Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Bias Literacy: Pick the Low-Lying Fruit
Back in the analog age, when I was a kid, things were different. I'm not saying this was preferable, but it was obvious to me that there were points of view that were just plain wrong. With education and experience, one starts to see some good even in opposing points of view. But that's not the same as treating all information as equal.
I believe most educators feel it is important for students to learn to identify an author's point of view. Doing this in the context of teaching digital information fluency is one approach, although I think language arts or social studies is a better context. For me, this is an opportunity to integrate online search experiences within standard courses. Students will learn something about information fluency while focusing on authorship and point of view, instruction that naturally fits in language arts and social studies.
Rather than rely solely on textbooks (e.g., book reports) to have students describe point of view (aka bias), I'd bring in blogs and online editorials. Textbooks and reference books are probably the hardest places to detect bias. Works of non-fiction and fiction are respectfully easier. But the real low-lying fruit is the common daily blog post. It's an unparalleled opportunity to see bias up close.
I'll limit myself to one example for now. Let's say you are studying a current event; something students might find interesting like 'climate change'. To make the point that there are different points of view on this subject, you could select (in advance) several blogs written about climate change. Have the students read them, and from the keywords used, identify the author's bias (single point of view) or objectivity (multiple, even opposing points of view). Compare the views. Are they all the same? How are they different? Are they all correct? What makes one better than another? Should everything be believed as written? Why or why not?
Here are three blogs on climate change. I've started to unpack the first one in terms of the keywords and phrases used. The challenge is to do the same with the other blogs.