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.

 

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.

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.

 

University Education – Student Teacher Tutors or Professors?

Interesting article from The Conversation regarding university tutorial teaching or tutoring quality, students or academics?  The glib answer would be neither form of pedagogy, in fact ‘andragogy’ for adult learners shows that many should be learning together as students, not through teacher centred direction.

Can students teach as well as professors?

Student Tutorial Teachers or Professors? (Copyright image Pexels)

Research shows students are as good as professors in tutorial teaching

February 19, 2019 5.23pm AEDT

Professors and graduate students are at opposite ends of the university hierarchy in terms of experience, qualifications and pay. But at many universities, both do the same job: they teach tutorials offered in parallel with lectures.

Our research explores whether it makes sense for professors to teach tutorials – and we found it doesn’t. They are no more effective as tutorial instructors than students.

This finding implies that universities can reduce costs or free up professors’ time by asking students to teach more tutorials.

Measuring instructors’ effectiveness

We conducted a survey about tutorial instruction in OECD universities. Our results show that tutorials are used in 63% of OECD universities. At 25% of these institutions, tutorials are taught by students, 29% by professors and 46% by a mixture of the two.

Using professors to teach small groups is expensive, and reducing costs is a central concern given the increases in tuition fees and student debt.

We have studied the costs and benefits of using tutorial instructors with different academic ranks, using data from a Dutch business school that offers four key features. First, tutorials are taught by a wide range of instructors, ranging from bachelor’s students to full professors. Second, the school’s dataset is large enough (we observe more than 12,000 students) to give us enough statistical power to detect even small differences between instructors.

Third, at this business school students are randomly assigned to instructors of different academic ranks, creating a perfect experiment for seeing whether academic rank matters. Finally, we were able to supplement these already excellent data with measures of students’ satisfaction with the course, and students’ earnings and job satisfaction after graduation, for some of these students. This is important since instructors might matter in many ways and we need to cast a wide net to capture a range of student outcomes.

Students just as effective

Overall, our results show that lower-ranked instructors teach tutorials as effectively as higher-ranked ones. The most effective instructors – postdoctoral researchers – increase students grades by less than 0.02 points on a 10-point grade scale compared with student instructors. The differences between all other instructor types, from student instructor and full professor, is smaller than that.

Full professors are also no better than student instructors in improving students’ grades in the next related course or job satisfaction and earnings after graduation. We do, however, find that higher-ranked instructors achieve somewhat better course evaluations, but these differences are small.

These findings are counter-intuitive. Yet they are consistent with the general findings in primary and secondary education that formal education does a poor job at predicting who teaches well.

What could be the reason why all the extra qualification and experience of professors does not translate into better results for their students? The content of tutorials might be adjusted in a way that students can easily teach them. Further, lower-ranked instructors may compensate for their lack of experience by being better able to relate to students and being more motivated.

Key implication

The implications of our findings are obvious. Universities can free up resources by not asking their most expensive staff to do a job that students can do equally well. We show that the business school we study can reduce the overall wages they pay to tutorial instructors by 50% if they only employ student instructors.

There are, of course, reasons why universities might not want to exclusively rely on student instructors. Students might not be able to teach some more technically advanced master’s courses. There might be some research-inactive but tenured professors whose most valuable use of time is tutorial teaching. And, as with other research that rely on data from one institution, future studies need to show whether our results hold in other universities as well.

But even if these studies uncover some benefits to students of being taught by a professor, we would be surprised if these are worth the extra costs.’

 

Unclear what is quality teaching and learning? Higher education or universities put great importance upon narrow and high-level specialised knowledge exemplified by a doctorate, i.e. content or subject matter expert. Further, the vocational Certificate IV of Training & Assessment TAE40116 is included on many job descriptions as a desirable teaching qualification and meanwhile ‘real world’ experience can be ignored by institutions and/or embellished by the beholder (unlike the ID points system, all factors are not taken into account).

Related issues here, theory of teaching and learning, pedagogy (for children) is cited but for adults we should be speaking about andragogy.  Andragogy of adult education focuses upon adults’ need for knowledge, motivation, willingness, experience, self-direction and task-based learning.

Good instructional or learning design for adult centred learning:

  • broad and deep needs analysis based on learners’ knowledge, expertise and real skill gaps
  • motivated when they have input and some control over learning, activities and outcomes
  • participate in learner centred activities, interaction and social learning
  • opportunities to contribute knowledge, expertise and reflect on their business practice
  • contribution to and management of learning activities through tasks and problem solving; post course too.

A more complete qualification is the UK Cambridge RSA CELTA or TEFLA, especially behavioural theories fitting ‘andragogy’, including teaching skills, and dealing with significant numbers of adult students for whom English is not their first language.

Another issue to emerge has been that of ‘ID Instructional Design’ on behalf of university teachers, but not based upon subject matter or teach/learning skills (when ID is implicit for any competent teacher).

Finally, explaining in terms of cost (cutting or savings) may seem mercenary when high fees are now the norm for most students.

 

University Graduate Employment

There is much concern about the employment prospects of school and university graduates and the following article highlights some concerns and points on reasons including high school career counselling, parents, industry, universities and back grounded by ignorance of skills in demand.

One could add that societal attitudes and knowledge about science, maths or data and digital are low in Australian elites, meanwhile working age population aka baby boomers is in transition and meanwhile, many low level positions require university degrees as a minimum requirement.

Are there too many university graduates in the wrong disciplines with few employment opportunities?

Too Many University Graduates? (Image copyright Pexels)

Who’s really to blame for too many unwanted graduates?

By Tony Featherstone

February 7, 2019 — 12.01am

Why do thousands of young Australians enrol in the wrong university degree each year and overlook in-demand professions that are screaming for graduates.

In engineering generally, about 10,000 students graduate at our universities each year and about 16,000 engineers arrive here annually from overseas, according to Engineers Australia analysis. There would be a massive engineering shortfall without skilled migration.

It’s crazy that so few Australian students study software engineering, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and other emerging fields, relative to industry demand, yet there is a growing surplus of graduates in the arts, journalism, law and other fields with fewer jobs.

The obvious culprit is universities. They have fanned a graduate glut – and a generation of students with high debt and diminished job prospects – by accepting more students into fields that already oversupplied….

….Industry, schools and students are part of the problem. Business complains about not enough graduates being developed in a new area, yet runs a mile when it has to fund university research or co-develop teaching courses. It’s easier to outsources graduate training to universities, take no risk and let taxpayers co-fund the learning. Then, whinge about universities.

Schools, too, can do more to encourage students to pursue in-demand occupations. I don’t know enough about career counselling at schools to form an opinion, but something must be wrong if so many students enrol in degrees that have terrible job prospects.

Perhaps school curriculums are not sufficiently aligned with the needs of universities. Industry berates universities for not producing enough graduates in areas with skill shortages, yet schools might not be producing enough students with the skill and passion to do engineering and similar courses at university.

Again, that’s changing as more boys and girls study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school. But change is slow and off a low base – engineering, for example, has been crying out for more students, particularly women, for years.

Then there’s students and parents. We tell our kids to follow their passion when choosing a career: think with your heart rather than your head about a degree; take a year or two off for travel before university; chop and change degrees if you don’t like them.

That’s reckless advice. I’m not saying students should enrol in degrees they have low aptitude for, or will make them miserable. They must have an inclination, either natural or an ability to develop one, in any field to succeed in the long run.’

 

For more blogs and articles about higher education teaching, work skills, digital technology and science literacy click through.