A recent study of over 5,000 US college students — Across the Great Divide — examined how they engage with news media. Not surprisingly, Facebook is a major social media source of news and conservative-leaning students prefer Fox News while liberal-leaning students prefer the New York Times. Faculty play a significant role in getting students to pay attention to news and to look at it more critically.
“It is notable that finding out about news from professors served both purposes — making the classroom an interesting crossroad between academia and daily life. Though professors may not be intentionally teaching news literacy, they may well be demonstrating that familiarity with news is a social practice and a form of civic engagement … Our findings suggest faculty have great potential to use discussions about news to model critical inquiry as a lifelong practice as well as practical ways to ascertain the trustworthiness of news sources. And while faculty may feel ill-equipped to engage students in discussion about highly charged and controversial topics, learning how to have these conversations is itself a valuable learning opportunity.” —FirstMonday
Once out of college, students still need trusted connections. While college plays an important role in news and media literacy, what happens when students graduate? Not only can faculty provide guidance in college but they could also help each student create a news/learning network before graduating. We live in a network society. Even after four years of study, many students leave their institutions of higher learning only to find themselves inadequately prepared for what is next. Developing a professional learning network is what they don’t teach at university.
There is continuing personal, business, and societal value in making sense of and sharing knowledge. The right information helps to create the best knowledge from which we can take informed action. A knowledge society, using digital networks, has to be based on trusted relationships or it becomes a surveillance society.
A key aspect of personal knowledge mastery is finding trusted advisors. One method is to develop a trusted inner circle for information, insight, and feedback. For ongoing sensemaking, everyone today needs access to a professional learning community. I participate in several online networks and host one as well — the perpetual beta coffee club. Cooperative learning strengthens a knowledge network. Deep and diverse networks can protect us from the post-truth machines by providing trusted filters. None of us can deal with the digital era information onslaught alone.
Making sense of information, and getting a diversity of perspectives, is for every citizen. The first step is to start making connections. One method is to break your filter bubble.
I will find highly active [social media] accounts run by people who are wildly dissimilar from me, or who have had wildly dissimilar life experiences. These people must be talking frequently about the issues I hope to understand.
I will follow one of these people every day for thirty days, and I will keep following each of them for no less than thirty days, regardless of how much I dislike what they say.
I will not engage with the owners of any of these accounts. I will not debate them, I will not argue, I will not interact in any way apart from just reading.
I will engage in self-study when I encounter terms or concepts that are foreign to me.