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CultureGrams: What We Added in 2016

It’s time for an annual update on what we’ve added to CultureGrams in the past year. Our editorial team is definitely not standing still. The product just keeps getting better and better as we push forward on our commitment to providing high quality cultural, historical, and geographical information.

Faroe Islands Kids Report via ProQuest CultureGrams

This is just a partial list of accomplishments from 2016.

  • We added 24 new Kids Edition country reports to CultureGrams and are very near to completing that edition. Only two more countries to go and we’ll have reports for every country in the World Edition. That should happen in early 2017
  • We added 46 new interviews to the Faces of the World Interview collection.
  • CultureGrams is now integrated with Google Drive and Google Classroom.
  • We expanded our multimedia offerings by adding 430 new gallery photos, 73 new slideshows, and 102 new videos to CultureGrams.
  • We updated the Average Person infographics, which depict the demographic characteristics of a hypothetical average person in each country, highlighting factors such as income level, family size, language, and religion.
  • We updated all of our data tables.
  • We’re continuing with our regular and ongoing process of major updates and reviews of all CultureGrams reports and other content by native and in-country experts.

And the work continues in 2017. We’re already busy adding  interviews, photos, slideshows, video, etc. And we’re always working to improve our existing content. Stay tuned for what is to come!

By the way, if we haven’t said so recently or often enough, we really appreciate your interest in CultureGrams. We have fantastic customers and we are very grateful for you!

Poll: Should More Be Done to Regulate Fake News?

Strengthening information literacy skills is one way to fight the spread of fake news. However, according to a recent Pew Research poll, many Americans also believe that social media sites, search engines, and the government have a responsibility to stop fake news. Facebook, widely criticized for its role in spreading fake news, recently announced efforts to tackle the problem. Critics, though, argue that this approach could lead to censorship.

The “That’s Debatable!” poll, a popular polling feature in SIRS Issues Researcher, has been asking users all month whether fake news should be regulated. So far, users have overwhelmingly voted yes: fake news should indeed be regulated. What do you think? Should social media sites, search engines, and the government regulate fake news? Or is it the responsibility of news consumers to identify fake news on their own? Take our poll, and tell us what you think.

Are your students equipped with the information literacy skills to identify fake news? ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps

Fake news is a problem. Information illiteracy is an even bigger problem. A Stanford University study released last November found that most students could not identify fake news because they lacked basic information literacy skills. The good news? We are finally having a national conversation on the importance of teaching information literacy, which teachers and librarians have been talking about for years.

Unfortunately, a recent ProQuest survey found that only 25% of librarians thought their library adequately supported information literacy instruction. Thankfully, there are information literacy resources available on the web. Damon Brown’s TED-ED video “How to Choose Your News” offers a quick, student-friendly introduction to information and media literacy. ProQuest’s editable guided research worksheet “How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps” helps students become skeptical news consumers.

Want more resources? See eLibrary’s new comprehensive Research Topic on Fake News.

ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Fake News & the Importance of Information Literacy

 “If you have a society where people can’t agree on basic facts,
how do you have a functioning democracy?”
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron

ProQuest recently surveyed 217 librarians from university, community college, high school and public libraries in North America for their views and insights on information literacy. While 83% of librarians surveyed agree that information literacy affects college graduation rates and 97% believe that it contributes to success in the workforce, only 21% think that their users recognize information literacy’s effect on lifelong success, and 44% believe that their library does not support information literacy instruction as much as it should. Read a report on the full results of ProQuest’s 2016 Information Literacy Survey.

 What Is Fake News?

Although there are many definitions of fake news, the main characteristic is that it is created with an intent to deceive or mislead. Many fake news items are either largely or completely fictitious, and deliberately so. These stories imitate the look and style of real news articles, and they are published on sites designed to imitate established newspaper websites or political blogs, often with closely-related, similar or slightly misspelled domain names.

Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable. She tags the sites by category–false, misleading, unreliable, clickbait, satire, bias, hate, conspiracy theories, junk science, or sometimes a combination of several categories.

How Does Fake News Spread?

Most web publishers define their success by the amount of traffic their sites receive. They use this information to attract and bill advertisers based on the numbers of “clicks” or “hits” their site generates. Sometimes, the factual information or foundation of the article is not as important as the number of page views, because these can be used to generate more revenue from potential advertisers.

News sharing has become popular because people affirm their identities and affiliations by posting links to articles that reflect and support their own existing opinions and beliefs, and fake news stories are often strongly biased. Sometimes a story that was intended as satire circulates as factual information, or false information can originate when regular people who are misinformed post on social media sites. Web site owners can also pay a fee to have their site’s search results shown in top placement on the results page of different search engines.

Sharing fake news articles pushes them higher up in search result pages, causing others to come across them quickly and trust the content. This is supported by a study conducted at Northwestern University, where 102 college students went online to answer questions about topics relevant to them. How did the students assess the credibility of online content? When using a search engine, many students clicked on the first search result. They ignored the sponsoring organization and the article’s author, blindly trusting the search engine to put the most reliable results first.

Why Is Fake News Harmful?

Prior to the internet age, people relied on information in printed form–newspapers, magazines, journals, books, encyclopedias–or they watched the nightly television news. Doing any type of extensive research usually required a trip to the library to find the resources needed. The internet and social media have made it far easier for powerful entities to directly and quickly spread false or misleading information far and wide. One of the most troubling and dangerous aspects of fake news is the prevalence of private groups pushing their own agendas under the appearance of seemingly unbiased news.

An analysis by the digital media powerhouse BuzzFeed News found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook during the final three months of the 2016 presidential election campaign than reports from 19 major news outlets (including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News) combined.

The recent rise in fake news sites underscores the importance of teaching students independent research and critical thinking skills. It’s not enough to tell them to only use the school’s databases–they must learn how to evaluate the sources they find in the collective media sphere, including both print and digital sources. In its position statement on media literacy, the National Council for the Social Studies, an organization that supports social studies education in U.S. K-12 and higher education, argues that it’s important that students be able to “ask key questions, compare competing claims, assess credibility, and reflect on one’s own process of reasoning,” whether they are reading a printed book, a newspaper article or a Facebook post.

Are your students equipped with the information literacy skills to identify fake news? ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Mauritius

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

The new Mauritius report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Mauritius:

  • The dodo—a flightless bird native to Mauritius—became extinct in the 17th century. The dodo only existed in Mauritius.
  • Mauritius Island is around 8 million years old, which is rather young in geological time.
  • Several different types of giant tortoise used to live in Mauritius but have now become extinct.
  • Mauritian ships are sometimes attacked by modern-day pirates in the Indian Ocean; Mauritius began holding court trials for pirates in 2013.

Read about Mauritian séga music and explore the fascinating history of Mauritius in this new report.

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: National Poverty in America Awareness Month

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson introduced War on Poverty legislation in his annual State of the Union address. He emphasized improved education as one of the foundations of the program. On August 20, 1964, he signed a $947.5 million antipoverty bill that was intended to help more than 30 million U.S. citizens.

Signing of the EOA

LBJ Signing Economic Opportunity Act of 1964
By US Government (LBJ Library) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Poverty in America Awareness Month promotes knowledge and understanding of the realities of poverty in the United States. According to the U. S. Census Bureau in 2015, more than 43 million Americans–13.5 percent of the population–lived in poverty. Reasons are complex and multifaceted and the effects on the nation are immense.

Building in Odessa, Minnesota

Building in Odessa, Minnesota
Photo by Greg Gjerdingen via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

January’s Discoverer Spotlight of the Month explores the issue poverty in the United States. Use this month as an opportunity to examine poverty and perhaps even get involved in local anti-poverty campaigns. Direct your students to featured articles, images and websites to understand the many causes and ramifications of poverty. Dig deeper by researching the devastating Great Depression and the current impact of poverty on youth and families. Explore the Pro/Con Leading Issues: Poverty page as it highlights content for young researchers.

For more in-depth information:
Poverty USA
National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)
Talk Poverty

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: New Caledonia

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of New Caledonia via CultureGrams

The new New Caledonia report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about New Caledonia:

  • British Captain James Cook named New Caledonia after the Latin name for Scotland.
  • New Caledonia has a quarter of the world’s nickel, which is used in cell phones, kitchen tools, medical equipment, and buildings.
  • For 40 years, the capital city of Nouméa was a penal colony (place to exile prisoners). It also served as a U.S. military headquarters in the South Pacific during World War II.
  • New Caledonia is home to the largest species of tree fern in the world. They are so large they look like palm trees.

Read about the native Kanak people, traditional foods, and games and sports, all in this colorful new report.

Top Trending Pro/Con Leading Issues of 2016

2016. What a year. Let’s take a look at some of the pro/con Leading Issues that dominated SIRS Issues Researcher’s featured trending list in 2016.

In 2017, ProQuest editors will continue to create new Leading Issues and update existing ones.

As always, we thank you for your support, and we look forward to serving you and your students in 2017 and beyond.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher? Request a free trial.

Fake News: Teaching Students to Evaluate Sources

In an era where students search for information online via search engines and social media, they need the ability to identify and distinguish reputable sources from deceptive sources. In other words, they need to be able to tell the difference between real and fake news. A November 2016 study from Stanford researchers has concluded that students are not prepared.

Our “digital natives” may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped.--“Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning,” Stanford History Education Group

Source Evaluation Aid Available in ProQuest Research Companion

Source Evaluation Aid Available in ProQuest Research Companion

ProQuest Research Companion is here to help. Equip students with information literacy skills through self-paced learning modules, assessments, and tools such as the Source Evaluation Aid. The embedded video above is an example of the material available in the evaluating sources learning module.

ProQuest’s Guided Research products such as CultureGrams, eLibrary, and SIRS Issues Researcher offer authoritative content that is vetted and packaged for middle and high school students. Besides reliable information and tools, you can also find supplementary handouts to guide students step by step such as the SIRS Issues Researcher: Research Guide for the Critical Thinker.

Don’t have ProQuest Research Companion or other Guided Research products? Request a Free Trial!

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Comoros

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

comoros-flag

Flag of Comoros via CultureGrams

The new Comoros report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Comoros:

  • Comoros is one of the top two producers of vanilla in the world (second to Madagascar).
  • The name Comoros came from the Arabic word qamar, meaning “moon”
  • Arab slave traders used Comoros as a base for transporting African slaves as early as the 16th century.
  • Comoros has one of the largest populations of the coelacanth fish, once called a “living fossil” because it was thought to have become extinct more than 65 million years ago, until it was rediscovered in the 20th century.

Read about local Comorian games and sports, as well as musical instruments and styles, all in this colorful new report.

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