Saturday, February 25, 2023

Where Do Students Get Their Climate Change "411?"

Back in the day, 411 was the universal code you dialed on your home landline when you wanted to get information or directory assistance. This was way back when "landline" wasn't really a thing because it was just your phone. The only one you had. The one in your home--the only place you had a phone. 
Of course that also was in the days we had television too. (I'm not THAT big of a dinosaur!) So, you could also get information from the well as libraries, newspapers, magazines, and more.
Well of course, here in the ultra-connected digital age where smartphones and tablets are extensions of our arms, even though 411 is still sort of "a thing" (unless you are an AT&T customer), we get a lot of information in other places. 
On the Social Institute's blog, I ran across the February 10, 2023 article "Climate Change Education: Where Are Students Getting Their Information?" [The Social Institute is a paid, online learning platform and curriculum for schools to help students grades 4-12 navigate their emotions and the tangled world of social media and technology.
Environmental education is not standard state to state at this point in the United States. (Sadly, it often times becomes a highly charged political issue, when truthfully, helping our planet should be universal...but I digress.) If students aren't consistently learning about climate change in school, it begs the question: where are they getting their 411? 
All fingers tend to point to social media. TikTok is a wildly popular way to share soundbites, and there are influencers galore (on every subject) as well as on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Additionally, social media is a very popular platform for environmental organizations as well as all sorts of news and other media outlets. On top of that, teens are less likely to get this type of information from news programs or books.

This is where it gets hairy. The Internet is ripe with amazing information, facts, and details. It also is the host of a lot of misinformation, disinformation, biased content, propaganda, fake news, semi-accurate facts, spin-doctoring, conspiracy theories, and outright fiction...all posing as factual information.  Of course, this is hard enough for adults too navigate, let alone our preteens, teens, and college students. Then throw in algorithms that lead to biased silos, clickbait, ads, and other online manipulation ... it can get hairy indeed! Media literacy serves as the keys to the correct content kingdom.

With science-based information in particular, students need to remember the importance of triangulating their facts by fact checking using multiple (at least three), reputable sources. Even if it's in a 15 or 30 second TikTok. Scientific journals and governmental organizations are two great places to start. They may also want to investigate their social media's algorithm. It's also good practice to report blatant misinformation to stop the spread. At the very least, we all need to make sure we aren't part of the problem by sharing and spreading the "bad stuff."
It's also good to encourage students (and adults) to do what The Social Institute calls "Using Social Media for Good." This includes not how a person uses it, but also who they follow. Look for those who are trustworthy folks to follow! Social media is growing as a platform for activism. By being sure to use it for the positive good, not only can people connect on matters of importance (which for many young people includes protecting the planet from the effects of climate change), but it also can become contagious. (I'm feeling Heather White's One Green Thing [OGT] in action, especially the OGT Influencers out there!)
In The Social Institute's post I referenced above, they also have a seven-page infographic on the 23 Insights for 2023 on how students use social media and how it impacts them emotionally. [Disclaimer: To download this, you need to give your 411: your name, phone number, and email address.]
As tech becomes even more enmeshed in our lives, these media literacy skills become more vital for each and every one of us, every day!

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