Experiential Approach:
Students Discuss Videos & Life Connections

Experiential Approach: Interlace Videos with Student Discussions

The “gory drivers education photo” strategy provides graphic evidence of real world impacts to change student behavior, and it may be that students need to be imprinted by such experiences to remember what they are taught in class and apply it in different contexts, when different influences exist. The decision to apply "System 2" thinking to possible misinformation is counter-habitual, like the decision not to text while driving, or not to drive too fast.

It could be challenging to give students impactful experiences of misinformation topics in a classroom. Simulations (like lessons from the News Literacy Project's Checkology or other media literacy games) are good, but for a real-world experience, students would need to be searching for real information about a topic they care about and be surprised by a source that shocks them in some way, perhaps because they are taken in by it.

On Martin Luther King Day, we used to invite high school students to search for information about King and help them uncover MartinLutherKing.org, a site created by the Klan in the 1990s. It ranked first-page in Google, so students often found it when unsuspecting teachers asked them to search the Web and write reports about King. It is shocking (with inappropriate language and content) but a rich study. It has been taken down now - and it was risky.

Two recent movies provide rich evidence of the harmful influence of misinformation, with examples of digital representations that helped create problems or made them worse. They reference news stories and current situations that should be familiar and relatable to young people now: climate change, vaccination misinformation, electoral propaganda.

Videos not only describe but also illustrate the effects of media illiteracy, which is useful for students who do not (yet) use social media themselves. Dramatizations, visualizations, and real-life video clips can help make the dangers of misinformation real, and even personal to students. A student discussion after a dramatization is more likely to spark personal accounts of related incidents than one that follows a dry account of a problem.

Video Candidate: Trust Me (2022)

Trust me is a feature-length documentary exploring human nature, information technology, and the need for media literacy to help people trust one another, bring them together and create a more resilient population.

It premiered on PBS on January 4th, 2022, and shows how an avalanche of negative news and misinformation is making us all terrified of the world. This has led to mistrust of others, which further leads to racism, polarization, mental health disorders and even crime.

Unlike The Social Dilemma, many of the people interviewed are Media Literacy educators, experts and journalists, with much more news footage, reflecting its news literacy bias. The News Literacy Project is a partner, developing a guide for the film.

TrustMe is free to watch on Kanopy, a streaming service requiring a library card. Otherwise, it is rentable from the website for $12.99.

Video Candidate: The Social Dilemma (2020)

The full-length movie “The Social Dilemma” is an ideal candidate to accomplish this task. “The Social Dilemma” emphasizes how easily people are manipulated by machine algorithms and notifications to spend much more time online than they might wish, and to “feed the platform” in the same addictive way that gamblers feed coins into slot machines.

In “The Social Dilemma” students will encounter ex-tech executives decrying the systems they have built, a tween girl despondent at a comment about her ears, and a teen boy roped into an astro-turfed conspiracy group called the “Extreme Center”. In between scenes, teachers should facilitate student-led discussion about their own experiences on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat (or whatever platforms they currently favor).

The Social Dilemma is only available via Netflix.