Print

Print


Brattleboro Reformer story "Learning to discern fact from faux news" about
Mike Auerbach's work at Brattleboro Union High school. Mike is a current
grad student in the Teaching with Technology program and went to Marlboro
College as an undergrad.

Full story here
<http://www.reformer.com/stories/learning-to-discernfact-from-faux-news,495664>,
and copied below.


Learning to discern fact from faux news
[image: Michael Auerbach, a science teacher at Brattleboro Union High
School, helps students Gabby Carpenter, left, and Maddy Lynch, right, with
their film on Wednesday.]
<http://www.reformer.com/uploads/original/20170119-195435-REF-L-BUHSFilm-Aude_59621.jpg>
Michael Auerbach, a science teacher at Brattleboro Union High School, helps
students Gabby Carpenter, left, and Maddy Lynch, right, with their film on
Wednesday.
KRISTOPHER RADDER - THE BRATTLEBORO REFORMER

   -
   -

Posted Thursday, January 19, 2017 7:54 pm
By Paul Cohen, Special to the Reformer
BRATTLEBORO — There's an interesting and timely experience unfolding in
Michael Auerbach's Environmental Science and Policy class at Brattleboro
Union High School.

His students are studying issues regarding climate change and global
warming, among other topics, and have been reading from a variety of
resources.

Earlier this semester, a guest speaker pointed out a quote from a text that
had been attributed to the Environmental Protection Agency. It stated that
despite our best efforts, we'll end up making no significant difference in
the warming of our planet. It turned out, though, that the citation was
inaccurate.

"Now this is where most people just continue on with their reading,"
Auerbach said. "They don't go to the reference cited in order to verify the
statement. We checked it out and in this case, it turned out that the
author was quoting a Heritage Foundation article about the EPA report and
not the report itself. That's a big difference."

He shared, "I think it's very daunting for teenagers who are scientific
neophytes to discern what may be true [when reading] what one group says
versus another group. I often see two outcomes: one is that you take your
professor's word for it, which I resent. I don't feel anyone should be able
to just spoon feed somebody their liberal or conservative politics or
scientific opinions based on their own points of view. The other outcome is
that students simply choose to continue believing what they have already
come to believe. I want students to investigate how we can really tell if
something is valid and truthful."

Springboarding from this, Auerbach selected articles with differing views
on a variety of climate change issues. He assigned both pro and con
articles to pairs of students and asked them to explore the citations
listed in them. They had to determine if the citations were deemed
trustworthy based on a ranking system that awarded the highest score to
government reports, peer reviews, and assessment reports, followed by mass
media, and then followed by reports published by various think tanks.
Students then located the citations and, in reading them, determined if
"the articles cited were actually used correctly by the authors who cited
them."

His students performed this task on over 100 articles and, in doing so,
discovered that the pro side, those who believe that humans are causing
global warming, scored significantly higher in their ranking system than
those with the con point of view.

"We discovered a significantly higher usage of sites that were deemed not
legitimate and, in fact, some that had been discredited, in the articles
that disagreed with the notion of human causes of global warming."

Continuing this investigation, he and his students next conducted
interviews during a recent weekend in downtown Brattleboro, asking people
three questions: where do you get your news and information? How do you
tell if the information is reliable? And do you have an opinion on climate
change, and if so, when did you arrive at that conclusion and what was it
that led you to that conclusion? They found, not surprisingly, that few
people utilized resources considered to be "spot on," according to
Auerbach. "The majority of people said they got their news online or from
listening to what their friends have to say, and a number of people said
they relied primarily on social media as the basis for their information
gathering."

Auerbach believes this investigative procedure, seeking the veracity of
things we read and hear, is a useful skill for all of us in our current
world of information overload. "From my point of view, what could be better
and more timely than knowing you're sending people out into the world with
a toolkit that they can continue to use, providing a process to discern
things they can trust from things that they can't. I think this is
something that a lot of Americans could use right now."

Timely, indeed.

Colette Anton, a West Dover senior in Auerbach's class, appreciates the
importance of this form of investigative learning. "It's made me consider
the fact that when you read something you believe was attributed to the
EPA, for example, that you immediately jump to reliability and credibility,
when this may not be case at all." She went on to say, "I think it's harder
today to determine if something is true or not. "Everyone's biased and I
think we often check the news as a way of reinforcing our own beliefs. I
have a liberal viewpoint and I find it often hard to consider a more
conservative one. I think it's very important, especially in science
classes, to be sure that what you're reading is actually correctly cited
and accurate. I've found this process to be very helpful."

Her current focus in Auerbach's class is in "regenerative agriculture,
which is the process of re-constructing the organic matter in our soil to
help us return to the way that ecosystems occur naturally. 40 percent of
our topsoil is gone, worldwide."

It's worth noting that Auerbach's students are taking this class for dual
credit, both high school and college. Environmental Science and Policy is
one of the many Windham Regional Collegiate High School courses offering
dual credit, in this case through an agreement with Marlboro College. The
Windham Regional Collegiate High School offers more than 50 such courses in
partnership with both the high school and the Windham Regional Career
Center and in conjunction with a number of area colleges.

Paul Cohen is a consultant for the Windham Regional Career Center and the
Windham Regional Collegiate High School. He can be contacted at
[log in to unmask]
-- 
*Caleb Clark*
Marlboro College, Degree Chair, Teaching with Technology:
marlboro.edu/edtech
E: [log in to unmask] | P: 802-258-9207