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A different approach to Picture News by Jo Martin

I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Trinity St. Peter’s CE Primary School and Nursery, after they captured our attention through their use of Twitter.

On entering, I was immediately made to feel welcome, not only by the happy, friendly staff but also by the incredible and inspirational messages and display boards, clearly demonstrating the ethos created by the school.

As a school, they believe that every child is a star and that they should work in partnership with all members of the local and wider community to provide each child with the skills and values that they need to SHINE in the real world. They want all of their children to enjoy their learning journey, to achieve their full potential and to become caring global citizens of the world, with the motivation and confidence to be the best they can be.

I was keen and very excited to learn how they used Picture News within their school. I was able to spend time chatting to the teachers from Year 1 through to Year 6 and learned so much I wanted to share!

Each week, Trinity St. Peter’s uses Picture News as stimulus for a class based discussion. Every class takes part in this discussion with their teacher on a Wednesday. Each teacher puts their own ‘spin’ on the resource and the way it is delivered often varies week-to-week.

I asked each teacher to describe to me how they used Picture News within their classroom. It was just so wonderful to hear the way they spoke so enthusiastically and passionately about their school, their class and Picture News. Trinity St. Peter’s have taken ownership of the resource and used it to be more than just an assembly resource and more than just a way to cover British Values. It has been used as a tool to support children in developing confidence and respect, to motivate and inspire children to learn, to challenge their thinking, to be the best they can be and SHINE!

Some of the ways they delivered their sessions are listed below, you may find them useful!

  • Use iPads to allow children to independently access the information resources. They are then able to read independently and have their own thinking time before discussion.
  • Begin with a relevant stimulus or practical activity to promote the big question.
  • Ask children to answer yes or no before the discussion then after to show how they can influence one another’s ideas.
  • Ask children to apply creative thinking skills in order to respond from different perspectives.
  • Organise the classroom as a formal debate (as in parliament), assigning children specific roles.
  • Give the assembly resource first, ask children to guess the story and question from this.
  • Children create the British Value that best matches the question prompt.

So, what next? Once the session is complete, is that it? No! Every single week each class shares their response on Twitter. There is no recording, no display, no worksheets. At first, I was surprised. I have to say, I do like the big class scrapbooks of comments and work based on Picture News but after speaking to Deputy Head, Louisa, I realised everything that needed to be done, was being done. Twitter allowed them to share each classes response with one another, it showcased their thinking, the children and the school had a global platform, where they could influence and bring about change and it provided evidence for SLT monitoring.

There is still more! If a story happened to spark an interest or inspire their class, it wasn’t just forgotten about or lost once the session was over under the mountain of other ‘must complete, things to do’ that every teacher has, it was acted upon. The Year 1 class requested to visit an old people’s home after the story ‘Should we spend more time with people who are older than us?’. The visit was organised and, as it was so mutually beneficial, it became a weekly occurrence. The story ‘Can we learn to be happy?’ inspired the Year 6 class to work towards and apply for the ‘Wellbeing Award’, which I am excited to tell you, they achieved!

I asked the teachers to share the impact Picture News has had in their school. I have shared the responses below:

  • Open the children’s eyes to the world.
  • Bring the world into the classroom.
  • Spark interest.
  • Can assess SMSC.
  • Shows children it is okay to disagree with someone else.
  • Children have matured.
  • Learn to disagree civilly.
  • Improved social skills.
  • Transfer skills to become more independent thinkers.

I was so humbled to also hear that Picture News had played a part in achieving their Christian Aid Global Neighbours Gold Award and their Gold SMSC Quality Mark.

I was actually quite sad to leave the building. Everything I feel so strongly and passionately about in education was happening within this school. Children were given opportunities to be inspired and learn from the real world. Children knew that their opinion mattered, and they felt valued. Children felt excited and engaged and wanted to learn. Children were not afraid to express and talk about their emotions. Children were given opportunities to identify with news stories, allowing them to share worries, concerns and feelings such as loneliness or feeling different. Children learned that not everyone is the same or feels the same and this is something to be celebrated. Children, who have been encouraged and supported to develop confidence, resilience and independence and have learned to respect, tolerate and understand.

Thank you so much for having me Trinity St. Peter’s and keep doing what you do!

A few of our favourite packs!

Each week, we are tasked with finding a new and current story to use as our weekly focus.

We asked the Picture News team to choose their favourite story from all the stories chosen this year!

Fauxtography: Teaching Children To Look Again by John Dabell

What you see is what you get, right?

Wrong. WYSIWYG might suggest that there is nothing hidden but when it comes to pictures, photos and images in the news then take a big step back. And then again!

Research by Nightingale et al (2017) suggests that most people can’t tell the difference between real and photo forgeries.

It’s easy for anyone to look at something and just accept it for what it is but pictures don’t tell the whole story. A picture is a split-second snapshot and only a slice of the action. That’s if it is even a real one.

To improve children’s media literacy we encourage them to be critical consumers so they don’t believe everything they read.

The same applies to pictures too and so what children see has to be questioned. Is it a fake? Is it misrepresenting a particular person, group of people or situation? Who is behind the lens and what is their ideological agenda?

Misleading pictures is something children will encounter all the time online without realising it which is why promoting a critical pair of eyes is essential. The pictures that go with a story might be real but only show a portion of what is happening. They might relate to a completely different event that has nothing to do with the news being reported – pairing an unaltered image with an unrelated story or an event that happened at a different time is very common.

Then there is the classic Photoshopped image using image tampering techniques such as splicing or merging parts of one image with another, cloning sections within the same image, or removing an object.

Fauxtography is everywhere and dangerous because doctored photos are designed to manipulate our emotions and provoke a response or extreme view. Fake news and fake photos can do considerable harm as they blur the lines of reality, distort worldviews and could inspire criminal behaviours and drive the misallocation of resources.

Photoshopped images can quickly go viral and breed fear and mistrust and misinformation can cost lives. Humans love to spread gossip and lies spreads faster than the truth.

Full Fact, the UK’s independent factchecking charity, has a great article online to help us when we might be suspicious about an image. One of the things they point to is using a reverse image search using Google Chrome:

(Image: www.fullfact.org)

Common Sense Education have also produced a video to help.

There are other websites that do a similar thing such as TinEye to help with image verification and matching. It is especially good at showing how and how often an image is being (or has been) used online.

Empowering our children’s digital citizenship is massively important if we are to help them learn that what you see isn’t what you get. Pictures can spin some really tall tales and so need to be approached with caution.

Unfortunately, fauxtography is a feature of life so children have to be forensic photo experts if they want to be part of the real world. We have to help them to think like fact checkers and lie detectors and use tools like the CRAAP test so they don’t let their eyes deceive them.

A CRAAP test is a set of evaluation criteria developed by librarians at California State University, Chico that can be applied to websites, articles, blogs, books and a range of media sources to help children determine if the information is reliable. The acronym stands for:

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose

Pictures and photographs are often recycled or doctored to fuel interest and provide visual “proof” for fake news but they don’t fool everyone, especially visually literate children who scratch beyond the surface.

Debunking misinformation is a key responsibility of all teachers and so it is our job to keep children in the picture and help them spot fauxtographs so they question everything they see.

 

Picture News Webinars – Autumn Term 2019

It may feel that summer is only just beginning, but at Picture News HQ, we’re already looking ahead to the Autumn term! 

We’re running three new exciting webinars to help you learn more about our weekly resources and how to use current affairs in school. The live web sessions will be open to everyone and every subscriber will receive a recording of the session – just in case you are unable to attend on the day!

Details and registration for each session can be found below. All of the sessions are limited to 100 places and places for the September session are already limited, so don’t hesitate to book your space!

 

Monday 2nd September 9.30 – 10.15am  – Using Picture News in your school

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_EMcr4iCBQFS2V6i2C-hyzg

In this session we cover:
– Why and how to use Picture News;
– Picture News in the new Ofsted Framework;
– British Values and SMSC.

 

Wednesday 2nd October 4-4.45pm – Picture News and Early Years

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_RRQtYBKnTW2R_5TsCH2HZQ

In this session we cover:

  • Why teach the news to EYFS;
  • How it links to the EYFS framework;
  • SMSC and British values.

 

Wednesday 6th November 4-4.45pm – How to embed British Values in the primary classroom

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_rbRStJOvTTaOJ5PD_419Ww

In this session we cover:

  • What the DfE’s ‘Fundamental British values’ actually are;
  • Practical examples and ideas to show how schools have successfully embedded British values;
  • How to collect evidence and show impact across your school.

Meet Lisa!

I am the newest member to the Picture News Team, having been an Early Years Teacher for the last 12 years. After completing my BSc Hons degree in Primary Education 3-7 years at York St John University, I quickly discovered that Early Years was where my heart lied and found a job in a school in Garforth, Leeds teaching Reception. Being a Newly Qualified Teacher in a two-form entry school enabled me to learn so much from other experienced teachers. I really enjoyed planning for and engaging in child centred learning, seeing the children excited to explore and pursue their own interests. After having my own children, I decided to move to a school closer to home. My most recent school is an amazing school in Ripon. I began teaching Year 1 there, but soon found myself back in Reception!

Whilst teaching Reception, I was very fortunate to be asked by Picture News for my ideas on how the Early Years Picture News Resource could begin. This developed quickly and I have been writing the Early Years resource each week ever since. Teaching alongside writing the resource enabled me to teach the children in my class all about the different news stories Picture News covered. They loved it and their confidence to share their thoughts and ideas really improved. They really enjoyed linking the news stories to their own life experiences.

Now as the Early Years Picture News Resource has grown, so has my role at Picture News. I recently made the difficult decision to leave teaching. My exciting new challenge is now to go into schools and see how different teachers are using the Early Years Picture News resource, as well as leading Early Years teacher workshops, attending headteacher meetings and creating webinars to support other Early Years teachers.

Thank you, Picture News, for this great opportunity.

Does Your School Lack Emergency Planning? By John Dabell

Is your school ready for anything?

If there is one, big gaping hole in whole school training then it is emergency and contingency planning.

There is plenty of training for teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment, workload, wellbeing, etc but very little for when things go wrong.

An emergency, crisis or disaster, affecting the school community, could happen at any time, either in school, on a school visit or in the local community.

There is an awful lot that can go wrong and we need to be prepared but how many staff and children are?

This isn’t just something for senior management to know about, supposing they even do. Every member of the school community needs to be clued up and clued in.

[Tweet “How much emergency planning training have you had?”]

I don’t remember one training day in over 20 years where anyone has discussed what to do in disaster situations.

Would you know what your roles and responsibilities were and those of your colleagues?

Coordination, communication, welfare, media management, business continuity – who is doing what?

An emergency requires people to be hyper-focused and this requires hyper-planning for a spectrum of bad possibilities.

Training should be provided to ensure that everyone understands their role, they are confident to perform tasks assigned to them and have access to available resources and facilities.

Break Glass In Case Of Emergency

Schools do fire drills regularly and half the time staff know when they are going to happen. Some staff moan because their lessons get disrupted and children get excited because its time out.

They are not always treated seriously because they are expected. The failure might not be the drill but the culture and leadership around it.

[Tweet “Schools are well versed in fire drills but what about other emergency scenarios?”]

Children and staff might treat emergency drills more seriously if they widened to include other serious incidents.

What do we do if our school is caught up in a terrorist attack?

Do you have invacuation procedures in place? Some schools carry lockdown drills twice a year so why don’t all schools? Take a look at this video to see how Reinwood Junior School do it.

In emergencies people are more likely to respond reliably if they “are well trained and competent, take part in regular and realistic practice, have clearly agreed, recorded and rehearsed plans, actions and responsibilities.”

[Tweet “Schools are lacking emergency preparedness for a range of incidents.”]

School Emergency Preparedness involves contingency planning for critical incidents, risk and crisis management, health and safety, first aid and security.

Advice From Above

We do have official guidance available to us (last updated about three years ago) and this should be readily available.

There are some good links in here notably to a school emergency plan template and guidance from Nottinghamshire County Council. See also the classroom resources available from Essex County Council.

Many councils have adopted these guidelines and improved them so there is wide variation between schools.

Without training we run the huge risk of running around like headless chickens and making a situation worse. This could involve lives being lost.

[Tweet “Be honest, have you read your School Emergency Management Plan?”]

Don’t assume you know that others know what they are doing. If you don’t, chances are your colleagues won’t. Hand on heart, how many of us have read the School Emergency Management Plan? Would you know if it was comprehensive enough?

Would you know how incidents are grouped and what situations fall into what level?

Every year staff should be getting together to discuss and train for different incidents and situations that could happen. This is not only sensible but necessary. To pounce on a problem we need to know what to do and what not to do.

We just never know what will happen or how we will react. So why aren’t we taking the opportunity to simulate scenarios seriously?

What’s The Plan?

Training for a range of incidents is crucial and all staff need to know the procedures detailed in the Schools Emergency Plan.

Keeping your head in a crisis and responding effectively isn’t an instinct but comes with training. In a high-stress situation it is knowledge that comes to the rescue. If you have been trained what to do then you will know your job and be more in control.

Schools should devote regular training sessions throughout the year to bad-news scenarios so staff can act them out. This gives everyone the opportunity to intellectually and physically engage with incidents and how to handle them.

A little bit of training can go a long way because it takes people out of their comfort pits and injects challenge and confidence.

[Tweet “Emergency planning builds deliberate teamwork, collective wisdom and resilience.”]

Hypothetical situations have to have buy-in. There is nothing worse than someone mumbling “that would never happen here” but that’s dangerous talk. Anything is possible. Every school is at risk. Every school is vulnerable.

Follow The Seven Ps

Devoting time to risk and emergency planning allows a school to discover weaknesses in their responses and approaches. It helps us to consider how we can prevent, prepare, respond and recover.

[Tweet “Emergency plans need to be practiced on a regular and ongoing basis.”]

When we rehearse for emergencies we find gaps in our knowledge. Play-acting is a serious business when it involves human lives.

Thinking through practicalities helps everyone improve their problem-solving skills. When we think negatively this helps to drive positive responses so we formulate and deliver more effective responses.

If there is one area where over-preparation is a necessary then it is emergency planning. Making decisions are guided by knowledge and groupthink so we don’t get in a spin.  The Seven ‘P’s saves lives: “Proper prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance.”

Emergency procedures in schools should be a part of a school’s risk assessment. Has your school prepared you for if the unthinkable happens? My guess is that you’ll have the paperwork in place but not the contingency sim training.

Links

Cabinet Office Guidance for Preparing for Emergencies.

National Counter Terrorism Office guidance Recognising the terrorist threat

Security Service MI5 Threat Levels

Children need training too and need to be heard. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the Save the Children Take Care programme, a resource designed to build children’s resilience to disasters.

 

What’s the point of display? By John Dabell

Why do we bother with classroom displays?

Some classrooms don’t really need their walls because they don’t actually do much. Okay, they might hold the school together and provide teachers with their own little habitat to teach in but why have walls if you don’t use them?

When you walk into some classrooms they scream at you. Apart from a few posters and a timetable, these are just spartan resting places for drawing pins to rust to death. They show little effort, are devoid of personality and are hardly inspiring.

Displays are important to any school but they are often abused or abandoned.

They are powerful points of reference in class and can make a huge difference to drab and dreary corridors.

Some teachers invest a huge amount of energy in their classroom displays but this can often be detrimental to learning. Some classrooms are drenched in displays and become so cluttered they bring about claustrophobia and get in the way. Too much display is harmful.

Getting the balance between being overwhelming and underwhelming is clearly important. Decluttering is one thing but sterilising a learning environment of displays, artwork and resources can be detrimental too. Heaven forbid that your displays include ‘data walls‘.

On Display

Dave Burgess (2012) in Teach Like A Pirate reckons that one of our secret weapons as teachers is being able to control the physical space. He suggests we use ‘interior design hooks’ to transform our classrooms to create the ultimate atmosphere for a lesson. He describes having special days where he creates a blank canvas by covering every wall in plastic sheeting and then adding decorations on top to a particular theme.

Some might argue that even when changed regularly, classroom displays have little educational value and pupils see them as just wallpaper or window dressing. I disagree that they are just mere decoration and it is nonsense they are there for the teacher to look and feel good about themselves. Displays can support the improvement of pupils’ learning, they create a mood and they can be shocking. Learning needs to shock sometimes to be memorable.

Hywel Roberts (2012) in Oops! Helping children learn accidentally says that “Display is to the teacher what the saw is to a carpenter: essential.”

There are lots of things to remember about display and he points to ten top hints. He says that display:

  1. should carry meaning to those who look at it
  2. isn’t the job of the teaching assistant
  3. is a reflection on you as a teacher
  4. needs to be managed in the same way you’d manage a flower arrangement
  5. can be personalised using photos of pupils
  6. can be used to celebrate success
  7. can be put anywhere
  8. should stimulate enquiry and be challenging
  9. should show processes as well as final and best pieces of work, but shouldn’t be dated
  10. is often ignored

Research tells us that Clever Classrooms are those where wall displays are lively without being chaotic and “As a rule of thumb 20-50% of the available wall space should be kept clear.”

It’s tempting to use every available bit of space on a wall and spread educational nuggets all over then like magic margarine. But that doesn’t work. Children need space to think and that mind space can’t breathe if the walls feel l

ike they are closing in.

A Display of Affection

Classrooms are the core learning spaces in a school and so they need to be exciting and dynamic. They also need to be ‘owned’ by the class so that children see their own work on the walls. If a classroom is largely the work of a teacher and decorated with commercial resources and ‘inspirational quotes’, it feels soulless and corporate.

Displays make an impression and so careful thought has to be given to what messages they are giving out. The main message from a pupil perspective is “Does my teacher value me and my work?”

Children like to see their own stuff and can feel proud as punch if it gets displayed. If something doesn’t make the grade then this can have a negative impact on children’s thinking and self-esteem. Always displaying the ‘best’ work is a no-no because this excludes children. Every child needs their moment of glory and a class with an inclusive and growth mindset will recognise not everyone can be the same but everyone needs to be included.

Tait Coles (2014) in Never Mind The Inspectors: Here’s Punk Learning says we should display everything and we shouldn’t be “frightened of displaying students’ work that is wrong. Students can learn so much from misconceptions and so can teachers.”

For true ownership, we need to think about who is responsible for the displays. As Jim Smith (2017) suggests in The Really Lazy Teacher’s Handbook we also need to get “students to design and put up the displays.”

Why not take this one step further as illustrated by Tim Brighouse and David Woods (2013) in The A-Z Of School Improvement and get older pupils as ‘display for learning advisers’ (DLAs) as “volunteers to do something to improve all aspects of display in the school”.

What to Include?

Displays don’t have to drive us up the wall.

Planning what to include on your wall space needs a Clever Classrooms mindset so that children aren’t distracted yet at the same time challenged and engaged. This means managing the visual environment systematically and keeping displays alive and well on a rolling basis. Some ideas include:

  • a Working Wall to support children in their current learning and enable them to become more independent
  • an Anchor Chart display to frame discussions and prompt learning conversations
  • a Feelings Board so children can populate it with their thoughts during lessons (Coles, 2014)
  • a ‘Heavy Duty Learning Wall’ where children write on a sticky note what they’ve learnt after each lesson (Coles, 2014)
  • a News Board displaying local, national and international news. Picture News is ideal!
  • a Celebration Board to display the achievements of children inside and outside of school
  • a Wonder Board that poses a question of the week or questions that children have they’d like answered
  • a Mugshot Board showing the photos of everyone in class using a Top Trumps style format
  • an Open Me Board showing pieces of work with covered-up information that can be opened
  • a Feedback Gallery to enable children to give and receive feedback on several pieces of work at the same time (Griffth and Burns, 2014)
  • an Interactive QR Board that link to video projects that students have created
  • an Inspirational Quotes board to fire motivation and fuel growth mindset
  • a Mistake of the Week board (Claxton and Carlzon, 2019) or an Alternative Conceptions of the Week board using Concept Cartoons.
  • turning windows into Word Walls using window crayons for brainstorming ideas
  • a Puzzle Board containing a variety of problems, mind-benders, conundrums, riddles, challenges and brain teasers
  • a Personal Best board showing examples of children’s best work so far

Displays need to be informative, interactive, accessible and creative so that pupils are inspired.

But being sensitive to the needs of particular pupils is crucial. Visually rich and dense displays can have a negative effect for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Displays also need to be colour-blind friendly so that children who are colour-deficient are not hindered in their learning.

Displays seem to be something of an after-thought in some schools and as for training, well it is non-existent. When did your school last use part of an Inset day to debate Clever Classrooms and the visual environment and its impact across the school? If displays are the bane of your life, then clearly there is a training need.

A Fine Mess

No one expects every teacher to be a master in the fine art of classroom feng shui but teachers should know the difference between a Pinterest classroom and a classroom with soul as an active museum of learning or think tank.

Displays don’t have to be perfect because as every teacher knows, learning is messy so displays need to reflect the business and busy-ness of learning including learning pits, learning ladders and riskometers.

Displays do have their place in schools and when managed intelligently, they make classrooms a place where pupils feel safe, welcome, and stimulated, and where highly focused learning takes place. Try Picture News for when of your displays and get children immersed in the world around them.

 

Meet Emma!

I have been with Picture News since November 2017 and my role has grown rapidly as the business expands. With a background in PA/Administration, PR and most recently motherhood, I bring a wide variety of skills to this amazing company.

My role within the company is Finance and Logistics, so my day to day work life can include anything from invoicing and answering your calls to proof reading and packing your weekly resources ready to post out. I will most probably be one of your first points of contact should you have any queries or require any assistance and I am always here and happy to help!

I have two primary age children and feel passionately about educating them on world issues and current affairs, to ensure that they understand how important it is for them to make a positive impact in life, whilst being caring and responsible. I rate the Picture News resource so highly that I personally gift it to my children’s primary school, to ensure that they don’t miss out.

When I’m not at work I love spending time with my family including my two gorgeous children, Henry 8 and Ava 6 and my mini sausage dog Margot (who is fast becoming the Picture News office security guard, sorry I mean office pet!). I love to go off on a travel adventure but equally enjoy chilling out at home watching a movie or listening to music. I’m quite creative and have recently learnt to sew, so am currently designing and making soft furnishings like a mad woman. My favourite foods are cheese and fresh bread and I have been known to be partial to the odd tipple of chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

To sum up, I love my job and I’m super excited to see how Picture News evolves and where it will take me in the future!

 

Meet Ruth!

This week, we’d like to introduce our brilliant Finance and Marketing Officer Ruth!

“My role consists of writing the mini newspaper, helping to proof read, print and pack Picture News, dealing with enquiries and general office work. I enjoy working in the office as we have a great team and there are always interesting conversations about current affairs! I also enjoy going to showcase our product at head teacher meetings around the country and discussing the resource with the teachers who use it.

I believe it is very important to challenge yourself and try new things so my position at Picture News is perfect for me as my role is constantly evolving and taking me into new and exciting territory.

At University, I gained a BSc in Applied Biological Sciences leading to a career involving working in quality control, Forensics and in an NHS laboratory. I have coaching qualifications and have always been interested in helping people to develop and improve themselves and achieve their personal goals.

Becoming a mother and having a very curious and inquisitive three-year-old has led me to look at the world differently. Thinking about how events affect my child and others is why I think Picture News is such an amazing company to work for. We are so passionate about helping children to understand the world around them, process and communicate their responses, thoughts and opinions about the things that are happening around them.”

 

Taken On Trust by John Dabell

Some teachers actively encourage the children in their class to be independent learners and that’s a good thing. The 21st needs them.

You gotta have sole

In a Self-Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) pupils are given the freedom to learn by asking ‘big questions’ where they work collaboratively to find the answers.

This is called ‘minimally invasive education’ as children are basically left to learn for themselves, a concept made famous by Dr. Sugata Mitra and his ‘hole in the wall’ experiment.

In 1999, Mitra and his colleagues carved a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and left it there. A hidden camera filmed children from the slum playing with the computer and it recorded them learning how to use it. Mitra went on to win the $1 million TED prize for his research.

SOLE does have a lot of supporters and is widely used.  If you are interested in finding out more about SOLE then take a look at this support pack and the University of Newcastle’s SOLE Central.

Careful how you tread

Promoting independence, research and self-learning is an important skill but then this needs to be combined with critical thinking, information literacy, media literacy and technology literacy.

One of the biggest myths in education is that children are ‘digital natives’. They aren’t. Like many adults, children can be easily hoodwinked because they aren’t information-skilled.

Unsupervised learning and computers doesn’t seem to be a very clever mix unless you have powerful protections in place. Thankfully most schools do but that won’t stop children stumbling across information when engaged in ‘research’.

Giving Wiki A Wide Berth

I have often seen children use the internet for research and they more often than not end up on a Wikipedia page. They frequently copy and paste from Wiki and treat everything within it as sacrosanct.

Wikipedia is a wealthy source of freely available ‘knowledge’ and ranks as one of the world’s most visited websites. It’s almost become the de facto source for knowledge but can it be trusted? Do we need to tell children to ‘hold your horses’?

Students use Wikipedia to support their research just as many teachers do but Wiki can’t be trusted because it doesn’t require an article writer or editor to have any credentialed knowledge.

The Wikipedia model is based on an open crowd-sourced structure which allows anyone to contribute. This means it is wide-open to creating bogus facts and fake news that can quite easily dupe a reader.

Wiki is full of holes and leaks and children need to know this. One way to illustrate its unreliability is to share with your class the story of Henryk Batuta.

 

Who is Henrky Batuta?

That’s a good question. If you looked on Wikipedia a few years ago then you’d get plenty of information about him.

You find out that he was born in Odessa in 1898 and participated in the Russian Civil War. He was also an ally of Ernest Hemingway during the Civil War in Spain. The page devoted to him said there was a street in Warsaw named Henryk Batuta Street. The article relating to him was also richly referenced and linked to 17 other articles.

Guess what?

Henryk Batuta never existed. The Wiki entry about him was all a hoax and the authors deliberately set out to show, in part, that web users mustn’t swallow information whole. The information relating to Henryk Batuta stayed on Wiki for 15 months without challenge.

Now imagine that children were researching him as a ‘real’ person. Their research would have be worthless. Unfortunately, some websites can make the outside world think they are authoritative and factual but they can also smell and taste a bit funny.

Wikipedia might be the “people’s encyclopedia” but it is wide open to abuse and fake ‘facts’. I’d agree with Steve Cuozzo when he says, “Believe nothing it says about anything.”

You can be 100% sure that Wiki will contain many other hoaxes and pieces of information that are monumentally dodgy. You certainly wouldn’t go there for medical information! This is a site that is “inherently unreliable”.

Our pupils need to see Wiki for what it is – the ‘Wild West’ of information. As David Barnett wrote for the Independent in 2018, “Wikipedia shouldn’t be anyone’s final stop when it comes to seeking knowledge.”

Don’t go there?

If Wikipedia is full of fake news, wide open to vandalism and the last place to find reliable information, should we tell children to avoid it like the plague?

No.

Children should go there but be discerning, critical and forensic. This means we need to teach them what open source websites are and why they need to question everything they read rather than accept things at face value.

Some of the information will be credible and by checking the citations and references and digging deeper children can see how the information has been mined. Some of that information will be spurious and full of fool’s gold.

It might be an idea to take them to Wikipedia itself – there’s a page on there called ‘Wikipedia is not a reliable source’.

Banning the use of Wikipedia just wouldn’t make sense. We can make intelligent use of it and support children to verify sources and understand the reliability of web materials. They can see first-hand just how easy it is to present information and misrepresent it too. Not all of it is junk but some of it is.

Do go there

Looking at Wiki with critical eyes gets children to ask questions around the biases of people writing entries, what they are leaving out and which communities are not included in a conversation.

Get your students to invent their own Wiki entry for something or someone that didn’t exist and let them test it on someone else. Mix some facts with fiction and see if others can spot which is which.

Wiki can teach children about gullibility and how easy it is to fall for pictures and information hook, line and sinker.

A healthy level of distrust makes children critical learners.  At least if they are asked to research a historical figure or event, they can question whether a particular person or incident actually existed or happened. If they did, how much can they really trust?