How to teach kids to hunt out fake news? With dinosaurs, of course.
A Canadian couple wants to help kids detect inaccuracy in media and they’re using dinosaurs to do so.
Jason Harley and partner Daniel Beaudin have produced a graphic novel called Fake News and Dinosaurs.
“We know from educational psychology research that narratives with stories can be a really powerful way of teaching people,” Harley explains.
In the fictional story, two young dinosaurs join forces to solve the sudden and mysterious disappearances of prized show-raptors. But the real moral is in helping readers hone their media literacy and discover how emotions can muddle a message.
“Emotions can impact learning — they can narrow our attention, get in the way, distract us — and fake news uses that.”
Harley, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, says there are a lack of resources when it comes to teaching young people about media literacy.
Cuddly, yet realistic
As the novel’s illustrator, Beaudin faced the daunting task of creating a dinosaur world that was at once realistic and visually appealing.
“That was very important to me to have the dinosaurs looking as exactly as possible as they would have been, but in a cartoony context,” Beaudin says.
“I went as far as to get contact with some archaeologists to make sure that the body posture, the body shape [and] the details would be as accurate as possible — of course in a cartoon context.
“So there was a sweet spot to reach where they look like the real dinosaurs that existed a while ago, while being more cheerful and colourful and engaging for our storyline.”
Beaudin created a world right down to the proper ergonomic design of chairs and cars for his characters.
“I imagined a civilization that would be just familiar enough so that they would deal with the same problems that we do, but at the same time, just alien enough [and] just mysterious enough to surprise people.”
The book is marketed to kids, but Beaudin says everyone can benefit from the lessons:
“We’re all vulnerable to fake news.”
“What does an echo chamber look like? How can it restrict our thinking?” Harley explains of the book’s purpose, “How can bias play into how we understand [or] limit our information?”
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