I am thrilled to be writing on this topic because, as an arts education student, this is my realm! The five art strands (dance, drama, literature, music, visual art) are meant to challenge ideas, question things, see, seek, ask, and value things from different and sometimes opposing and/ or uncomfortable standpoints. I’ve been trained to embrace social issues in the classroom, encouraging students to question and come to solutions and/ or conclusions, or make others aware of alternative ways of seeing, through their art. And fake news is a HUGE social issue! Art speaks to humans in a myriad of ways that nothing else can. For example, when you see this art installation are you not automatically, immediately, and intensely committed to keeping plastic out of our waterways?
To tie digital literacy into arts education in a grade 6 classroom I suggest using the outcome CR6.2 Investigate and identify ways that the arts can express ideas about identity.
The indicator that works best is b. Reflect on and discuss the intentions, problem-solving processes, and interpretations of own and others’ arts expressions including how they relate to the concept of identity.
Literature, as a form of art, comes in a huge array of possibilities which includes fake news. Provide the students with grade appropriate news stories and teach them how to identify what is fake and what is real. The most alarming thing I learned this week comes from Garry Kasparov, the chess Grandmaster and political activist, when he said, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” To annihilate truth!? We need to be very, very concerned and therefore I am committed to teaching young minds how to appropriately challenge and question what they see, read, and hear.
This video provides 5 steps of how we can help students make their way through the sea news they see on a daily basis.
The NCTE is committed to increasing “the quality of English Language Arts instruction at all education levels”. This can be further supported in this grade 6 arts education class because students need to construct meaning from what they are ingesting. When students create their art, their “comprehension of the text was profound” because they study the text in a different way outside of their English class.
Let’s look at another example, a grade 3 class. The outcome is:
CR3.1 Describe ideas and problem-solving processes used in own arts expressions and the indicator is:
a. Identify and describe how arts expressions make them think and feel;
c. Discuss own and group inquiry and creative problem-solving processes (e.g., the paint kept getting muddy so I cleaned my brush more often; the troll was bossy in the beginning; my partner and I thought it would look better if we jumped at the same time; we couldn’t hear the voices so we played softer).
Again, the teacher can provide grade appropriate art expressions, in this case, fake news stories such as the tree octopus. A class discussion will identify how the students are feeling and thinking regarding the fake content provided. A teacher led discussion can teach the students how to problem-solve. Websites such as Break the Fake dedicated to helping students learn how to separate fake from truth can be fun and informative.
Considering the NCTE is committed to “considering new instructional ideas, reflecting on tensions and challenges in our profession” it only makes sense to include digital literacy in our classrooms.
Perhaps you are still not convinced this can work in a classroom? Or certainly not in a primary classroom? Let’s have a look at grade one, outcome: CP1.3 Enter into the fiction provided by the drama.
a. Ask questions to contribute to inquiry on a drama topic (e.g., What if all the animals in the town disappeared?);
c. Listen to the contributions of others and seek ways to be inclusive of others’ ideas and points of view;
d. Collaborate with others in dramatic contexts.
Introduce this video to the grade one’s and invite them to choose one of the fake story ideas (Prime Minister has a pet alien, all rivers will be turned to ice cream by 2050, etc.) and invite the students to ask questions and contribute, listen to their peer’s ideas, and then collaborate with their peers to turn this into a short drama.
Teaching students of all ages and grades does not need to be difficult or time consuming. It can simply be added to what we are already doing, as in the three examples I just provided. By exploring these ideas, we can “find new teaching allies“, as the NCTE states, where we can “learn new ideas for delivering instruction“.