A partnership between La Salle University and Florida-based journalism nonprofit Poynter Institute will bring a series of digital literacy training programs to Philadelphia, with the goal of helping high school and middle school students real news stories from fast-traveling falsehoods online.
MediaWise, a Poynter-led initiative with Google funding, has a bold goal: teaching 1 million teens the difference between fact and fiction online. It wants at least half of that target population to come from underserved and low-income communities.
Here in Philly, the initiative found a partner in La Salle, which will host at least four fake-news-spotting workshops over the coming months. The first training, led by MediaWise instructors, will take place April 6 on campus, as part of its open house event for high school students accepted to La Salle.
Dates and locations for the additional sessions will be announced in the coming months.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with MediaWise to bring this innovative and important training to our region,” said La Salle President Colleen Hanycz. “Explorers navigate the world around them with clarity and confidence. Today, particularly in the digital environment, that means knowing how to separate fact from fiction and approach content critically. La Salle wants to equip every teen with that skill set.”
How big is the problem? Well, presidential rhetoric aside, one 2016 study out of Stanford University found that 82 percent of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between sponsored content and news stories on the web, a sign that most teens lack the context to navigate the news landscape.
Katy Byron, editor and program manager of MediaWise, said the teaching events are interactive and use digital tools that teens are already familiar with, like Instagram and Snapchat.
“It’s important to us that we speak their language and use real-life examples of misinformation, so they come away feeling empowered to use these skills on their own,” Byron said.
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