Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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.

 

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.

 

Soft or Work Skills Development of Students for Employment

Soft or Work Skill Development

We often hear talk about generic work skills, soft skills or digital related, but what are they and why are they important?

Hard skills may shortlist you for a job interview, but soft skills will have you selected, and may include the following which could also be described as personal attributes or selection criteria:

 

Communication, Organization, Teamwork, Punctuality, Critical Thinking, Social Skills, Creativity, Interpersonal Communication, Adaptability and Friendliness (Berger 2016).

 

According to Harvard Business Review article ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’:

 

Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change. That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think (Samuel 2016).

 

These could include goal focus, collaboration, communication, learning, troubleshooting and enjoyment.

 

Another view from traditional work of soft skills would designate planning workload, communication, reports, presentations, collecting/using information, note taking, data literacy, projects, ethics, problem solving, decision making, team work, meetings, negotiation, stress management and reviewing one’s own personal skills and development (Bingham and Drew 1999).

 

How does one develop these soft or work skills for work, community and life?

 

According to Open Colleges Australia the following tips are needed to teach students soft skills:

30 Tips to Teach Soft Skills

  1. Give students authentic choices about how they’re going to learn and be assessed.
  2. Provide a learning environment where trust, initiative, and taking risks are encouraged.
  3. Hold all students to the same high standards.
  4. Model perseverance by not giving up on students.
  5. Support students by helping them find their own way.
  6. Demonstrate alternate paths to content mastery.
  7. Teach to the whole person (not just the “student”).
  8. Treat your students as mature individuals, even when they aren’t following instructions.
  9. Talk about tailoring communication styles for different audiences.
  10. 1Build students’ interpersonal skills through an environment of humility and respect.
  11. Help students practise taking on different roles in different situations.
  12. Differentiate opportunities for personal growth and opportunities for team growth.
  13. Cultivate a sense of responsibility through meaningful and unique contribution.
  14. Assign group exercises that give people the opportunity to speak, listen, write, organise, and lead.
  15. Assess learning through interactive evaluations that demand real-world demonstrations of learning.
  16. Challenge students’ reactions to new obstacles and situations.
  17. Emphasise that the same solution doesn’t necessarily work every time, even in the same situation.
  18. Incorporate exercises in delayed gratification in order to build persistence and grit.
  19. Start grading students on how well they listen to their peers.
  20. Discuss the importance of social-emotional intelligence in the real world.
  21. Design opportunities for students to build and demonstrate resilience.
  22. Make learning a personal experience, highlighting the way education shapes personality.
  23. Create opportunities for students to innovate, both on their own and in groups.
  24. Draw attention to the differences between online and in-person social etiquette.
  25. Reward students who are willing to admit they’re wrong.
  26. Recognise students who are committed to communicating ideas to others.
  27. Hold brainstorm sessions in which students list the possible uses for various soft skills.
  28. Help build motivation through principles of self-reliance (read: Emerson, Thoreau).
  29. Keep an open ear and encourage students to develop new thoughts and ideas they may have.
  30. Develop learning ability through greater awareness of individual learning processes (Briggs 2015).

 

Teaching, training or tutoring approaches to learning need to be centred upon student centred andragogy for adults not teacher centred pedagogy for children, see related article blog FLIPPED Model – Pedagogy or Andragogy in Higher Education Teaching Learning.

 

 

References:

 

Berger, G 2016, Data Reveals The Most In-demand Soft Skills Among Candidates, LinkedIn Talent Blog, 30 August, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/most-indemand-soft-skills >

 

Bingham, R & Drew, S 1999, Key Work Skills, 1st edn, Gower Publishing Ltd., Aldershot.

 

Briggs, S 2015, 30 Tips to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your Students, Inform Ed – Open Colleges, 1 May, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/30-ways-to-cultivate-soft-skills-in-your-students >

 

Samuel, A 2016, ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, 5 February, viewed 21 March 2018,
< https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-soft-skills-of-great-digital-organizations >

Business Communication Theory – Application for Professional Practice

Communication Theory and Professional Practice 1.2

Subject of Business Communication

 

Prescribed text referred to in these notes is Mohan et al, 2008, Communicating as Professionals, Edition 2, Cengage Learning, Melbourne. These notes are for the use of Bachelor of Business students with purchased copies of the text, not to be copied or sold separately.

For similar blog articles about subject of business communication click through.

Preview

 

What are the rules for good communication according to the transmission model, and what are the pitfalls?

 

The elements required of a professional communicator include the need to be clear and responsible, organised message, optimal use of medium, allows for receiver and environment, and allows response to check understanding.

 

Understanding different types of communication, views, attitudes and opinions that society, groups, people, consumers, clients, cultures, voters and customers have, with different preferences and ways of communicating, is essential for effective communication.    Accordingly, when we as a professional plan and prepare for communicating a message we must take all these elements or variables into account, if we want to achieve our purpose.

 

A simpler example follows, in communicating instructions with purpose, ‘Purposeful communication’.  Which is the best and why?  In English we have an expression for effective communication of systems and instructions, ‘KISS keep it simple and short’

 

Another example, too many students are gathering out front smoking cigarettes, leaving the area untidy, obstructing pedestrians and giving Stott’s a bad image in Lygon Street.  Write a message for the notice board to change this behaviour.

 

Finally, to show the importance of clear and purposeful communication in the workplace or professional life see Case Study 1.3 ‘Structuring the message’.  What is wrong with the message and how should it be communicated, i.e. purposefully keeping in mind ‘KISS’.

 

Transmission Model

Shannon Weaver Transmission Model of Communication

Shannon Weaver Communication Model

Standing here lecturing I am the information source, my vocal chords/mouth the transmitter, speech is the channel, your ears/hearing the receiver and you the destination.  What happens is that ideas, facts, data or commands are sent as a message, i.e. relates between source and transmitter, and then receiver and destination.

 

A message has content, structure such as explanation or narrative, and code e.g. language, images, music or body movement, depending upon sources and destinations.  Different sources could be academic, lecturer or teach versus research student, university student and school pupil.

 

Medium or channels are numerous sensory bases including face to face verbal, written, telephone, musical, poetic etc. and now the information communication technology (ICT) revolution a potential mix of all. Important, is the choice of channel(s) to convey the message (s).

 

How is communication carried between source and transmitter to the receiver and destination? (Medium/channel) Give examples, advantages and disadvantages?

 

What do we call an answer or response?  Does it always exist in communication? Give examples

Feedback Communication Model Loop

Schramm’s Circular Model of Communication

Schramm’s model is logical continuation of response or feedback, i.e. circular continuous and exemplified by encoding and decoding through various signs e.g. question and answer in conversation, which allows immediacy and accuracy.

 

What is a loop? What are examples of signals carried within loop?  In customer service this occurs whether face to face, over the telephone, online messenger or automated telephone service.  The latter example of an automated telephone service is purely technical form of communication and can be used to lodge a simple tax return, but if the message is not decoded, interpreted or encoded correctly, then you can defer to a live operator.  What are other examples of this communication working, and also where this would not be possible, and why? Would this be suitable for a detective interviewing a suspect, or a doctor attempting to diagnose a patient, why or why not?

 

Flow of communication generally in one direction or from one source such as gossip, rumour or the grapevine but with commensurate distortions though omission, alteration and addition.

 

Another example is your choice of study destination, agent, courses, visas, immigration and accommodation?  Who did you seek advice or suggestions from and from where did their advice come from?  Why might people use the ‘grapevine’ in preference to other sources e.g. official websites or government offices? What are the issues or potential problems with gaining informal advice from the ‘grapevine’?  Are there other ways the ‘grapevine’ can be used professionally e.g. ‘viral marketing’ by the advertising industry?

 

Summary:

 

What are the rules for good communication according to the transmission model, and what are the pitfalls?

 

Transmission model requires good communication through well thought out objective(s), message structure, optimum medium, socio cultural elements, eliciting and managing feedback, and keep direct to minimise distortion.  Because it is dependent upon the person for transmission, and subjective regarding the message, meaning and other elements are not taken into account when communication takes place, or too simplistic.  In a professional context the message must be very clear and checked for accuracy, while personally or socially be aware of the pitfalls and do not believe everything you are told, again check.

 

Reference List:

 

Mohan T., McGregor H., Saunders S. & Archee R., 2008, Communicating as Professionals, 2nd Edition, Cengage Learning Australia P/L, Melbourne.

Schramm, W. 1954, ‘How communication works’, in Schramm, W. & Roberts D. F. (eds), The process and effects of mass communication, University of llinois Press, Chicago.

Shannon, C. E. & Weaver, W. 1949, The mathematical theory of communication, University of Illinois Press, Chicago.