Media Literacy assignment: suggestions?

  • #1
Andy Resnick
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I am toying with the idea of introducing a 'media literacy' assignment in my intro physics course this fall; my hope is to find a 'reputable' and a 'biased' report on a science topic that I can redact bylines/organizations from and have students compare/contrast.

Thoughts? And I'm probably going to regret asking this, but do you have any favorite examples of biased or otherwise misinformed reports (on a science topic) that would be useful in a classroom environment?

Thanks in advance!
 

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  • #3
symbolipoint
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I am toying with the idea of introducing a 'media literacy' assignment in my intro physics course this fall;
I am skeptical about that. Would you prefer to keep focus on the actual introductory course's objectives, and not let social media nor journalism media distract you from teaching your introductory course of Physics? The feeling from your "media literacy" component of your course is that you hope your students, who are still in their introductory course or courses, would be able to argue effectively against the typical non-critical thinking general public.
 
  • #4
Keith_McClary
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'biased' report
Climate denial comes to mind, but that might not be at intro physics level.

Maybe this sort of thing:

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arctic-air-pure-chill-ac-1.jpg
https://topgadgettech.com/products/blast-auxiliary-portable-ac-top-rated-portable-air-conditioner
 
  • #7
I am toying with the idea of introducing a 'media literacy' assignment in my intro physics course this fall; my hope is to find a 'reputable' and a 'biased' report on a science topic that I can redact bylines/organizations from and have students compare/contrast.

Thoughts? And I'm probably going to regret asking this, but do you have any favorite examples of biased or otherwise misinformed reports (on a science topic) that would be useful in a classroom environment?

Thanks in advance!
Greetings,

I suspect, indeed hope, that all of us who teach, or have taught, have endeavored to enhance the critical and objective thought processes of our students at all levels.

In agreement with @symbolipoint, I as well am highly skeptical that a 'media literacy' assignment is a good way to achieve that objective. Particularly so given the current polarization of our society and the possibly questionable motives of the media.

Perhaps an alternative approach would be to select an historical physical theory that has been replaced by a newer, more comprehensive one and to have the students compare the two theories and critique the manner in which the earlier theory came to be replaced. That keeps the discussion clearly focused on physics while providing good insights as to how science is conducted.

Best regards,
ES
 
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  • #8
vela
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The feeling from your "media literacy" component of your course is that you hope your students, who are still in their introductory course or courses, would be able to argue effectively against the typical non-critical thinking general public.
Or to raise the students' awareness of how science actually works; how science is a process, not just a body of knowledge; how the media tends to distort scientific results in its reporting; how the media likes to sensationalize; how they, the students, can in fact read articles with a critical eye and some skepticism; etc.

Perhaps an alternative approach would be to select an historical physical theory that has been replaced by a newer, more comprehensive one and to have the students compare the two theories and critique the manner in which the earlier theory came to be replaced. That keeps the discussion clearly focused on physics while providing good insights as to how science is conducted.
This kind of assignment — "go read something about the historical development of a theory and report back what you found" — sounds, to me, relatively boring and ordinary. It doesn't require much engagement and evaluation of ideas by the students. It's like asking students to learn how to swim by watching someone else swim rather than jumping into the water themselves.
 
  • #9
Andy Resnick
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Greetings,

I suspect, indeed hope, that all of us who teach, or have taught, have endeavored to enhance the critical and objective thought processes of our students at all levels.

In agreement with @symbolipoint, I as well am highly skeptical that a 'media literacy' assignment is a good way to achieve that objective. Particularly so given the current polarization of our society and the possibly questionable motives of the media.

Perhaps an alternative approach would be to select an historical physical theory that has been replaced by a newer, more comprehensive one and to have the students compare the two theories and critique the manner in which the earlier theory came to be replaced. That keeps the discussion clearly focused on physics while providing good insights as to how science is conducted.

Best regards,
ES
Thanks for your thought!
 
  • #10
This kind of assignment — "go read something about the historical development of a theory and report back what you found" — sounds, to me, relatively boring and ordinary. It doesn't require much engagement and evaluation of ideas by the students. It's like asking students to learn how to swim by watching someone else swim rather than jumping into the water themselves.
Greetings,

Surely there are more dynamical and engaging approaches than your "read and report back." Debate and defend is just one obvious example.

Given your restrictions, any approach to the objective would be "boring and ordinary".

Best regards,
ES
 
  • #11
berkeman
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my hope is to find a 'reputable' and a 'biased' report on a science topic that I can redact bylines/organizations from and have students compare/contrast.
I don't know if this would fit, but during the "FTL Neutrinos Controversy", there were probably plenty of questionable reports by various parts of the media. I think the scientific media tended to be more reserved, reporting on efforts to find the anomoly and verify that it did not end up in a big problem for current physics. You could do a bit of Google searching to see if there are clear examples of bad media reports versus the more restrained media reports until the controversy was solved...

1625250604228.png
 
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  • #12
Andy Resnick
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Just in case anyone is interested, here is my assignment:

This semester, the WAC essays will explore the concept of ‘media literacy’. A variety of science topics have been extensively covered in popular media during the past few years, raising questions such as “Who is an expert and who is not?” and “What do you do about misinformation in a society that protects the freedom of speech?”

The schedule of the essays is:
[...]
Essay #1: Choose a science topic of interest to you that has been covered recently by popular media - it does not have to be strictly ‘Physics’, but it must be a scientific topic. Find 2 media reports that claim to present the science of your chosen topic- one report should be ‘unbiased’ (according to you), and the other report should be ‘biased’ (again, according to you). This first essay will consist of:
  • A description of your chosen topic and an explanation *why* you chose that particular topic.
  • Full attributions (citations) of both media reports. This means I am able to independently locate and read your chosen reports. IMPORTANT: do not identify which report is ‘unbiased’ and which is ‘biased’.
Essay#2: Provide a critique of the report you claim is ‘unbiased’. Explain why you think it is unbiased. Provide evidence (with attributions/citations) for anything required to justify your claim that your chosen report is ‘unbiased’.

Essay#3: Provide a critique of the report you claim is ‘biased’. Explain why you think it is biased. Provide evidence (with attributions/citations) for anything required to justify your claim that your chosen report is ‘biased’.

Essay #4: Respond to my comments provided to you as feedback for both of your prior essays.
 

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