourself With Lateral Reading

Episode #4 Who Can You Trust?

What are the connections between your work and media literacy?

In addition to the great support from NAMLE as a MediaWise project partner, MediaWise skills that we are teaching and the SHEG curriculum itself go hand-in-hand.

Throughout this project, we are trying to teach teenagers how to be more media literate through very modern and innovative ways like working with social media influencers and using Instagram stories live polling during our in-school presentations.

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Why is media literacy important to you?

I am a third generation journalist. It’s deeply important to me that students, in particular, are taught to be media literate. One statistic that has stood out to me since I joined to lead this project: SHEG research has shown that more than 80% of students do not know the difference between a real news story and a native advertisement online. This stat continues to shock me on a daily basis but I think we are making headway with educating America’s teens on these issues through the MediaWise project.

Anything else you want our readers to know about MediaWise, your mission, your staff?

We are currently building out our MediaWise events calendar so if you would like us to come to your local high school or middle school to do a MediaWise event, please email us mwtips@poynter.org. In addition, follow our work share our content on social media and tag us @MediaWise. Thank you!

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