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Preparing students for a digital world

Part Three: Conclusions

 

Last month we introduced the idea of consequential fact and how we are reworking some of our approaches for teaching historical thinking skills by implementing new tools for teaching cause, consequence, continuity and change over time.

You may have wondered why the focus on history. Quite simply, history exposes students to pretty much every field of study – biology, physics, math, cosmology, sociology, social sciences and literature.

MAC’s Director of Integrated Arts, Christine Butterfield, shared many of the exciting initiatives we’ve undertaken and she has a little more to say regarding how we empower students to seek truth.

“As we discussed last month, I think it’s only going to get harder for future generations to weed out the truths and fictions. I was actually thinking last night that we are moving into an age where we don’t even look things up anymore. We’re already asking Alexa and Siri to find the answer for us and I wonder how/if claim testing is being written into the algorithms of those devices,” Christine observes.  “Is it scary to know that AI will decide what truth fits our model of reality? Because the algorithms are already pushing content to us that fits the reality we have individually constructed.  I think this is going to become more and more important to teach students different approaches to knowledge.”

“Algorithms are rules. They’re binary. They’re yes or no, they’re black or white. Truth is never binary. Truth is a value. Truth is emotional, it’s fluid, and above all, it’s human. No matter how quick we get with computers, no matter how much information we have, you’ll never be able to remove the human from the truth-seeking exercise, because in the end, it is a uniquely human trait.” – Markham Nolan, Managing Editor, Storyful.com

While we could spend lots of time on these existential issues, what practical steps can a teacher, a parent or a student take to enhance the likelihood of unearthing “some very basic, shared understanding about what causes what, what’s broadly desirable, what’s dangerous, and how to characterize what’s already happened?”*

We’ve provided a few practical steps from various sources to help everyone in the quest to gain perspective and increase your chances of discovering reliable, trustworthy information.

Check your sources:

  • Be skeptical
    Just because something is presented as a fact, it doesn’t mean that it is. Question everything.
  • Examine the author’s credentials and affiliations
    Always research the background of any resources you are considering. Consider the author’s credentials and affiliations during your search.
  • Evaluate what sources are cited
    Beware if the author doesn’t list recognized sources.
  • Make sure the source is up-to-date
    Make sure that your source is still relevant and applicable.
  • Beware of sources that use vague terms like “recent studies show”, or “many people believe”, without backing up these claims with citations.
    Online sources are notorious for this.
  • Beware of bias
    Always evaluate if the source presents clear and unbiased information.**

Break out of your echo chamber:

Over time, algorithms turn slight preferences into a polarized environment in which only the loudest voices and most extreme opinions on either side can break through the noise.

Seek information that actively contradicts your preconceived opinions.

  • “Like” everything
    Algorithms can’t categorize you if they can’t determine what you really like.
  • Follow prestige publications across the political spectrum
    A profile searching for The National Review and The New Yorker means you’ll keep your newsfeed clear of the most polarizing stories pushed by trolls on both the right and left who are out to influence and incite anger rather than inform.
  • Create space for new voices
    Consider temporarily muting celebrities whose accounts share your perspectives to make room for the rest of your efforts to break through.***

*https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/reality-and-its-alternatives/articles/truth-and-consequences

**https://paperpile.com/g/find-credible-sources/

***https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-twitter-echo-chamber-confirmation-bias/

Author: Lisa M. Duranleau | Executive Director

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