Demanding More: Stephen Lecce Must Resign

LECCE2

Dear Mr. Lecce,

This is now my second open letter to you as a concerned Vaughan-King constituent. 

As today marks OECTA’s first province wide withdrawal of service since 1997, I wanted to share my thoughts with you as a taxpayer, parent, dedicated teacher and someone exhausted by your pseudo-expertise. 

As a proud Ontario Catholic teacher, this is the first time in my 15 year years of teaching that I am part of a strike action.  As I prepare to stand in solidarity with my colleagues today on the picket line, I wanted to provide you with some context as to why I stand in strict opposition to this government’s education plan (or lack thereof) and your disconcerting handling of the education portfolio. 

Contrary to your political spin and that of your Conservative colleagues, teacher strikes are not a normal every three year occurrence. Although, all bargaining has moments of significant problem-solving, this is the very first time that many teachers like me, have left the classrooms to stand as a collective one in the face of an ideology that looks to strip publicly funded education of its potential and promise. 

Trust, not being in the classroom as a result of this governments’ disdain for publicly funded education and disrespect for all stakeholders (parents and their children), is not why I completed a Bachelors of Education way back in 2004 – 2005 at Brock University. In fact, it was because of Ontario’s reimagined education philosophy and framework under Dalton McGinity’s Ontario Liberals, that I found myself to be called to the world of teaching. 

Fullan

As someone who began his post-secondary studies in 1999 as a film production student, my journey to teaching was not accidental. It was not because of summer vacations (unpaid and which unemployment is not attainable), a pension (which all teachers contribute to) or benefits (which teachers also pay into), but rather the renewed passion the Ontario Liberals ignited their education portfolio with after the years of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. In fact, I was a high school student during the Harris’ years and stood for and with my teachers then like I stand for my profession, colleagues, students and my own children today. 

This is to say that today’s Conservative government is consistent in one thing: destruction. Whether it is stripping meaningful support for Autism programming, actively fighting climate change or investing in a world-class publicly funded education system, this government is a master dismantler. This government is not for the people, but rather for the select elites who can financially afford to navigate the dark aftermath of deep system cuts and lack of forwarding thinking vision.

Specifically in regards to education, you must take ownership of the chaos you are creating. With your cuts, lack of investment and overall vision:

  • Elementary and High School students will find themselves in classrooms that are oversized and depersonalized;
  • Fewer teachers will be working to enrich the lives of Ontario’s young people;
  • Increased class sizes, will impact the safety or students and teachers;
  • High School Students will continue to lose the opportunity to take much needed elective courses, thus impacting their readiness for post-secondary;
  • Full Day Kindergarten will no longer serve the potential of early learners as it won’t exist or be taught by a team of Teacher and ECE;
  • The lack of support for vulnerable and at-risk students will cause these young people to lose hope and belief in their potential;
  • Mandatory eLearning will displace learners in need of face-to-face instruction and who are still growing in their cognitive ability;
  • Special-Education programming will continue to severely under-serve students and their families;

If this government is for the people, where will the average Ontarian go when these cuts hit home?

Are you expecting parents to go bankrupt to provide their children with access to quality education by highly educated professionals? 

It’s because of all of this that I stand in solidarity with my OECTA colleagues and all Ontario educators and stakeholders. I will not be out in the cold today away from the  classroom that I love just because of compensation and benefits alone. It’s so much more – you know this but choose to create a facade in public. You continue to spin the truth. 

This is about the educational future of my own school-aged children who you have met and for all young people who call Ontario home. I stand against the privatization of our world-class education system. You are not just attacking me as a teacher but as a parent. I will not be bribed. 

I encourage you to look at this issue through a non-partisan lens. I encourage you to think of all children and their families who comprise our wonderful educational communities at elementary and high schools across the province. Paying parents today out of the money not paid to striking teachers is not paying them tomorrow with the promise of a world-class education system that is protected. 

I encourage you to be a true leader. This means, for you to be reflective, courageous, in the pursuit of knowledge, empathetic and selfless. 

If you consider yourself a leader, then I encourage you to speak to your cabinet colleagues and be autonomous from Premier Ford. Stand up for children and families across the province. 

If you consider yourself a leader, I ask you to immediately resign from the position of Minister of Education and admit that your lack of expertise in all aspects of education and bargaining, does not make you effective in your current portfolio. 

No one will fault you. In fact, many will applaud you. 

A true leader knows what is right and just. Do you you?

A an MPP, you must serve in the public trust. You no longer have that trust. 

Your constituent, 

Anthony

Sign and share the resignation petition: Demand More: Stephen Lecce Must Resign

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Whatcha Gonna Do? Reading “Bad Boys”

bad boys header

As a Communications Technology teacher there are a number of great pleasures found in my day-to-day. From observing the student joy of production or the laughter of collaboration gone right, it’s truly a unique classroom where all learners readily show what they know within the context of media and the power of voice.

As students progress in their critical and creative prowess, all learning is grounded in the deep study of genre. It’s through genre that the study of media becomes transformative. Genre provides students with a rich cultural window and enriched opportunities to share their own sensibilities about who they are and their perspectives on the world.

This is not a new stance I take but one that I have readily addressed on this very site. With this, the more students watch critically, the more engaged they will become. This doesn’t mean that the study has to be “high brow” but can be one that entertains and provokes. So, as a new semester soon begins in many high schools across Ontario, ignite genre studies with some good old 90s infused theatrical antics.

With Will Smith and Martin Lawrence now in theatres with Bad Boys for Life, there’s a great opportunity to explore the politics of the action genre. At a time where capes and superpowers have shaped the consciousness of action cinema in the mind of young audiences, the idea of what I call the “exuberance of everyday” has been lost. This is the idea that the 80s and 90s action hero, achieved heroics, without superpowers but rather an “exuberant” extroverted signification of self.

Whether it be John McClean in Die Hard (1988) or Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible (1996), the movies and their heroes provide for hyper escape from self. It’s within this framework that 80s and 90s action movies (the most popular of the two decades), can provide ample opportunity to explore culture and individual selves.

Looking to Bad Boys (1995) specifically, the buddy-cop movie is more important that it’s often given credit for.

Let’s explore through the following lesson plan:

Rflect

As a whole group, shape an opportunity for students to reflect on genre and what they know.

Guiding questions can include:

  • What type of movie or television show is your favourite to watch and why?
  • What type of movies are the most popular today? Why do you think this is?

Within the context of these questions, the goal is to shape an in-class conversation about film genre within the framework of time and space. It’s important for students to know that genre is more than a category of film, television or music. Importantly, genre is a window into history and culture. As such, to study genre is to understand culture at a particular time. This is to say that genres do evolve or change over time as culture changes and evolves. Also, although genre is shaped by culture, genre can also shape culture. As such the study of genre is layered.

Once you have a conversation about genre with your students, screen the following film in class:  Big Guns – Bigger Heroes

After watching the film, have students in small groups share their ideas.

Distribute chart paper and markers to the students. Have them discuss and document three critical takeaways from the film screened above.

The goal is to cultivate knowledge construction within the context of 80s action films.

Action

Now that students have had an opportunity to meaningfully engage with the concept that genre is shaped by and shapes culture, watch the film Bad Boys in class or take your class to a theatrical screening of Bad Boys for Life.

Before watching the film, share the following excerpt with students:

Bad Boys

With this excerpt from the text A Companion to the Action Film by James Kendrick, the buddy-cop sub-genre is defined. In the writing, respective films’ race pairing is noted. In regards to Bad Boys, the coupling of two African American leads is pressing. Evolving from the 80s templates such as Lethal Weapon (1987) where blackness is white-washed, Bad Boys featuring of two black police officers is very much a rejection of traditional genre norms. Marcus, a family man and Mike a wealthy bachelor, are both officers that yearn to serve and protect. In doing so, they both exist outside of the institutional norms as “Bad Boys.” They’re aware of their racial identity and find humour in their narrative existence.

Consol

With the goal to have students show what they know, encourage learners to dive deep into their understanding of genre and provide a critique of either Bad Boys or Bad Boys for Life in the form of a pod-cast.

Co-construct of the specifications of the pod-cast with your class. Think about length, key outcomes etc. Like a three part essay, the pod-cast should have a: beginning, middle and end.

Suggestions:

Beginning: In the beginning, students should define genre and why it is important to study. From genre, students introduce the either film.

Middle: Students provide a summary of the film and key critical points as a genre piece. What did they find compelling? How is race represented in either film? How is either film “meta” in it’s approach?

End: Bring forward a conclusion that reinforces the relevance of either film within a genre context.

In regards to technology, students can record their audio using their smartphones. This can be very low tech. A free program, Audacity can be used to import MP3 files and edit the recording.

Encourage students to brand the pod-cast; make it sound like an “authentic” audio show. Perhaps, including audio excerpts from either film and an formal branded introduction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Karate Kid Saga Continues…

Lessons

As any teacher will know, being a teacher means that you often look at the world through a teacher-lens. You see things and read things from a perspective that often relates to your existence in a classroom and working with students. Whether, observing social behaviour in line when paying for groceries or the dynamics at a family function, as a teacher your social and classroom world can become easily blurred.

As a Communications Technology teacher with a background in film production and theory, this blurring readily occurs when I watch movies. Whether it be streaming or in the theatres, I can’t help but explore a respective film or series through a cinephile and teacher-related lens. Actually, I watch through many lenses, which include: pleasure, academic and professional. Sometimes, this means I have to watch a movie or television series multiple times to satisfy anyone appetite for consumption.

One recent Christmas holiday watch (and re-watch) that has resonated deeply with me is the YouTube Original Series Cobra Kai. A continuation of the classic 80s movie The Karate Kid (1984), I can’t get the series out of my head. Like the original film, the series deeply resonates with me and importantly my own school-aged children.

As a watched the series with my kids, we chatted about the adult and teenage characters. From Cyber-Bullying to complicated friendships and family ties, the series is an incredibly effective continuation of the original Karate Kid with “time” providing so many unique opportunities for meaningful character exploration and the presentation of topical themes that relate to teen youth of today.

In Cobra Kai, Johnny Lawrence (the lead bully in the original Karate Kid) is far past his teenage prime and lives a sadly obscure adult life. Still living in the memory of the 1980s, Johnny has been lost since losing his All Valley Under 18 Karate Championship to Daniel Larusso back in 1984 and being attacked by his martial arts teacher John Kreese for “failing” the Cobra Kai dojo . Whereas Johnny is trapped in obscurity, Daniel has found personal and professional success. A doting husband, loving father and wealthy, Daniel has an envious life and one that it far from his working class roots of the original film.

Although the now adult Johnny and Daniel are living different lives with a still existing feud between them, their central personal narratives insect with their teenage children and are shaped by something similar: teachers and teaching.

As Johnny (original actor William Zabka) opens up his own Cobra Kai dojo in Season 1 and Daniel (Ralph Macchio) counters with Miyagi-do Karate in season 2, the show readily becomes a master class in educational leadership and what it means to be a teacher to young people.

Its within this narrative space of conflicting dojos and teenage drama that we learn about perception and personal narratives as it relates to students and teachers. It’s within this context that Cobra Kai becomes so much more than a continuation of The Karate Kid. It becomes a teachable lesson is cultural responsiveness; who people are and how their personal narratives shape their actions, sense of self and importantly, relationships.

Most interestingly within the series is the character of Johnny Lawrence himself. Whereas, audiences have engaged with Daniel over the course of three films and as much as he still remains critical to the sagas’ story arc, the driving force of the series is Johnny Lawrence.  As Johnny works to be a better person and version of his teenage self, the audience engages with one of the most interesting characters (and portrayals) currently on a broadcast or streaming platform. Transforming from a one-dimensional 80s bully in the original film, Johnny of Cobra Kai is deeply multi-dimensional and a teachable affirmation that personal stories matter. Who our students are behind their social identities matter as do the realities of their teachers.

This is all to say that “teaching” and “teachers” are at the core of Cobra Kai. Whereas Daniel has benefited in life greatly from good teachers including his mother and importantly martial arts sensei Mr. Miyagi, Johnny has suffered as a result of an emotionally abusive step-father and aggressive karate in film’s classic villain, Kreese. As such, Johnny is not mere a quintessential 80s movie bully but rather a human being cultivated into hatred by men who hate and could not show love. In Cobra Kai, flashbacks of Johnny as an adolescent searching for love and acceptance provide a window into the adult character’s soul. Like Daniel, he was an outsider. However, unlike Daniel,  Johnny wasn’t blessed to have male-figures in his life who showed love and kindness.

As a teenage member of Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny was taught to “Strike First”, “Strike Hard” and show “No Mercy.”  Now as Sensei and parent (albeit estranged from his teenage son), he now knows that showing mercy is honourable and that the Cobra Kai of his teenage days did not serve him to be a winner in life.  As he tries to change and teach his own students martial arts in the right way he faces many challenges including the return of his old teacher in Season 2. Through Johnny, we’re reminded that being a teacher is about delivering lessons for life and that being good and hopeful is of critical importance.

With all of this, Cobra Kai has recently wrapped production on Season 3 with what should be a Spring time release on Youtube’s premium paid service. Of all the streamers producing entertaining and provocative content, Cobra Kai is simply the best around. It’s so much more than nostalgia.

Posted in Educational Leadership, Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Movies and Television | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

An Open #ONTED Christmas Letter to Minister Stephen Lecce

LECCE

Dear Minister Lecce, 

I am writing this letter as a constituent, parent, teacher and taxpayer.

As a teacher in a publicly funded school, this Friday heading into the Christmas break is a celebration of the relationships formed with students and an understanding that like me, they need an opportunity to decompress. This may sound bombastic to people who do not work within education but for those who do, the Christmas break is a critical time within the school year where both teachers and students feel the brain drain and need a mental pause from the stale air of classrooms and schools. 

Specifically, as a classroom teacher, it’s a break from being all things that are expectant of me and that I whole-heartedly embrace.  As a teacher of nearly ninety Gr. 10, 11 and 12 high school students this semester, my role is so much more than sharing knowledge. As teachers we’re expected to be “Caring Adults.” This means, I’m working to share my knowledge and expertise, while being “loco parentis” (in place for a parent) to students. With this, beyond the curriculum, I do my best to serve students, recognize who they are as individuals and help them find the support they need when they need it.  Needless to say, teaching is multifaceted. It’s both deeply fulfilling and emotionally exhaustive at the best and most challenging of times. 

As such, being a teacher is to recognize that the profession is so much more than curriculum. I have the true pleasure of working with and supporting other peoples’ children. Like when I send my own kids to a publicly funded school, I expect the very best from and entrust their teachers with the two things I love and care about most in this world. Therefore, I want the teachers who empower and care for my own children to be supported, respected, fairly-compensated and listened to when it comes to goals for Ontario education and frameworks that will shape student learning and their profession. Importantly, being a teacher is not average – it’s unique and carries a great weight worth carrying. 

So, as we enter the Christmas season, I have so many wishes for my students. I wish that they are safe and well. I wish that they have the opportunity to make special memories with friends and families. I wish them a future that is bright and where they embrace education for the intangibles; being a critical thinker, contributing collaborative, innovator, problem solver and so much more.  I wish for them to be the very best that they can be. I wish for them the brightest future possible. 

For all of this to be possible, I need to think of you as well. 

I wish for you;

To truly reflect on what it means to be a leader. If you haven’t already, read Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” and take some critical non-partisan pointers;

To recognize that personal privilege can shape thinking and doing. For example, perhaps attending a private high school does skew a deep understanding of publicly funded school realities;

To value the importance of education well beyond the rhetoric of a finding a “good job.” Teaching is a good job that you are attacking and it comes with many years of post-secondary education and continued professional devleopment;

To recognize that all students are different and thus need publicly funded classroom space that is safe, responsive and conducive to deep and personalized learning. This means class size does matter;

To understand that mandatory eLearning will be a disservice to students who are still learning to self-regulate and who learn better is a classroom/community space;

To acknowledge that mandatory eLearning will create inequity not merely in regards to technological access but learning supports for students;

To stop vilifying union leadership and recognize that they are elected by their membership to serve the membership. Union leaders and the membership are Ontario taxpayers as well;

To recognize the value of supporting the most vulnerable students, their families and parent education groups;

To stop speaking on my behalf. As a parent and taxpayer our thinking and values are not aligned;

To embrace humility and admit the deep mistakes that you are making;

To acknowledge that you do not have a background in teaching and thus cannot authentically speak to Ontario education through an authoritative lens;

This is all to say that my wish is for a 2020 with renewed focus. There’s still time to meet the true needs of students in Ontario and continue the wonderful work that defines our world class education system. 

Ontario education is not broken. Please don’t break it.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of new thinking, renewed focus and meaningful servitude. 

Anthony

 

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Why I voted YES to a Strike Mandate

strike

This morning, Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce is visiting the school in which I proudly teach. This comes at a time when all Ontario teacher unions are at a crossroads with the bargaining process, have held overly successful Strike votes and have been placed within a maze of displacing rhetoric from the Minister who readily holds press conferences about his commitment to students and their families all why cultivating a culture of divisiveness during the bargaining process. As Minister Lecce, my very own MPP,  visits my school community today, I stand firmly in my advocacy for publicly funded education both as a teacher and parent. 

Importantly, as an OECTA member, last week I voted YES in response to the Association’s call for a strike vote mandate. This mandate is one of pressing urgency as the Ford government machine continues to dismantle the legacy of a world-renowned Ontario education system. I voted YES in response to a government and Minister who clearly views teachers as expendable pawns and professes “modernizing education” without a critical understanding of what newly implemented policies mean for learners and their families.  Importantly, the education system is being led by someone who is not an educator and who does not truly know the realities of the everyday publicly funded school system. This system is layered and schooling is so much more than curriculum. 

As a teacher of 15 years, it’s hard pressed of me not to look at this situation from a biased lens. Of course, I am concerned about job security, benefits and income. Who wouldn’t be? Like so many Ontarians, I have a family and children to care for and I’ve worked incredibly hard to evolve into a proficient, diverse and pedagogically grounded educator with rich experience.  

However, my advocacy is very much about education itself. I believe in being a life-long professional learner and work exhaustively to provide students with the very best educational experience possible in and outside of the classroom – this includes curricular and everything else that enriches a students’ schooling experience in a positive way.  This means, I understand that we can always do better but also urgently know that our Ontario education system is not broken. It is modern. Great work is being done by teachers and so many other positive stakeholders. 

Looking back to the Rally for Education at Queen’s Park on April 6, I attended not just as a teacher but parent of two elementary school-aged children and as a taxpayer. I rallied then for the same reason I voted YES last week. It was my stand against a disconnected government that does not value or understand the depth of the world-class education system we have in Ontario. Whether it be Public, French or Catholic, Ontario education is recognized as a world leader and that can’t be disputed by any person who is truly informed. Again, of course we can always do better and evolve. However, our system is not broken. 

Reflecting on my YES, it’s one that I share with pronunciation as Minister Lecce visits my school community today.  During the critical time in which OECTA filed for conciliation due to the Minister’s dismissal of the government’s bargaining team and overall lack of bargaining etiquette, the school setting is now being used for what can understandably be perceived as politicized gain. Although, it can be argued and valued that such a visit is positive as it’s a celebration of both student learning and teachers’ meaningful work, the timing for OECTA members brings discomfort. 

This is the emptiness of it all. From all the positive words said about teachers and education on Twitter or Instagram, the failure to meaningfully act at the bargaining table, illustrates the hypocrisy of today’s visit. 

You can’t celebrate great learning if you’re not willing to meaningfully be a partner in ensuring that students will have access to courses of interest (electives in high school), be in a classroom with a constructive teacher – student ratio, fund programming for the most vulnerable learners, adequately fund parent-engagement groups and eliminate mandatory eLearning (not simply lower the threshold). 

Today is a curious day. Today is an awkward day. Today, I share that I voted YES. I don’t want to strike but will if it means advocating for my students, my profession and my own children.

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[Photoshop Tutorial) Sarah Connor Returns

Sarah

Well before the Me Too Movement, Times Up and the repositioning of gender politics within popular Hollywood film with movies such as Ghostbusters (2016) or the introduction of superhero heroines such as Captain Marvel, there was Sarah Connor.

For the movie going audiences my age who grew up re-watching James Cameron’s high octane tech-noir Terminator (1984) on VHS or sat in the theatres (multiple times) for the game-changing phenomenon of Terminator 2: Judgement Day in the summer of 1991, it should be understood that Sarah Connor stands on the mountain tops of female action heroines.

Like Ellen Ripley, who Cameron militarized as a maternal figure in Aliens (1986), Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is a canon for gender equality. From her transformation from victimized waitress to survivor in Terminator to the T-800’s hard-bodied partner in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the narrative of humanity against the machines has always been grounded in her story and shaped by her resilient pursuit to stop a future enabled by man’s obsession with technology.

It’s this pursuit that continues in the Tim Miller helmed Terminator: Dark Fate, which finds Hamilton returning to her star making role for the first time in twenty-seven years. It’s the time that has passed that reminds us franchise devotees that Sarah has always been the story, not the machines.

In honour of Sarah and for teachers out there who may be looking for an opportunity to shape a media literacy based gender discussion in class, here is a classroom tested Adobe Photoshop design tutorial to enrich and expand students’ potential new learning. With this poster, Sarah returns from the ashes of the past – choosing her fate.

Terminator

Click here for the tutorial files: Terminator Dark Fate

 

Posted in Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Movies and Television, Technology Education | Tagged , , , , ,

[Media Smarts Lesson Plan] Finding the Truth in Deep Fake Video (Gr. 9-12)

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Teachers’ Note:

As global citizens entrenched in a digital and thus interconnected world, we are now officially in uncharted territory. Just as mobile video shared through social media applications promised to disrupt oppression with the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the onset of video deep fakes has the potential to threaten democracy and re-shape history. 

Although photo manipulation is known to be a common practice within mass communications culture, whether it be Vogue or Instagram, video altering was more nuanced and difficult. This is no longer the case. Now, without a Hollywood blockbuster budget, amateur mobile technology has now arisen that is alarming in its Deep Fake effectiveness.  

Whereas “Fake News” littered on Facebook and grass-roots websites impacted the 2016 United States election, imagine the potential of Deep Fake videos shaping the Canadian election. Nothing is impossible. As shared in the article titled “How Deep Fakes could impact the 2019 Canadian election” Nicole Bogart asserts that Deep Fake videos “tests the fundamental belief of “seeing is believing.” 

As such, we educators must teach their students to really see. Start with this. 

Lesson Plan:

Minds On:

Teachers Note:  The goal is to decipher students critical awareness of Fake News. As a form of “Assessment for Learning” this opening task will provide you with formational observation. What do students know? 

Using chart paper and in groups suitable for your classroom size and learners, have students address the following question:

  • Brainstorm the good and bad of social media. How do you think social media is positive? How do you think social media is negative?

Importantly, walk the classroom and engage in small group conversation with students. Support this structuring and sharing of critical reflections and ideas. 

Once the group brainstorming is completed, allow for whole-group sharing. 

From all of the ideas shared, present or build upon the idea of Fake News. 

Action:

Teachers Note: The goal is to build upon students’ critical awareness of social media. As a form of “Assessment as Learning,” the goal is for students to define Fake News. 

With access to the Internet and an internet connected device, have students in small groups define Fake News.

  • Where did this term come from? Why has it become disruptive?

Once Fake News is defined, have students research Video Deep Fakes. In researching Video Deep Fakes, have students address the following:

  • Why are video Deep Fakes a concern in today’s digital society?

As a whole group, have students share ideas with the class. Below is a video Deep Fake that went viral a few months ago. 

 

Consolidation:

Teachers Note: The goal is to have students show their critical understanding of Deep Fake videos within a cultural context. This activity will provide an “Assessment of Learning” opportunity. 

Individually or in groups suitable for your classroom size,  have students read the following article “Social Media Users Entranced, Concerned by Chinese Face-Swapping Deep Fake App” published by Time Magazine. 

After reading,  have the student or students create an infographic that summarizes the article, defines Deep Fake videos and presents critical concerns. 

Students can use such graphic design programs such as Canva, Adobe Photoshop or go non-tech and illustrate the infographic. 

Here is a working rubric that can be revised for classroom use or you may like to co-construct the rubric with your students.

Screen Shot 2019-10-06 at 3.52.17 PM

For more, read my article titled, Media Literacy in the Deep Fake Era, published in OECTA’s Catholic Teacher Magazine.

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