Paraparaumu College’s Year 9 students have been learning how to spot ‘fake news’ with all Year 9 students taking part in a workshop focusing on this issue during the College’s recent Great Learner Week. The workshop was devised and facilitated by teachers from the Social Sciences Learning Area. Assistant Head of Department, Robert Smith, explained that in the social media age, many students (and their parents) are living in an “echo chamber.” “Recent elections in the USA and the early rounds of the current French elections appear to have been influenced by so-called news stories which circulated social media networks, shaping public opinion.” In the workshop, students were taught skills to critically pull apart sources of information so that they could question news items before they share them. Head of Department, Melanie Meikle, sees the decision not to share such stories as part of the “wider responsibility which we all have to be good digital citizens”. Teachers report that the workshops have generated debate, with one group of students questioning whether even a website, which was designed to identify and debunk fake news, could be trusted.
This was the fourth time Paraparaumu College has run its Great Learner Week for Year 9 students. Its introduction was based on feedback from parents who had indicated that some students struggle to grasp the learning skills needed to make a successful transition to secondary school. The week focuses on the development of Paraparaumu College’s Great Learner attributes of Collaboration, Active Learning, Respect and Effective Self-Management (CARE). Principal, Gregor Fountain, explained that “this set of skills is crucial across the curriculum as we access and create new ideas and knowledge.” 2017’s Great Learner Week included an Outdoor Education programme at Otaki Forks. “The skills learned in these activities include problem-solving, self-management and teamwork, which are so important in all our learning, be it at school, at home or in our communities” Gregor Fountain said.