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Creating both great producers and consumers of information

I’m in snowy and snowing Minnesota at its annual Council for the Social Studies conference. We’re sheltered inside the state History Center – what better place for a bunch of social studies teachers?

First session is right up my alley. Strengthening democracy by training kids to be better users of social media and online tools. Jennifer Bloom from the Learning Law and Democracy Foundation is helping us create socially responsible and informed citizens. The Foundation hosts the Teaching Civics website – a cool place with over 800 lesson plans. They also have some handy ed resources.

As we get better at training kids to be engaged and informed citizens, she says that we need to shift our thinking a bit. We need to help our kids be producers of news rather than just consumers of news.

We started by playing a witness game. One of us had a few seconds to view an image of an event as the “witness.” The “journalist” then interviewed the witness. Had a great discussion about bias, observation skills, questioning skills, corroboration, and the role of media.

The connection? We need to train our students to develop these skills – this helps them both collect and organize information as well as how best to use this information.

Why is there an Amendment that guarantees freedom of the press and another that guarantees freedom of speech? Is a blogger or a Twitter user the same as a reporter for Fox or the Washington Post? Do they get the same guarantees? I love these questions. What a great way to start having kids close read the Bill of Rights!

The takeaway? Focus on training kids to be critical consumers but also engaged citizens.

(I’ll post more of her stuff when it’s uploaded.)

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