Confirmation Bias and Literacy – The ML Podcast

This week Will and Bruce dive into a deep conversation about literacy and confirmation bias. The conversation was triggered by the New Yorker article Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds by Elizabeth Kolbert.

What Should Schools Be Doing?

Will points out that he feels literacy is a moving target, and to some extent creators are preying on our ignorance. It is easy to get caught in the echo chamber which is now referred to as confirmation bias in research. Reading what we already believe to be true and reading support for that truth leads to people not asking deeper questions.  We need to be sure we have a fact checking mechanism, and more importantly, we must WANT to know what truth is.  This leads to the underlying question, “What should schools be doing about this?”

There is well documented diminishing of curiosity in schools at the very time that we needs learners to be most curious. We must stop conditioning our learners to wait for the answer. They must exhibit the curiosity to ask questions and have the wherewithal to figure it out. Bruce expands on an idea in the New Yorker article, and he admits that he has begun to examine his own ideas with the intention to see the weaknesses.  That is the biggest issue in regards to confirmation bias. We are unable to see weaknesses in our own arguments. In schools, we must start to emphasize curiosity and questioning of our own beliefs. We must consider to question the cost of compliance in regard to curiosity.

Both Bruce and Will highly recommend checking into the work of Mozilla and NCTE. Their work on media literacy is really good, and can serve as an excellent starting point.

Parents have confirmation bias too

Parents have traditionally known what their children are doing at school because they did the same thing when they were in school.  However, with the rapid change in the world and education, we must change the story being told. Not much has changed in school communication. School newsletters, emails that are straight to the point, open house or showcase events, parent teacher conferences all are the same as they have been.  Many of these communication channels lack any emotional connection.

The future of work and literacy is different, and our learners are entering a world vastly different than 10 years ago. Every communication a district has with families and the community tells the story of the school. To an extent, schools need marketing to craft the stories we want to tell. In telling the stories we want told, we have the opportunity to build capacity in the community to know what the acceptable narrative of learning is.

Marketing helps change the questions

CCSD59 is a district who gets this. They have a very detailed branding guide. One of the lines in the guide states that when they take pictures of students the photos never look down on them. To put so much detail in a document about the district brand tells a story in and of itself. Some may look at a document like this as showing off or arrogant or even a waste of school funds. But Will and Bruce argue the transparency is worth it’s weight in gold. When a school provides that level of transparency, the community knows what questions to ask and they are more likely to support the changes being implemented…because they can see them.  Parents are looking for support from school leaders, and you can provide that through telling the story. It takes courage, but it’s worth it.

Other links worth checking out:

CCSD59 in :59

Rottnest Channel Swim

Modern Learners podcast inteview with Art Fessler, Superintendent of CCSD59

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