Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

E-Learning for University Students in Africa

E-learning maybe the solution for increased affordable access to effective education across the world as an organic extension of distance learning, open university and on campus study using ‘FLIPPED learning model’, dependent upon digital resources and communication.

Parts of Africa, and the world, can use e-learning for access.

African University Study via E-Learning (Image copyright Pexels)

For many parts of Africa it is a solution to limited or no access, from Deutsche Welle:

The importance of studying at home for a degree: E-learning in Africa

Many young Africans dream of a higher education. But they often don’t have the means: colleges are often far away and accommodation is expensive. Online universities and e-learning may provide a viable solution.

Lectures with compulsory attendance were not an option for Alida Tapsoba. The 29-year-old from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, has to earn a living and therefore needs to be in control of when she works and when she studies. With this in mind, she decided to take an online course. “But I was also afraid. I wasn’t sure if I could do it,” the journalism student told DW. “You have to be well organized to deliver the assignments on time — especially if you work extra hours.”

Alida Tapsoba said her choice is rather expensive. She spends a lot of money on internet access. She needs to download large files, which is time-consuming and costly. Rebecca Stromeyer knows the problem well. She said that in many African countries, internet access is considerably more expensive than in Germany. Stromeyer is the founder of e-Learning Africa, an annual conference which attracts experts in the field to network and exchange information in a pan-African context.

No digital infrastructure

Internet access varies much across the continent. “Kenya is a pioneer, even in rural areas,” said Stromeyer. In the Central African Republic, by contrast, only a few people can accesss the internet. “Conditions are not yet so ideal that everyone in Africa can complete an e-learning program,” said Stromeyer. She adds that governments need put more efforts into developing the infrastructure.

“Nevertheless, the need to develop e-learning was much stronger in Africa than in Europe,” said the communications technology expert. And it is not restricted to university studies. The school system often does not work, especially in rural areas. There is a lack of teachers and textbooks. Stromeyer advocates using the internet for education in schools as well, although she believes that students learn better at school than they do online.

Flexible and individual

Tony Carr, from the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, begs to differ: “Sitting in a lecture hall with 600 other students is much like taking a degree by correspondence. Online interactions can be much warmer and personal. They can bring students closer together than a course requiring attendance.”

Flexibility is another advantage. Young people can also save on accommodation costs by staying at home and not having to rent a room in another city. They can tailor their studies to fit their needs, focus on the skills they believe to be most important and take courses they would not otherwise have access to.

Alida Tapsoba is a case in point. She dreams of working abroad as a journalist. She could not find the master’s course she was looking for in her home town. But a renowned journalism school in Paris had just what she wanted.

South Africa’s pioneers

The University of South Africa (UNISA) pioneered distance learning on the continent. When it was founded in the 1940s it offered only degrees by correspondence. Today, it is on its way to full digitalization. By its own account, it is Africa’s largest distance learning institution.

Tony Carr refers to a research paper into online studies in Africa, which compared different countries between 2011 and 2016. It showed that South Africa was the pioneer in e-learning, followed by Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia. According to Carr, this growth goes hand in hand with internet access, income levels and the increase of the middle class in the countries mentioned.

Generally speaking, Anglophone countries lead the field, Stromeyer said. But there is a growing number of initiatives in French-speaking West Africa. Ivory Coast founded the state-run Universite Virtuelle de Cote d’Ivoire four years ago. “An outstanding institution,” said Stromeyer. “It had the advantage of being able to learn from the mistakes of others.”

High demand in African countries

Many employers still believe that online studies are worth less than degrees that require a physical presence. “They believe that the courses are shorter and that less content is conveyed,” said Stromeyer. “This is not true. The need for e-learning is great in Africa, where an above-average number of young people live. Traditional universities and student accommodation are often overcrowded.” Stromeyer recommended a mixture of online and attendance studies, since young people also have the need to socialize and be part of a community.

The main thing is to gather in-depth information about online courses and providers, Tony Carr pointed out. An online university can be located anywhere, and can circumvent the national accreditation system. Experts recommend asking precisely which degree can be obtained and whether it is recognized in your own country or abroad.

 

For more articles and blog posts about adult learning, andragogy, business training, course design, CPD Continuing Professional Development, e-learning in higher education, ID Instructional Design, international students, MOOCs, Online Education, Pedagogy and Program Design, click through.

 

Language Learning, English and White Nativism

Language learning in Australia by monolingual English speakers is hardly encouraged while for many descendants of non-English Speaking Background (NESB) immigrants, their knowledge of their parents’ language is declining.  However, not only does language allow access to one’s own cultural background or preservation of heritage, learners can also do the same in a smaller world, with other benefits in outlook, creativity, soft skills, business communication and development etc..

Australians of non English speaking background losing their ancestors' language.

Language Diversity Other than English (Image copyright Pexels)

Legislating for English

One would argue that this is not a passive organic process.  Till the ‘90s multiculturalism and other languages were encouraged e.g. Hamer Liberal conservative government in 1970s Victoria.  This was till the Howard government adopted white nationalist or WASP policies creating antipathy towards other languages, banning the word ‘multiculturalism’ in the PM’s Office and promoting English only, influenced by US organisations related to John Tanton, the ‘racist architect of the modern anti-immigration’ movement.

The main organisation was ProEnglish which included Tanton on its Board of Directors, lobbying Washington, and described by SPLC as:

Anti-immigrant hate group ProEnglish visits White HouseSince 1994, ProEnglish has pushed to have English declared the official language of the United States through legislative means. The latest attempt at the federal level, HR 997, the English Language Unity Act, was introduced in 2017 by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), one of the most outspoken anti-immigrant members of Congress. ProEnglish has also pushed for similar legislation at the state level, where 32 states have some form of official English measures on the books.’

Australia has been called ‘a graveyard of languages’. These people are bucking the trend

ABC Radio National

By Masako Fukui for Tongue Tied and Fluent on Earshot

Gaby Cara speaks to her nonna in fluent Italian, but only because she spent a year in a Tuscany when she was nine.

“We were in this tiny little village, and because I was so young, I just picked up Italian really quickly,” Gaby says.

For her dad Bruno, a second-generation Italian-Australian, this was a dream come true.

“I always wanted the kids to experience the culture, and to learn the language at a level where they could communicate freely,” he says.

Gaby and her sister Alexia, who was five at the time, attended the local school in picturesque Panzano.

Alexia soaked up the new language “like a sponge”.

“She had a real Tuscan inflection. It was actually beautiful,” Bruno says.

“Roots migration”, or going to the homeland for an immersive cultural and linguistic experience, is how the Cara family managed to buck a rather alarming trend.

Losing your language

Italians are losing their language at a faster rate than any other ethnic group in Australia.

In the last 15 years or so there’s been a drop of around 80,000 people speaking Italian at home.

According to Census data, there were almost 354,000 people who spoke Italian at home in 2001. By 2016, that had fallen to around 272,000.

The Greeks share a similar migration trajectory to the Italians, but “there are some factors that have helped the Greeks maintain their language more,” says Antonia Rubino, senior lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Sydney.

“One is the lack of this distinction between dialect and standard Italian.”

Many post-war Italian migrants spoke dialect as their first language, and often did not pass on Italian to the second generation, Dr Rubino explains.

“The Greeks also had the church,” she says.

The ‘monolingual mindset’?

This attitude is reflected in our education system.

“Australia is one of the most multilingual countries in the world,” says Ken Cruickshank of the University of Sydney.

Yet, language education is not seen as a high priority and “languages are not part of the core curriculum in any state apart from Victoria in the primary schools,” he says.

In fact, he says, “we come lowest of all OECD countries in the provision and uptake of languages”.

The result is that a bilingual child has a five in six chance of losing their heritage language by the time they finish high school, according to Dr Cruickshank.

Or put simply, multilingual kids go to school to become monolingual, in the majority of cases in Australia.

This monolingual mindset is totally out of sync with our multilingual reality — around 300 languages are spoken in Australia on any given day.

There are two ways people can lose the languages they speak.

The first is through linguistic colonisation, which is what’s happened to many Indigenous and minority languages around the world.

The second is linguistic assimilation.

That’s when immigrants lose their languages as they gradually shift towards the dominant language, English — itself a migrant language….

…..And that raises an important question for all of us living in multicultural Australia.

If language is key to people’s cultural identity, doesn’t it make sense that we value our rich multilingualism?

Gaby appreciates how important knowing Italian is.

Her language not only connects her to her nonna, but also gives her an understanding of different cultures.

“When we were younger, we didn’t think anything of going to Italy,” she says.

She’s now 30, and understands that living in Italy as a kid was also about experiencing a different culture, which is why she’s determined to pass Italian on to the next generation.

That would mean that four generations of Caras speak Italian — a small yet significant contribution to countering the image of Australia as a “graveyard of languages.”

 

For more blogs and posts about learning theory and the promotion of white nationalism click through.

Soft Skills for Work and Employment

Soft skills for work and employment to complement technical skills have been recently highlighted, again, by a Deloitte Australia media release, following is a summary.

Soft skills for work and employment have been recently highlighted, again, by a Deloitte media release.

Soft Skills for Work (Image copyright Pexels)

 

While the future of work is human, Australia faces a major skills crisis – The right response can deliver a $36 billion economic bonus

12 June 2019: With skills increasingly becoming the job currency of the future, a new Deloitte report finds that the future of work has a very human face. Yet Australia is challenged by a worsening skills shortage that requires an urgent response from business leaders and policy makers.

The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human, the latest report in the firm’s Building the Lucky Country series:

  • Dispels some commonly held myths around the future of work
  • Uncovers some big shifts in the skills that will be needed by the jobs of the future
  • Reveals that many key skills are already in shortage – and the national skills deficit is set to grow to 29 million by 2030
  • Recommends that businesses embrace, and invest in, on-the-job learning and skills enhancement
  • Finds that getting Australia’s approach to the future of work right could deliver a $36 billion national prosperity dividend.

 

Employment Myths busted

The report dispels three myths that tend to dominate discussions around the future of work.

Myth 1: Robots will take the jobs. Technology-driven change is accelerating around the world, yet unemployment is close to record lows, including in Australia (where it’s around the lowest since 2011).

Myth 2: People will have lots of jobs over their careers. Despite horror headlines, work is becoming more secure, not less, and Australians are staying in their jobs longer than ever.

Myth 3: People will work anywhere but the office. The office isn’t going away any time soon, and city CBDs will remain a focal point for workers.

 

The big skills shift ahead: from hands…to heads…to hearts

 

“That today’s jobs are increasingly likely to require cognitive skills of the head rather than the manual skills of the hands won’t be a surprise,” Rumbens said. “But there’s another factor at play. Employment has been growing fastest among less routine jobs, because these are the ones that are hardest to automate.”

More than 80% of the jobs created between now and 2030 will be for knowledge workers, and two-thirds of jobs will be strongly reliant on soft skills.

 

Critical skills and the multi-million gap

 

As work shifts to skills of the heart, Rumbens said the research reveals that Australia already faces skills shortages across a range of key areas critical to the future of work.

“These new trends are happening so fast they’re catching workers, businesses and governments by surprise,” Rumbens said.

At the start of this decade, the typical worker lacked 1.2 of the critical skills needed by employers seeking to fill a given position. Today, the average worker is missing nearly two of the 18 critical skills advertised for a job, equating to 23 million skills shortages across the economy.

 

The business response?

 

Rumbens said that getting ahead of the game will require concerted action.

The report includes a series of checkpoints business leaders and policy makers, can use to inform, and drive action. These include:

  • Identify the human value – Identify which jobs can be automated, outsourced to technology such as AI, and which are uniquely human. Use technology to improve efficiency, and increase the bounds of what’s possible.
  • Forecast future skills needs – Understand the skills, knowledge, abilities and personal characteristics of your employees.
  • Re-train, re-skill, and re-deploy – People represent competitive advantage. Consider alternatives to redundancy such as re-training, re-skilling or re-deploying as options to support existing workers reach for new opportunities.
  • Involve people – The people who do the work are often the best placed to identify the skills they require to succeed. Find ways to involve employees in the design and implementation of learning programs.
  • Talk about technology honestly – Engage in an honest dialogue about the impacts of technology to support staff and generate new ideas for managing change.
  • Manage the robots – Introduce digital governance roles to evaluate the ethics of AI and machine learning, alongside existing frameworks.
  • Use mentoring and apprenticeships – Micro-credentialing holds the key to unlocking the value of emerging job skills, while apprenticeship models are re-emerging as an effective way for business to develop a future-ready workforce.
  • Recruit and develop social and creative skills – Recognise and reward social skills such as empathy, judgement, and collaboration when recruiting and developing workers.

 

For more articles and blogs about soft skills and adult learning click through.

 

Study Advice for Starting University

Following is an article from The Conversation Australia with five tips for starting out at university including support services, time management, reading literature, plagiarism or academic integrity and personal responsibility.

Five top tips to succeed in your first year of university

February 25, 2019 6.15am AEDT

Tips and study advice for first year university students.

How to Study at University (Image copyright copyright Pexels).

This week, thousands of new students from around the country will be starting their first year at university. For many students and their parents, transitioning to university is an exciting but daunting experience. Here are five tips to help students succeed in their first year.

  1. Find support services

All universities offer student counselling, mental health, sexual health, disability services, careers centres, accommodation and financial support.

One of the first places to look for these services is on your university’s website under the heading, Current Students. Students should also attend presentations during orientation week, ask their tutors and course coordinators or contact their student centre to get more information.

 

The best way to get information is to talk to other students….

 

  1. Manage your time well

Learning how to juggle social and academic commitments is one of the most difficult challenges for new students. One of the best ways to manage study workloads is to draw up a semester plan. This can take the form of a timeline or calendar.

Students should start by entering in all assignments and exams on their semester plan and then work backwards to allocate time for researching, draft planning, proofreading and checking references…..

 

  1. Keep up-to-date with readings

One common theme across different faculties is that a good assignment is one where arguments have been debated and claims supported by evidence. In order to do this well, students need to do the weekly readings assigned in their individual courses.

You also need to read beyond the required list. Lecturers are not interested in students’ personal opinions. They’re interested in students’ opinions that are informed by evidence. That is, supported by the readings and research the student has done….

 

  1. How to avoid plagiarism

Learning how to reference reading sources correctly, to avoid plagiarism, is an essential skill. At the start of semester, most students have to complete online modules which explain the complexities of academic integrity.

Students caught plagiarising risk failing a course or being expelled from their degree. What this means for students is everything you read which has informed your thinking must be included in your reference list.

 

  1. Enjoy university life!

If you’re not happy with your course or subjects, you should get advice from your faculty. Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning progress, but you should still talk to your lecturers about any concerns.’

 

For more blogs and articles about academic integrity or copying and plagiarism, critical thinking and soft skills click through.