A new metaliteracy workshop was facilitated by Prof. Tom Mackey as a Deliberative Conversation at the SUNY Empire State College Student Academic Conference on April 7, 2022. This was the first in-person student conference at the college since the global pandemic prevented such face-to-face gatherings for two years.
The metaliteracy resources, questions, and techniques applied in this workshop are openly available and transferrable to a wide range of settings. Feel free to facilitate your own Deliberative Conversation at your institution based on this presentation.
Photo credit: Thanks to Anita DeCianni-Brown, Collegewide Career Development Coordinator at SUNY Empire.
CNN and other news sources recently reported on a study of over 8000 Americans who were surveyed about their ability to discern fake news via “headlines presented in the format of how news articles would look if they appeared in a Facebook feed. They were also asked to rate their ability to determine whether stories were true.”
Trudi was asked to comment on the article by a member of her University’s Office of Communications and Marketing. That piece was published on June 2 in a shortened form. Here are her original comments with brief CNN quotes setting the stage:
From the CNN article: “In all, these results paint a worrying picture: The individuals who are least equipped to identify false news content are also the least aware of their own limitations and, therefore, more susceptible to believing it and spreading it further…”
Trudi: It can be eye-opening to realize your powers of discernment may not be what you think they are, regardless of your level of education, profession, or political leanings. I recommend that everyone take the Common Misconceptions test offered by the organization Clearer Thinking. While it focuses on common misconceptions rather than headlines, there is enough similarity to assess, as they put it, “How well can you tell reality from B.S.” Not only will you find out if your understanding of the 30 items they ask about is on target, but, more importantly, “this test will analyze your answer patterns and provide a custom report that tells you how often you should trust your gut and when it’s better to be suspicious of your intuitions.” I was speaking from personal experience when I said it was eye-opening!
From the CNN article: “If people incorrectly see themselves as highly skilled at identifying false news, they may unwittingly be more likely to consume, believe and share it, especially if it conforms to their worldview. Recognizing that one’s judgments on the truthfulness of headlines or content aren’t infallible will, hopefully, keep down the negligent sharing of false information.”
Trudi: There are other things that you can do besides take the Common Misconceptions test and triangulating news from sources with different perspectives. I recommend becoming familiar with the Metaliteracy Framework, which emphasizes the importance of becoming a responsible citizen and ethical consumer, sharer, and creator of information, both individually and collaboratively. The Metaliteracy Learning Collaborative has developed a number of free online tools, from short videos on YouTube to fun quests to more extensive Coursera MOOCs (massive open online courses), all of which provide a great introduction to the learning domains, roles, and characteristics of metaliterate learners—people who know to be skeptical about information until it is assessed. This list of resources was originally offered in the form of a blog post, but is now the first item under the Metaliteracy in Practice tab. Kudos to Kelsey O’Brien for the design of the resource list.
A second approach, related to metaliteracy, is to shift one’s thinking away from cognitive biases and towards open inquiry and curiosity. There are a number of new initiatives, such as the Open Mind non-profit which offers tools that “equip people with the mindset and skillset to communicate constructively across differences.”
This new presentation addresses today’s fractured information environment and how metaliteracy can be applied in these challenging times. Trudi and Tom talk about ways to rebuild trust in these environments through metaliteracy and to share ideas about how to design open learning initiatives with this model.
Tom Mackey’s presentation Advancing Metaliteracy to Rebuild Trust launched the Reason & Respect initiative at SUNY Empire State College. This series of online conversations “provides a forum for students, faculty, staff, and our broader communities to explore and discuss topics related to the election and learn about critical issues” (SUNY Empire). Tom’s presentation examines metaliteracy as a pedagogical strategy to address the challenges of misinformation and disinformation during this election cycle and a global pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic is also an “infodemic” that is defined by the spread of false and misleading information. The sharing of deceptive and untruthful information during a global pandemic is especially problematic when accurate and reliable communication is essential for saving lives. Misinformation and disinformation are amplified by echo chambers, tribalism, and contentious partisan environments that reinforce mistrust and division. How do we rebuild trust based on reason and respect? How do we engage in difficult conversations about critical issues while reexamining fixed mindsets and understanding multiple perspectives?
During an age of misinformation and well-orchestrated disinformation campaigns, it is especially vital to make informed decisions based on accurate content from reliable and truthful sources. Metaliteracy is a comprehensive model that helps individuals to become both critical consumers and ethical producers of information in participatory environments (Mackey & Jacobson, 2011; Mackey & Jacobson, 2014). Metaliterate learners are reflective, well-informed, and civic-minded contributors to shared communities. They adapt to changing information technologies and work conscientiously to build communities of trust (Mackey, 2019). Metaliterate learners reflect on how they feel about information and the specific contexts of information environments (Jacobson, et. al., 2018). They develop a metaliteracy mindset and examine their own predispositions while consciously seeking information from multiple perspectives and sources (Jacobson, et. al., 2018). Metaliteracy has been applied in many different educational settings, from classrooms and libraries to online virtual environments, showing that it is possible to advance rational and reflective dialogue among engaged participants in shared spaces. This presentation explores how metaliteracy is a lifelong practice for building truthful and trusted communities based on a shared commitment to both empathy and understanding.
A recent panel presentation by the Metaliteracy Learning Collaborative supports students in a Pathways in Technology (PTECH) Early College High School who are working on a Public Service Announcement (PSA) project related to misinformation. If you are interested in applying metaliteracy to your teaching practices, check out this interactive presentation and associated breakout sessions entitled Metaliterate Learners Take a Stand Against Misinformation. This model for applying metaliteracy in a problem-based learning scenario was developed by Tom Mackey from SUNY Empire State College, in collaboration with Trudi Jacobson, and Kelsey O’Brien from the University at Albany. Sandra Barkevich, Business and Career Explorations Instructor at HFM Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) invited the Metaliteracy Learning Collaborative to develop this interactive presentation. During this session, metaliteracy was introduced to reinforce the learner as producer role that the students take on as collaborative creators of PSA’s about misinformation.
During this session, the students and teachers were introduced to the core components of metaliteracy (roles, domains, characteristics, goals and learning objectives) and were then organized into three different breakout sessions. The organization of the breakouts was based on three of the components (roles, characteristics, goals and learning objectives). Members of each group also engaged with the learning domains as they thought about next steps for their project, what would be required of them, and how awareness of these domains might be used to enhance both their learning and their work. The students applied what they learned about these metaliteracy principles during the small group activities which included interactive surveys and an interactive padlet where each group shared one big takeaway.
We really enjoyed working with the 9th graders as they engaged with these metaliteracy ideas and look forward to the development of their PSAs! If you have any questions about this presentation and how to apply it to your pre-college or higher education setting, feel free to reach out to us at any time!