Three introductory activities to discuss social media and the news (journalism) in class
The "starter" should stimulate the learner and activate their interest in the topic.
Activity 1: The news audience — then and now
Show the popular meme (image above) juxtaposing people reading newspapers in the pre-automobile society and people using their mobile phones in Tokyo.
Ask students to form a small group and discuss the differences they see between the image on the top and on the bottom. What has changed over the years?
Tell them to list out the differences and think about what we can learn from them.
Class discussion (make sure to guide the students so that the key lesson points you would like to focus on will get enough attention).
This image can be used in many different ways to discuss our patterns of news consumption and journalism.
It is also essential to bring out that people in the train station are not necessarily consuming news. They can engage in all sorts of other online activities. They may even be producing news content and sharing it (tweeting about the train delay announcement they are hearing right now, for example).
Other key lessons include:
Technology affects our way of life, including news consumption.
We now have endless streams of news content from a myriad of sources.
Today’s news audience is not passive. We seek, produce, and share information.
News content is competing with other services such as chat apps, emails, mobile games, and so forth. The attention economy drives media business on the internet.
Unverified information can be widely shared and consumed now. What we get on the smartphone can simply be rumours, gossip, and similar types of unsubstantiated or fabricated information.
Activity 2: What have you shared lately? Is it news?
Ask students the following two questions:
Q1: What were the last three things you have shared with your friends lately? An Instagram photo? A tweet? A video clip on TikTok? A web link? A text message? What compelled you to share it?
Q2: Among them, how many can be considered ‘news’? Why is it ‘news’?
Have them discuss the answers in small groups
This activity aims to have students think about what ‘news’ is and how it differs from other types of information they see and share.
In class discussion, reinforce the idea that ‘news’ is something people outside of their circles would also like to know and share — the concept of ’public interest.’
It is also essential to bring out that for a piece of information to be ‘news’, it must be based on facts. Otherwise, it cannot be distinguished from other types of media content.
Rumours, gossip and similar types of information may sound like ‘news’, but we don’t know if they are accurate or made up until someone (journalists, experts, and others) verifies them.
Activity 3: Social media and the news
Show the video from France 24 above (the learner doesn’t need to understand any particular language. There is no spoken word in the clip).
Ask students to form a small group and discuss:
a) what they have learned from the video;
b) if they can think of similar examples that happened recently
Class discussion focusing especially on the various real examples and experiences that students share.
Key ideas that can be discussed include:
The news often breaks on social media. With a mobile phone, anyone can engage in journalistic activities and produce news content.
People’s reactions on social media could also make news. What trends on social media can be considered newsworthy.
People also learn about the news first on their mobile phones.
Journalists are no longer working “for” the public. Rather, they are working “with” the public. Everyone is part of the news cycle.
Attention economy drives the internet. News content is competing with everything else, such as the videos and posts on popular platforms like YouTube, WeChat, TikTok, Instagram, and Bilibili, as well as mobile games like Genshin Impact, not to mention e-mails, shopping websites and other apps and services.
The above three activities are taken from our Toolkit, which showcases a collection of our teaching material.
This toolkit is still a work in progress. We will be regularly adding more resources, updating documents, and modifying the content in the coming months. But please feel free to adopt and adapt any material you find there.
Also importantly, please let us know if you would like to share your material with our community. ANNIE can help distribute it on this platform or by other means.
In fact, I am thinking about starting a monthly online gathering called ANNIE Connect this summer so that we can all learn some teaching tips and tricks from each other.
Interested? Please stay tuned. I will send more information through this newsletter when we’re ready to begin.
As a start, I will demonstrate how we use some of the material, like the three activities above, in the real classroom in the upcoming webinar this week on May 18 (which is supported by Google News Initiative. You can find the registration page here).
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