Set the Stage
Ask students if they have heard the term “echo chamber” as it relates to news and information in general. Give them a few minutes to work in their pairs or trios to write a definition for this term. Lead a brief discussion of the students’ definitions and, if needed, provide the definition (Definition of information echo chamber). Explain that responsible media consumers recognize that information echo chambers are built by carefully selecting information geared to the reader’s pre-existing beliefs and that it’s up to individuals to break out of these echo chambers to read and evaluate differing points of view. Tell students that in this activity they will examine their personal information echo chambers and create a plan to bring more balance to their media consumption.
Explain that this activity is broken into several parts. Students will rotate through working individually, in pairs or trios, as a whole class, and then wrap-up working individually again.
Ask students where and how they get their news. Share the following results from two national surveys.
1. According to a 2018 survey from Pew Research Center, 47% of American adults prefer to watch news, while 34% want to read the news, and 19% listen to the news. When asked their preferred platform for getting news, 44% said TV, 34% said Internet, 14% said radio, and 7% said print.
2. A 2017 study from Common Sense Media finds that the top three news sources for tweens (ages 10 to 12) and teens (ages 13 to 18) who got news ‘yesterday’ are family (45%), social media (38%), and television (37%). [Note: This adds up to more than 100% because respondent could select multiple news sources).]
Tell students it’s their turn to think about ways they access news. Give them about 5 minutes to respond individually to the 12 survey questions on the Information Echo Chambers handout. Point out the five questions immediately following the survey. Give students 10 minutes to read and write a one paragraph response to the questions. [Note: Students working in a digital file can add their paragraphs immediately following these questions. Provide writing paper to students who are working off-line.]
Possible Modification: If students are struggling to write the paragraph, you may want to add a class discussion of the five questions and then ask them to write a one paragraph response.
Once students have completed their paragraphs, allow them to move into their pairs or trios. Explain that their task now is to share their paragraphs with one another and discuss the four questions posed in the With your partner(s) section of the handout. Tell students they may modify their original paragraph after the discussion, if needed. Monitor students’ conversations and assist where needed.
Explain that now students will develop a plan to be more thoughtful about their news consumption. Say that you will lead a class discussion about several important concepts that includes previewing several resources they can use to complete the final part of this activity which is to create their individual news consumption plans.
1. How often do you need to watch, read, or listen to the news? [Note: On the Student Resources page for this activity, introduce the online resources listed under Where do Americans get their news?]
2. What news sources are most likely to be trustworthy? [Note: For questions 2 and 3, introduce the online resources listed under Vetting news sources.]
3. How can you determine if these sources are reliable?
4. Where can you find trustworthy news sources from points of view different from your own? [Note: For questions 4 and 5, introduce the online resources listed under Limited access to news and be sure to discuss false equivalence.]
5. Do differing points of view mean there are always two sides to every story?
6. How will you know if your plan is working?
Possible Modification: Depending on their skill levels and the amount of time required to provide instruction, students may need a second period to complete the activity.
Following the class discussion, ask students to write a personal plan for how they will become a better consumer of news. Remind them that the plan must include the following:
1. A statement about how often they plan to access news each week.
2. A list of specific, balanced, and reliable news resources they will use along with an explanation about why they chose these resources.
3. An explanation of how they will hold themselves accountable for following this plan.
[Note: Students working in a digital file can add their paragraphs immediately following these direction in the handout. Provide writing paper to students who are working off-line.]