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Teaching Critical Reading and Writing in the Era of Fake News

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Edited By Ellen C. Carillo and Alice S. Horning

This collection offers support for instructors who are concerned about students’ critical literacy abilities. Attending to critical reading to help students navigate fake news, as well as other forms of disinformation and misinformation, is the job of instructors across all disciplines, but is especially important for college English instructors because students’ reading problems play out in many and varied ways in students’ writing. The volume includes chapters that analyze the current information landscape by examining assorted approaches to the wide-ranging types of materials available on and offline and offers strategies for teaching critical reading and writing in first-year composition and beyond. The chapters herein bring fresh perspectives on a range of issues, including ways to teach critical digital reading, ecological models that help students understand fake news, and the ethical questions that inform teaching in such a climate. With each chapter offering practical, research-based advice this collection underscores not just the importance of attending to reading, particularly in the era of fake news, but precisely how to do so.

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13. Preparing Students to Read and Compose Data Stories in the Fake News Era

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ANGELA LAFLEN

As instructors consider ways to help students become more critical readers of the texts they encounter online and elsewhere in the fake news era, we must be sure to consider the unique difficulty associated with reading and composing data stories. Data stories are multimodal texts that combine words, iconography, and data displays to make numeric data comprehensible for the public, decision makers, and other audiences. They have always been recognized as powerfully persuasive texts. Today, though, as technology has resulted in an information explosion, data storytelling has become an essential strategy for managing data. Infographics guru Cairo (2013) explains the purpose of visualizing data as “giv[ing] shape to data, so that relevant patterns become visible” (p. 16). The point of making these patterns visible is, as Knaflic (2015) explains, to turn data “into information that can be used to drive better decision making” (p. 2). Writing instructors are well-equipped to help students understand how data stories are composed to appeal to specific audiences and achieve persuasive goals, and a growing body of scholarship focuses on how data function rhetorically (Beveridge, 2015; Wolfe, 2010). This chapter contributes to that work by considering specific classroom strategies useful for helping students to practice reading and producing data stories. I share a unit-long project I have used in composition courses at different levels to introduce data storytelling to students.

The ability to read data stories critically is important for students as an academic skill and...

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