The Center for Child Development (CCD) at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has released a textbook entitled Teaching News Literacy and Critical Thinking in the Digital Age and an interactive learning mobile app called “Smart News Rookies” to promote news literacy education among junior secondary students in the upcoming academic year. The textbook will be distributed to secondary schools in September.
Production of the textbook and the mobile app is part of the three-year interdisciplinary project “Promoting Smart and Positive News Engagement among Hong Kong Junior-Secondary School Students: News Literacy Education in the Digital Age” launched in September 2019.
Supported by the Quality Education Fund, the project was led by Dr Kelly Ku, Associate Professor of the Department of Education Studies at HKBU. Other key members of the project team include Dr Celine Song, Associate Professor of the Department of Journalism at HKBU, and Dr Masato Kajimoto, Associate Professor of Practice of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong.
The textbook introduces essential news literacy concepts, such as news values, identification of misinformation on social media, critical thinking in news and privacy protection. With a series of real-life examples and interactive exercises, the textbook brings the positive impact of news literacy training to secondary education, and helps teachers and students acquire the necessary skills to navigate and take control of the news they may come across in the complex news environment and digital landscape.
The project team has also developed a learning mobile app entitled “Smart News Rookies” to stimulate students’ understanding and interest in learning about news literacy. It features five animated videos on the core concepts of news literacy and various interactive activities such as quizzes and surveys. The app is currently available for free download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Dr Kelly Ku said that she believed that the textbook and app will be useful in enhancing students’ awareness of the information environment online. “Technology has greatly changed the way we receive news information. With the flood of information in the digital age, the skills students learn can empower them to form a good habit of receiving news information, such as identifying fake news on social media.”
Ms Ann Choy, Project Officer of CCD and lead author of the textbook, said that the materials were very relevant in the current news and media climate. “We hope the project provides educators with ideas on how to tackle the issues that students may encounter on social media and provide students with the adequate skills to become smart news users.”
Apart from the textbook and mobile app, the project team has organised a series of workshops on news literacy training in seven secondary schools for around 370 students since 2020. Three additional workshops were held for 300 teachers on the news literacy education programme.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the training, the team conducted a research study on 101 participating students. The findings showed that the students significantly increased their awareness of fake news and were less likely to believe fake news after finishing the learning workshops. Some students also reflected on how they were more likely to report fake news to the authorities, filter out false information and alert others.
The findings indicate the usefulness of news literacy and the need to boost critical thinking skills amongst youths in Hong Kong as they receive information in a complicated online news environment.
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