What follows is a full transcript of our conversation for the podcast. It has been lightly edited for clarity and includes some extended sections that are not part in the show as posted. To listen to the podcast, go to SoundCloud.
Lee Schneider: This is EdTech NOW, a 10 minute podcast about education technology and how it’s used in the classroom. EDTech NOW is sponsored by Stackup, a Chrome browser extension that tracks reading online for students and teachers and delivers metrics to administrators. Here’s our host, Noah Geisel, Education Director at Stackup. Hey, Noah.
Noah Geisel: Hey, Lee, great to be with you. And our guest is Richard Chang. He is the former associate editor of THE journal. He’s an educational technology and arts and entertainment writer, as well as an adjunct instructor Glendale Community College. Richard, welcome to the podcast.
Richard Chang: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.
Noah: Yeah we’re really excited to kind of pick your expertise for this episode. And these episodes are mostly about reading and fact-checking.
The first question that we wanted to ask you is really about the differentiation between real news and fake news that you know whether it’s just observations teachers are making in the classrooms or studies that are showing that a lot of our learners can’t distinguish real news from fake news. What have you seen that educators can do to help?
Richard: That’s a really good question and it’s very topical. I mean even today we almost every day these days we hear about President Trump lambasting something and stake news, and and it seems to have been an issue since really since the election. How to distinguish real from fake …
I know that Common Sense Media offers some guidelines check them out on the Web site as to how to distinguish real news from fake news. Obviously there are some tried and true and very established sources such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, where you know they’ve done their reporting and their fact checking and their sourcing and more often than not you can generally depend on them for you know real news, I guess; perhaps to a lesser degree, CNN and broadcast, you know, the old networks, ABC, CBS, NBC can generally be relied upon, although there have been some pretty infamous instances in which CBS might have gotten the story wrong about George W. Bush.
But generally speaking they’re pretty reliable. If you’re looking online, however, at some website that it’s not that familiar, and they use a lot of anonymous sources, and there’s not a lot of references to on you know actual experts or references that you can check out, that can be dubious, and I know that sometimes Facebook has put up stories that have been accused of being fake and not real. If there are a lot of anonymous sources and there’s not a lot of real experts or sources or references that you can track down and Google even find out who they are, then I would not rely on those as your primary sources. That’s probably a start.
Noah: Great great advice, and transitioning from the idea of what teachers and students can be doing. You mentioned Facebook. You we know that that’s a source where a lot of students and families are getting their news. And there’s been some pretty public efforts on Facebook to fact check that those sources. You as a journalist with a high level view of these efforts, how do you think they’re doing now so far in helping the readers view the content that they’re going to encounter on their platforms?
Richard: You know I think they’re doing a better job. Initially they hired real people. You know, there’s value to real people. They hired real people to go out and search for good news stories and to post them on the right hand column of Facebook where you’ll see several feet of news and then they decided that in the interest of speed and. I guess saving perhaps some money that they would automate some of that and get rid of some of the human editors. And that’s where they get into trouble because automation doesn’t always it can’t always distinguish real from fake and we’ll pick up a random story that that on the web somewhere in Facebook was accused in you know known to have put out stories that were stories that were entirely verifiable and they got into a little bit of trouble with them. Subsequently they they made agreements with the major news organizations such as The New York Times and some broadcast networks to carry New York Times and Washington Post stories on their site as if they’re you know without a link back to the source. But they made agreements to carry the stories on their site so that Facebook viewers wouldn’t have to leave the sort of the confines of Facebook so they could keep eyeballs on the on their page. I think their approach has evolved and these days there’s a little more vetting going on and Savoye human discernment. And I think generally speaking we can rely on Facebook but not all. That would be my assessment.
Noah: Speaking of that kind of vetting and discernment aspect there’s definitely a really big market in education space for packaging of content right where you have folks like MackinVIA, a friend of Stackup, and were you know they have these massive catalogs were there curating and packaging content for educators. What are you seeing from your place at 30000 feet of just what that’s looking like?
Richard: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think Discovery Education is doing a very very good job. They have a lot of resources and they also have an excellent network of teachers, students, experts and so they have what they call their “techbooks” and they get they — go through a lot of you know trial and error and retesting with that stuff, and there’s a lot of oversight from actual K-12 educators and administrators. I think that they’re doing a pretty good job. I guess you know there’s the we are an educational resources which are still being explored. And I think the challenge for educators is now that they have all these free resources out there they not only have to spend time teaching curriculum but then they also have to spend time building a curriculum and reconstructing it you know for today’s students, and I think it’s still being determined what are the best resources out there. I think it’s still kind of a wild wild west out it’s not that really hasn’t been codified as to who you know the leaders are quite interesting.
Noah: Would you say that the quality is at least in 2017 we’ll see where it goes in 1890 and beyond but today the quality definitely correlates to your getting what you pay for.
Richard: It’s a good question. Not quite sure yet. You know certainly you know with Discovery Education is here as an example I would say that you know without being necessarily an advocate I think you would probably get what you pay for because pretty well tested and it’s in line with curriculum standards the core curriculum and state standards that are I’m not quite sure if I could stand by. You get what you pay for. So it’s still viable it’s still being formed with the best resources are out there.
Richard: I really love that answer, and one last question while we still have a few minutes of time with you. As a journalist we’re talking about fake news talking about vetting of resources. Do you think there’s implications to some of this, that we see an all content areas in the K-12 space today that are going to have really profound impacts on just our future journalists of tomorrow?
Richard: We saw the same thing with when the blogs were were on the I think you know the phenomenon of the blog is sort of crested and it’s kind of a little bit on the decline. But you had this whole, I guess, generation of of new online journalists who were challenging the standards and the training of traditional journalists who you know come to school, and had multiple internships and professional experiences from newspapers and TV stations and radio stations. And I think we are we’re seeing that challenge you know today — the sort of the Wikipedia-ization of news and information where you have a whole slew of online journalists and bloggers and social media denizens who are perhaps don’t have the same approach or training, and are relying a lot more on information online, on anonymous sources, on things that you know sources that we are not necessarily accustomed to, and I think it’s sort of a big challenge and I think Wikipedia-zation — I mean you know when you go to Wikipedia page on some subject — sure you know you’ll see references quoted but sometimes the information is not airtight, not a hundred percent accurate, and even if they provide references, those in and of themselves may be sources that are not vetted and you know proven true and verified and that sort of thing.
So it’s a big challenge for K through 12 educators, students alike and for journalism today. I think the whole industry is facing almost kind of a crisis as far as what you know what the future holds.
Noah: And that’s kind of profound it with both kind of the scary part of it but also the opportunity that exists there to for where we go in the future. A quick outro we like to give our guests an opportunity to do — is is there a question that you wish we would have asked that you’d love to answer?
Richard: Well I guess, you know, all of us have sort of embraced the Internet as being a great source of information, entertainment, and news. You know there was a fellow by the name of Nicholas Carr who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. And he’s also pretty well known for an article that was in The Atlantic called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” I think this field has yet to be explored in detail. You know, I remember I’m not that old but I remember a time where we used to spend a lot of time reading books and focusing and concentrating and actually finishing novels and books on history and nonfiction and whatnot but it seems in today’s day and age with the Internet and with screens everywhere and with you know the small screen of the mobile phone or the I had a tablet and you know I think there have been cursory studies but I think we have yet to determine what the Internet and the screens are doing to our brains. I would tend to agree with Nicholas Carr and in that perhaps it’s having an effect on our attention spans.
And I think we are you know we used to be able to finish books but now we’re impatient and we it’s hard to even finish a couple of chapters. We used to be able to link to somewhere else or to surf or to switch the channel or to go to the website or you know to watch a video. And I think with media changing the way it has I think it’s also changing the way we think. And I think that’s something that we can see in students today. You know we’re really hardwired to the iPads and the laptops but give them a book that’s more than 300 pages and they struggle with it.
Noah: You know you mentioned something about the media changing — it’s also changing the way we think. And with so much information transaction going on online you know whether it’s even just at the level of copying and pasting and plagiarizing sources. Is that going to be just a growing temptation for students?
Richard: I think it is. I think it’s already a problem. You know there are programs such as Turnitin, which does a pretty good job if a student has written a paper, you can, an educator, can run it through a program and see if any of it has been lifted or plagiarized or cut and pasted. I think not only for students but also for journalists. It’s becoming a problem. It’s becoming a temptation, because so much information can be accessed online and you know in a way it’s a blessing, you have all this information you don’t have to actually go out and do any research or you know have to go to a library. But in a way it’s also a curse because it’s become increasingly easy easier just to go to a Web site lift a little bit here and go to another Web site and lift a little bit there and incorporate it into your piece. And students may think that they might be able to get away with it. And I think that again I mentioned Turnitin, but educators have to be increasingly diligent about not only catching copied text and copied research and whatnot but also teaching students the appropriate approaches and why it’s not ethical and not right to copy and paste and the value of original thinking, original writing. I think that needs to be emphasized in a classroom.
Noah: Richard thank you so much for being on the podcast with us today.
Richard: Well, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.