Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook make sharing easy, much easier, in fact, than reading the full content or discovering the real source of the post.
An algorithm, which you have no control over, determines what content reaches your eyes.
There is no human to complain to when that goes wrong.
Facebook makes money through likes and shares. It wants you to be engaged and share what you see. Critical thinking, truth, facts, none of these factor into the profit equation.
In what is now referred to the Post-truth era, it is disturbing to think about how much false content is circulated as fact. Students struggle to determine the difference between truth and fiction.
As parents and educators, how are we modelling practices that promote facts and reliable sources over clickbait and sensationalism?
On social media, liking, sharing and retweeting shows others the content that is meaningful to you. It is a reflection of who you are, and what you believe in.
A decade ago, I used to retweet fairly indiscriminately. If it looked like a good resource, I shared it. Then, Ira Socol took the time to question my retweet. I realized that retweeting is actually a form of curating. If I want to create value online for others, I need to critically evaluate resources and ideas, and share them with descriptive comments.
What I choose to share reflects my professionalism. What I choose to share is the value I am creating for others. Before sharing, I carefully evaluate the source, and I often highlight (in my comments) the part I find most valuable.
Fortunately, I have a loud PLN that will quickly question almost anything I share openly.
Other curators help me sort through the unfathomable amount of information on the web. Stephen Downes, Doug Belshaw, and Audrey Watters are examples of thought leaders who filter, curate and share information regularly. I know that there will be value in their curations.
More importantly, what do we do when we encounter colleagues and friends sharing misleading information or sheer fiction as though it were factual? Do we just turn our heads the other way, or do we take the time, like Ira Socol did for me, and challenge the source or the thinking?
Barack Obama said that we can’t move democracy forward if we don’t have a common set of facts to refer to. Now that we have seen the impact of the propaganda spread through social media, what will we do as educators to shut it down?
How do we ensure our students can critically evaluate information, triangulate sources, and distinguish between belief and fact?
Featured Image by Wesley Fryer CC-BY-2.0
One thought on “Retweet or Share?”
I’ve written much about how we get students to be discriminating, critical thinkers and plan to publish a course early in the New Year after updating and re-crafting it to accommodate the “carnage” we’re seeing. In my view, we need to begin with fostering an entirely new attitude – among both educators and students – to break the use culture of skim, cut and paste that we currently have. Students need to think like detectives and historians – skeptically and thoroughly. Tools help a little bit; databases, curated search engines like SweetSearch, news that is at least partially filtered like Google News all help, but none matter if students ask great questions before they begin their research and aren’t determined to persevere in their research until they have found authoritative, objective and comprehensive resources.