#LTHEchat no 131 What role does news have in HE? @margymaclibrary

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Margy MacMillan, Canada. @margymaclibrary

There is a persistent narrative that stigmatizes students in higher education as disengaged from the the ‘real world’, uninterested in the news, unaware of current events. Recent research, including the News Study by Project Information Literacy (http://www.projectinfolit.org/news_study.html) however paints quite a different picture. For many students, engaging with the news takes time and effort to sift through facts, compare interpretations across sources, and share information as a form of social capital in discussions with their peers, in classroom activities, and in social media forums.

As a student, I might have heard a newscast on the radio in the morning, read a newspaper at lunch, and caught some of the evening news in passing (it was the dark ages, there was one TV in the residence hall of some 300 students), all carefully controlled, brief encounters with news that was curated by professional journalists and organizations I trusted. Students today are awash in news served to them 24/7 by unseen algorithms in their social media feeds, and a plethora of other digital sources, the trivial is mixed with the crucial, traditional reporting from the BBC or Al-Jazeera appears alongside on-the-scene citizen journalism, viewpoints are filtered to reinforce biases and drive consumption, and all the while, leaders, media reports, and perhaps even professors, say the media is not to be trusted.

It’s no wonder many students feel overwhelmed. The good news, as our study found, is that many students value news enough to persist in finding their way through it, balancing accounts, views, and interpretations. However, they were more likely to be actively engaged in this work for academic assignments, and often much more passive consumers when it came to news in their personal lives.

One of the most interesting study findings is that 70% of our 5844 respondents encountered news through discussions in the classroom. Professors’ recommendations were a key source of news for academic work (68%) and in their personal lives (38%). However there was a wide range of experiences with news, and field of study was a factor – Humanities students were far more likely to see news integrated in their classrooms than students in the Sciences.

So – if we believe it’s important for students to develop effective habits in using news, and if we understand that the classrooms are an important place for engaging with news… what can we do as instructors to support students’ engagement with news for both academic and personal purposes?

Margy MacMillan

Margy is a retired librarian and Professor Emerita of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is currently a Senior Researcher with Project Information Literacy, a research institute that conducts ongoing, national studies on what it is like being a student in the digital age. She has recently worked on a major study investigating how students engage with news. Fascinated by the results, she is intrigued by their implications for higher education.

Material from the study is here
Alison J. Head, John Wihbey, P. Takis Metaxas, Margy MacMillan, and Dan Cohen, “How Students Engage with News: Five Takeaways for Educators, Journalists, and Librarians,” Project Information Literacy Research Institute. (October 16, 2018). http://www.projectinfolit.org/news_study.html

More news about news….

Samantha Bradshaw & Philip N. Howard, “Challenging Truth and Trust: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation.” Working Paper 2018.1. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. (August 9, 2018). https://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/cybertroops2018/

Emily Van Duyn & Jessica Collier, “Why We Really Need to Stop Saying Fake News.” (August 23, 2018).


Pangiotis Metaxas. “Technology, Propaganda, and the Limits of Human Intellect.” https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.09541 (June 6, 2018)

Michael Rosenwald. “Making Media Literacy Great Again.” (Fall 2017).

https://www.cjr.org/special_report/media-literacy-trump-fake-news.php/ Useful


Resources for working with students and news:

Caulfield, Mike. “Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.” (2017). https://webliteracy.pressbooks.com/ – a brief book that walks through very practical evaluation strategies.


Beccy Dresden. “Educating students for media literacy.”(February 27, 2018).  http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/blog/?p=2594 – a collection of resources and ideas for teaching from DigPedLab 2017.

Link to the wakelet: https://wakelet.com/wake/f10bf181-4a87-45e6-90f1-53323304a047

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