Dr. Besharat-Mann to speak at National Council of Teachers of English Convention

This weekend, November 18-21, Visiting Assistant Professor Dr. Rachel Besharat-Mann will share her talk, ‘”You can say anything you want online”: Helping adolescents manage messages on social media through critical and media literacy practices’ at the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Read on for a description of Dr. Besharat-Mann’s talk.

Communication via social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat has become ubiquitous for American teenagers. Through recent years, social media users and digital entities have dispersed potentially false information and spread messages of hate and bigotry for public consumption. These messages are often unavoidable, even during leisure time, resulting in a phenomenon known as incidental news exposure. In addition to news exposure, hateful messages involving race, ethnicity, or other differences between groups are curated by online friends or other entities, spread quickly through social media networks. These messages and exposure to one-sided news online can impact teens who are in the process of developing their own sense of self and learning to be critically literate citizens.

As educators, part of our job is to help students develop critical literacy by modeling our own processes, exposing them to multiple viewpoints, expanding our selection of culturally relevant texts, and other practices. Social media, though seemingly out of the realm of educators, is a place where critical and media literacy is essential and teachers can help to mitigate some of the harmful impact online messages of hate can have on our students. It can also spark civic participation and critical awareness of societal issues.

Through this session, participants will be guided through a hands-on exploration of adolescent behavior on social media with a focus on their receipt of potentially harmful messages. This research will include ongoing research from Dr. Rachel Besharat-Mann which explores how teens are reacting to hateful messages through Instagram and Facebook through both empirical survey data and simulated social media think-alouds. The research presentation will be done through an interactive discussion group to encourage participation from the attendees. Dr. Besharat-Mann will then model an original activity, the Social Media Critical Response organizer, that participants can adapt in their classrooms to help students critically analyze and respond to online messages.

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