posts about or somewhat related to ‘education’

Global Literacy

Today’s International Literacy Day and UNESCO reports that “there are still 781 million adults and 126 million youth who cannot read or write a simple sentence.”

Via UNESCO (PDF): 

The lowest literacy rates are observed in sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia. Adult literacy rates were below 50% in the following 14 countries: Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Sierra Leone… It is important to note that regional averages can mask disparities at the country level. This is most apparent in sub-Saharan Africa, where the adult literacy rate ranges from 15% in Niger to 95% in Equatorial Guinea. 

The UN group has an “eAtlas of Literacy" that lets visitors browse and export maps and data to explore global literacy rates and regional indicators.

Images: Adult and Youth literacy rates, via UNESCO (PDF). Select to embiggen.

My Handwriting’s Crap, How ‘Bout Yours
Ever since personal computers made their way into the classroom, handwriting’s been on the way out. Many schools teach kindergartners and first graders how to print but don’t move on to cursive. Consider handwriting an increasingly obsolete art.
But research shows that writing by hand actually improves brain development. For example, Nancy Darling, psychology professor at Oberlin:

Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.

In Pacific Standard, Ted Scheinman explains, “The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that cursive especially can energize a more fluid and coherent process of thought.”
He then goes into this doozy of an anecdote from Valerie Hotchkiss at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:

Recently, an undergraduate asked me for help with a manuscript she was studying. I assumed it was something along the lines of a medieval Latin text or perhaps even a particularly difficult Marcel Proust letter (our library holds the largest collection of Proust letters in the world), but when I bent over the letter to help, I saw that it was in English and in the very neat, clear hand of John Ruskin. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t do cursive,” answered the undergraduate.

Takeaway: Practice your chickenscratch. — Michael
Image: Some words, written using the Dakota font.

My Handwriting’s Crap, How ‘Bout Yours

Ever since personal computers made their way into the classroom, handwriting’s been on the way out. Many schools teach kindergartners and first graders how to print but don’t move on to cursive. Consider handwriting an increasingly obsolete art.

But research shows that writing by hand actually improves brain development. For example, Nancy Darling, psychology professor at Oberlin:

Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.

In Pacific Standard, Ted Scheinman explains, “The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that cursive especially can energize a more fluid and coherent process of thought.”

He then goes into this doozy of an anecdote from Valerie Hotchkiss at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:

Recently, an undergraduate asked me for help with a manuscript she was studying. I assumed it was something along the lines of a medieval Latin text or perhaps even a particularly difficult Marcel Proust letter (our library holds the largest collection of Proust letters in the world), but when I bent over the letter to help, I saw that it was in English and in the very neat, clear hand of John Ruskin. “What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t do cursive,” answered the undergraduate.

Takeaway: Practice your chickenscratch. — Michael

Image: Some words, written using the Dakota font.

We need news organizations to help our curiosity by signaling how their stories fit into the larger themes on which a sincere capacity for interest depends. To grow interested in any piece of information, we need somewhere to “put” it, which means some way of connecting it to an issue we already know how to care about. A section of the human brain might be pictured as a library in which information is shelved under certain fundamental categories. Most of what we hear about day to day easily signals where in the stacks it should go and gets immediately and unconsciously filed: News of an affair is put on the heavily burdened shelf dedicated to How Relationships Work, a story of the sudden sacking of a CEO slots into our evolving understanding of Work & Status.

But the stranger or the smaller stories become, the harder the shelving process grows. What we colloquially call “feeling bored” is just the mind, acting out of a self-preserving reflex, ejecting information it has despaired of knowing where to place.

Alain de Botton, The Future of News, The Week.

The piece is an excerpt from his new book The News: A User’s Manual, which we’re currently reading and will have thoughts to tumble about soon. In the meantime, it’s an important conversation to have. Here’s a take on some key points from a review in The Guardian:

These are all worthy areas, to be sure. They are what intelligent, concerned citizens ought to want to know about the world that surrounds them. Perhaps, two centuries ago, the general populace could manage without The News most of the time. But now it’s omnipresent, inescapable and, on this thesis, stuck in too many arcane ruts, pandering to fear and pessimism, relishing disappointment.

Yet you can’t make the whole journey merely by playing the dissatisfied consumer. 

[…] News starts with you, your family, your interests, your street. It expands via TV, captured by the people and lives you see on screen. (It was more interested in foreign coverage when it seemed the cold war could destroy us all at the push of a button). It is a box of fragments you try to assemble for yourself, rather than a finished jigsaw. Which means that it can’t be pinned down in a handy user’s guide. But at least it’s worth thinking about constantly, fine, frisky, philosophical minds applied. For the construct is you.

An Interactive History of Politics and the Olympics
via Council on Foreign Relations.

An Interactive History of Politics and the Olympics

via Council on Foreign Relations.

Today’s tween is no longer a child but not yet an adolescent; too old for Barbie dolls and Disney Junior, too young for Facebook and to understand the search results that pop up when she googles “sexy.” She is old enough to text, want designer jeans and use Instagram, but too young to have her own credit card and driver’s license. Still, she is a malleable thinker, consumer and marketing target. Each day, she is exposed to eight to 12 hours of media, depending on her age, that hones her understanding of how she is supposed to act. She spends a significant portion of her day plugged in – communicating, posting photos, playing games, surfing the web, watching videos and socializing. When TV, music, social media and the Internet are used as baby-sitters – when adults don’t ask girls questions or encourage them to think critically (and sometimes even when they do) – a dangerous scenario emerges: The media start to parent.

Abigail Jones, Sex and the Single TweenNewsweek.

An important and slightly horrifying long-read on pre-teen girls and media.

Related 01, and Horrifying: The YoutTube trend in which girls ask they internet if they are pretty or ugly.

Related 02, and Awesome: It’s Girls Being Girls, a YouTube Channel and Tumblr by Tessa, a senior at ASU, featuring and supporting cool, interesting, personal, inspiring content for girls by girls. Get in touch with her if you want to contribute!

Understanding and Defining News Literacy
The Berkman Center recently published a series of research and practice briefs about news literacy as part of their Why News Matters network, which is very worth checking out. 
H/T to EdWeek for alerting us to the briefs which include:

1) "The Challenges of Defining ‘News Literacy’ " seeks to stimulate a discussion about approaches to defining, framing, and understanding core concepts such as ‘news’ and ‘news literacy’. The brief draws on our growing body of research into everyday youth behaviors, and identifies key competencies for youth to become empowered, informed, connected citizens.

2) "Mapping Approaches to News Literacy Curriculum Development: A Navigation Aid" helps build the capacity of our community of practitioners to develop and teach news literacy curricula. We provide a concise summary of approaches to news literacy, current methods of reaching youth through instruction, as well as a roadmap for innovative curriculum design.

3) "Youth News Perceptions and Behaviors Online: How Youth Access and Share Information in a Chicago Community Affected by Gang Violence" takes an on-the-ground approach to news readership and examines the everyday information needs of youth living in Chicago. The brief draws upon focus group interviews that raise new questions about how youth online behaviors are affected by community violence.

4) “Evaluation in Context: Reflections on How to Measure Success of Your “WNM” Program" is a thoughtful roadmap for organizations and programs to implement a data-driven evaluation cycle. Written by Youth and Media mentor Justin Reich, with the support of the YaM team, this practice brief encourages nonprofits, as learning organizations, to critically and impartially examine and improve their self-efficacy as they work towards meaningful objectives.

Image: Why News Matters’ news personality quiz, one of a number of quizzes and challenges on the site.
Bonus: Some posts on news literacy from the FJP archives.

Understanding and Defining News Literacy

The Berkman Center recently published a series of research and practice briefs about news literacy as part of their Why News Matters network, which is very worth checking out. 

H/T to EdWeek for alerting us to the briefs which include:

1) "The Challenges of Defining ‘News Literacy’ " seeks to stimulate a discussion about approaches to defining, framing, and understanding core concepts such as ‘news’ and ‘news literacy’. The brief draws on our growing body of research into everyday youth behaviors, and identifies key competencies for youth to become empowered, informed, connected citizens.

2) "Mapping Approaches to News Literacy Curriculum Development: A Navigation Aid" helps build the capacity of our community of practitioners to develop and teach news literacy curricula. We provide a concise summary of approaches to news literacy, current methods of reaching youth through instruction, as well as a roadmap for innovative curriculum design.

3) "Youth News Perceptions and Behaviors Online: How Youth Access and Share Information in a Chicago Community Affected by Gang Violence" takes an on-the-ground approach to news readership and examines the everyday information needs of youth living in Chicago. The brief draws upon focus group interviews that raise new questions about how youth online behaviors are affected by community violence.

4) “Evaluation in Context: Reflections on How to Measure Success of Your “WNM” Program" is a thoughtful roadmap for organizations and programs to implement a data-driven evaluation cycle. Written by Youth and Media mentor Justin Reich, with the support of the YaM team, this practice brief encourages nonprofits, as learning organizations, to critically and impartially examine and improve their self-efficacy as they work towards meaningful objectives.

Image: Why News Matters’ news personality quiz, one of a number of quizzes and challenges on the site.

Bonus: Some posts on news literacy from the FJP archives.

Journalism Entrepreneurship 101 →

Takeaways from Dan Gillmor's media entrepreneurship training program for journalism educators. Useful for everyone.

Hip-Hop At Harvard

Ammunition Group:

When multi-platinum hiphop artist Nas was growing up in the housing projects in Queensbridge, New York, he probably wouldn’t have guessed Harvard would ask to create a hiphop fellowship in his name 30 years later. But it’s happening. So how do you design a home for hiphop at Harvard? We ventured to find out.

The federal government made enough money on student loans over the last year that, if it wanted, it could provide maximum-level Pell Grants of $5,645 to 7.3 million college students.

The $41.3-billion profit for the 2013 fiscal year is down $3.6 billion from the previous year but still enough to pay for one year of tuition at the University of Michigan for 2,955,426 Michigan residents.

It’s a higher profit level than all but two companies in the world: Exxon Mobil cleared $44.9 billion in 2012, and Apple cleared $41.7 billion.
Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.

Ryan Holiday, The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation and Outright B.S. in Modern Media, Betabeat.

Holiday writes of the extreme privilege often inherent in digital literacy and the fact that it’s expensive to be a core user of online media. 

If I work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our media environment is significantly more difficult to track. Not everyone has their Internet time subsidized by an employer who asks them to sit in front of a computer all day. In fact, many people have jobs that forbid them from doing just that, with bosses who will write them up if caught checking their phone. These people–we often refer to them (derisively) as “average Americans”–are removed from the iterative, lightning-fast online media cycle for hours at a time and often for the entire day.

Before you joke about how lucky they are, think about how that would change someone’s relationship with culture. It means they end up getting their news from Facebook or from the “most emailed” stories of the day (of dubious validity). With only so much time left at the end of the day, they go to the one or two places that can give them the gist. Their reality is shaped by the things that tend to trickle about and from the Internet

He raises the food/nutrition analogy to point out how dangerous the consequences of such a divide can be. American’s obesity epidemic, caused in large part by a culture of eating what’s cheap and convenient because of a lack of access and affordability, can and will replicate itself in unhealthy media consumption patterns. (Related: The Information Diet by Clay Johnson)

Culturally, a portion of the population will be stuffed with hormone-injected garbage (Huffington Post slideshows, Facebook linkbait and other Cheetos-like information) while the other portion lives in its own reality of tailor-made, high quality information that makes them increasingly wealthy and utterly detached. One side will be able to influence, direct and exploit the other side because one controls the media while the other is at its mercy.

Read the rest here.

How To: Get Dead Relatives #Offline →

Modern Loss is a website that seeks to create a space for figuring out how to navigate your life after death. It includes essays from those who have experienced loss, resources for the practical affairs that must be dealt with after a death, and projects and articles about grief. 

Slate:

The site was started by two women, Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who lost parents at an early age and who are clearly opposed to the toxic forced optimism of American culture that can make grief all the more difficult. They promise a websitethat will be free of people adjudicating how sad you’re allowed to feel and a complete ban on the phrase, “everything happens for a reason.”

Linked above is a step-by-step how-to guide on getting relatives who have passed away offline on a variety of social media platforms.

Fascinating background reading about death in the digital era is this 2009 report from Northwestern University’s J-school on the state of the American obituary. It discusses the A-Z of obituaries, death in the age of social media, and the relatively new phenomenon of social networking sited that are turned into memorials. 

The pro‐life perspective is that if you show a woman that she has an 11‐week‐old fetus and she sees the movement, and that convinces her to keep the fetus, then isn’t that a good thing? Whereas a pro‐choice person would say she didn’t come in and know she was going to get a sonogram; there is no medical reason for it. So why are you offering a sonogram except to convince a woman not to have an abortion, which is what she really wanted to do?

Documentary filmmaker Raney Aronson as quoted in a fascinating case study in journalism ethics (by the Knight Case Studies Initiative at Columbia) called Frontline’s “The Last Abortion Clinic”: What’s Fair in a Video World?

Abstract:

This case takes students behind the scenes into the making of a news documentary for Frontline, produced at the PBS affiliate in Boston (WGBH). The case tells the story of the making of “The Last Abortion Clinic,” a 2005 documentary by producer Raney Aronson and her team. The documentary combined a legal story (developments in the abortion debate since Roe v. Wade) with personal stories—interviews with women in clinics who had confronted the abortion question in their own lives. It focused on the state of Mississippi, which had only one abortion clinic remaining. The case chronicles the evolution of a documentary from idea to finished form. Along the way, it highlights numerous editorial, logistical and ethical decisions Aronson faced in her quest to tell fairly a complex and value-laden story.

Read the PDF here.

How Much Do You Know about the News?
The Nation recently sent out a Fox or Fiction News Quiz that asks viewers to guess which of a series of headlines are real Fox News headlines. The larger point is to establish themselves as a necessary force against what they see as ludicrous reporting from Fox and get people to support The Nation.
But setting that point aside, sometimes news quizzes are fun. And useful. Wading through continuous streams of information all day make weeks hard to separate sometimes. In the spirit of literacy and fun, Slate offers a weekly news quiz with Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings. The NY Times has a 5 question daily based on a given day’s paper. And, if you want to see how you compare to the rest of the nation by age, gender and education, take the Pew Research Center’s News IQ Quiz. 
Got any news quizzes you particularly like? Let us know. —Jihii
Image: A Fox headline from The Nation’s Fox or Fiction New Quiz. (Sorry, it’s an answer spoiler for one of the questions.)

How Much Do You Know about the News?

The Nation recently sent out a Fox or Fiction News Quiz that asks viewers to guess which of a series of headlines are real Fox News headlines. The larger point is to establish themselves as a necessary force against what they see as ludicrous reporting from Fox and get people to support The Nation.

But setting that point aside, sometimes news quizzes are fun. And useful. Wading through continuous streams of information all day make weeks hard to separate sometimes. In the spirit of literacy and fun, Slate offers a weekly news quiz with Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings. The NY Times has a 5 question daily based on a given day’s paper. And, if you want to see how you compare to the rest of the nation by age, gender and education, take the Pew Research Center’s News IQ Quiz

Got any news quizzes you particularly like? Let us know. —Jihii

Image: A Fox headline from The Nation’s Fox or Fiction New Quiz. (Sorry, it’s an answer spoiler for one of the questions.)

How Do I Get Started in Journalism?

I’m an aspiring journalist. That’s what I want to do with my life. However, I’m not sure where to start. Could you help me?raetschi

May we direct you to our QA Tag where you’ll find FJP deep thinking on subjects such as:

I hope these links help.

One item perhaps not mentioned in the above though is this: Ask every journalist you know (and even those you don’t) how you can break in, who you might be able to talk to and if, of course, they know of any openings you might be able to pursue.

Have other questions? Ask away. — Michael