A News– and Media Literacy–Themed Mixtape for Tough Times

These songs serve as reminders of strategies to keep calm and carry on in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak and related media frenzy.

Although the technology for sharing music has changed since cassette tapes were all the rage, one retro term that still holds meaning in the streaming era is “mixtape.” One reason the humble mixtape endures might be that, unlike its modern cousin, the playlist, mixtapes were often given as gifts. While both types of song collections are lovingly curated by someone for whom that music is meaningful, devoting the time to assemble a mixtape used to be a surefire way to let someone know you cared for them. 

In that spirit, we’ve curated a mixtape for today’s uncertain times: a list of songs whose titles alone may serve as reminders of some strategies to keep calm and carry on in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak and the related news/media frenzy.

Side A:

Paid in Full by Eric B. & Rakim

Reminders: In an era in which so much information is free, clicks have become the new currency. Information producers, from trolls to trained journalists, hope theirs will be the story that goes viral. This has created an information landscape where strategies like clickbait and sensationalized content are commonplace. More than ever, it’s important that we and our students, recognize these strategies as a means to bring in revenue.

Resources for identifying clickbait:

TedED Lesson on Spotting Clickbait

Clickbait Lesson Plan from Common Sense Media

Interactive Game Revealing How AI in Targeted Search Works

Just Breathe by Pearl Jam

Reminders: One reason clickbait and sensational content works so well is because they trigger an emotional response or activate an existing bias. Though these tools often spark the urge to click, like, and share, it’s important to recognize these triggers as red flags, reminding us to consider doing just the opposite. If a headline, article, or video roils your emotions, that’s a sign to press pause, practice some self-care, and refrain from sharing information that may cause others duress and ultimately prove to be inaccurate.

Resources for practicing news media mindfulness:

Mindfulness During the Coronavirus: A Harvard Professor's Tips to Help Lower Anxiety

The Dunning Kruger Effect: How the Mind Tricks Us Into Thinking We've Mastered Information

Controlling Emotions: A Lesson from Angry Birds

Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

Reminders: There's an ongoing debate about the value, or even harm, of screen time: specifically, the amount young learners are exposed to, and the effects that extended screen time has on brain development. One thing is certain: taking control of our devices, instead of letting them take control of us, is one way to maintain a healthy media diet. For older kids, especially, helping them manage their notifications and adjusting browser/app settings are ways to limit what may be unintentional screen time.

Resources for managing phone addiction:

Mobile Media Literacy Tips for the Notification Generation [Infographic]

What Students are Saying About How Much They Use Their Phones, and Whether We Should Be Worried

Madness By Muse

Reminders: The term “fake news” is often tossed around as a way to discredit information that doesn’t confirm existing biases. One of the keys to helping kids distinguish fact from fiction in the information they consume is to arm them with vocabulary including terminology for suspect information. Being able to articulate whether a news story represents propaganda or contains misleading statistics or satire helps us have more productive conversations.

Resources for building a robust news literacy vocabulary:

Media Literacy Human Word Web Activity

Media Literacy Glossary of Terms

Diagnosing Propaganda Techniques in Campaign Ads

Side B:

I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye

Reminders: A recent study of college students' news consumption revealed some interesting trends, including the fact that, for many young people, memes are a common information source. Whether students rely on them as primary sources for news, or view memes as a way to consider what news topics they should be paying attention to, educators should include them when helping kids discern what’s real and what isn’t. Like their close cousin, the infographic, memes can be dissected for clues attesting to their validity.

Resources including memes in your news literacy instruction:

To Meme or Not To Meme? Using Memes to Teach Media Literacy

How White Supremacists Are Recruiting Boys Online

How to Close Read Infographics

Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles

Reminders: Whenever the news cycle is dominated by a single, sometimes frightening, event, people will capitalize on the situation by creating fake video content to stoke those fires. Think of all those videos of “sharks in the streets” whenever a major hurricane makes landfall. Since video is growing as a primary news/information source for all demographics, but especially for young people, it’s important to remind kids (and ourselves!) that these resources are worthy of the same critical analysis as other information.

Resources for evaluating video content:

A Deep Dive into Deep Fakes: Media Literacy in a World Where Seeing Is no Longer Believing

A Viral List of Dubious Coronavirus Tips Claims To Be from Stanford. It Isn't.

9 Tools To Identify Fake Images And Videos

Policy of Truth by Depeche Mode

Reminders: As educators, we must be warriors for truth. And when the news involves our health, it’s especially vital that we locate and pass on up-to-date and accurate information. The good news is that you don’t have to do this work alone. Just as your PLN no doubt helps you locate resources for other aspects of teaching and learning, these professional networks can prove invaluable in your fight for truth.

Resources for building a news and media literacy PLN:

#digcit, #digitalcitizenship, #medialiteracy, #newsliteracy, #factVSfiction, Jennifer and Darren’s Resource Page

Everything Is Awful by The Decemberists

Reminders: When it comes to navigating the entwined worlds of news and social media, it can be tempting to raise a white flag of surrender! We’ve all experienced information overload and the fatigue that comes with it. While opting out isn’t an option for educators, we must practice digital self care if we’re going to persist. The occasional digital detox can be a useful way to re-set our information compasses. We can model this practice for the young people we work with.


5 Ways To Do A Digital Detox

7 Simple Steps To a Digital Detox

High School Kids Go Through Digital Detox

Bonus track: Every Day I Write The Book by Elvis Costello

Reminders: Studies have shown how much tough topics in the news stress kids out. Books can be an important antidote to that anxiety. Here are some of our favorites for helping kids navigate difficult times:

Picture Books

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Ruel (Emotional reactions to news)

I See, I See. by Robert Henderson (How perspective affects information)

Most People by Michael Leannah (The news may be scary, but most people are nice).

Middle Grades/School Books

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee (#MeToo, Sexual Harassment)

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga (Immigration, Racism, Propaganda)

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Schusterman (Climate Change)

Young Adult Books

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Genocide, Racism, Drug Addiction)

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Propaganda)

Internment by Samira Ahmed (Immigration, Racism, Propaganda)

We’ve created a reproducible version of this mixtape that can be used with students in both digital and analog formats. What songs would you add? Let us know in the comments.

Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins are co-authors of Fact Vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing