According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well â€” sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter â€” reading The Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com â€” with a social one.
I like the phrase “social filter” that the article puts forth as a way to capture what I think is a big shift in emphasis on many of the basic reading literacies that we should have been teaching but by and large haven’t been doing a very good job with. We have to be editors, not only in the sense of identifying those pieces of information that should be “passed on” but in assessing those that have been passed on to us. It is a bit more complex, and potentially problematic, when the filter who is suggesting something for you to read may not be very well trained in the skill of filtering either.
While, as the article points out, much of this trend is a technological version of “word of mouth,” I think the difference is the scope of the potential personal audience, the ease with which we can copy and forward what we find, and the speed with which it all happens. Think Twitter for all of that.
And this is a younger vs. older thing. While two-thirds of those under 30 use social networking tools to disseminate and consume information, only 20% of those over 30 do. I’m guessing those percentages are about right for education as well.
Finally, I find this really encouraging, especially in an age where talking heads hold so much sway:
Young people also identify online discussions with friends and videos as important sources of election information. The habits suggest that younger readers find themselves going straight to the source, bypassing the context and analysis that seasoned journalists provide.
Obviously, that can be good or bad, depending on who those “seasoned” journalists are and who your friends are. But I’m just thinking that if we can teach kids to go to the source and do their own cogent, reasoned analysis, that’s a good thing. Again, establishing these skills and habits in our students has to be something that we model and include in every part of the K-12 curriculum.
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