By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Approximately 100 U.S. history students at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) in Northborough had the opportunity to interact with 18 visiting European journalists Oct. 26.
The purpose of their visit was to learn from the students’ perspective – how the rights and responsibilities of a free press in a democracy foster transparency and government accountability, how to verify reliable sources of information and counter misinformation, the role of social media in amplification of messages and dissemination of information and to examine ways to foster a discerning audience of media consumers.
The group was invited to the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. They began their trip in Washington, D.C., where they met with the New Literacy Project, a nonprofit educational organization. Then they split into two groups – one traveled to St. Louis, Mo., and the other to Iowa City, Iowa. They met back up in Boston before visiting ARHS and returned home to their respective countries Oct. 27.
Catherine Griffin, a business teacher at ARHS, said that a few years ago the school added a digital literacy component to their curriculum. A part of that component is “Checkology,” a fact-checking online simulation program, which she uses in her Computer Essentials class.
Because Griffin’s class is one of the first to use this product, the New Literary Project, who created Checkology, arranged for the journalists to visit ARHS specifically.
“It’s a demonstration, but also to see civics and public education in action and their focus is discerning news information,” Griffin said.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us to come and see how things are done here and meet with policy makers here, meet with practitioners of the press and journalists so we are doing theory and we are doing practice. It’s a good sharing opportunity and exchange platform; we learn from you and you learn from us,” said Stephanie Comey, senior manager, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. “I’m delighted I was part of it.”
After introductory remarks by Griffin, the students and journalists divided into two groups. The first group viewed how Checkology works and the second group split into four smaller groups where freedoms of speech and the press were discussed.
“It’s very interesting knowing how important the Bill of Rights is to the U.S. You have a very pronounced civics curriculum which probably not a lot of kids have in other countries,” said BBC broadcast journalist Adam Donald. “It’s interesting to see at an early age – talking about Supreme Court cases, talking about partisanship and that sort of thing and freedom of speech … I’m not sure if people in other countries would be equipped at this early of an age to actually discuss it.”