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What the Fact?
What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in All the Noise | Seema Yasmin
51 posts | 5 read
From acclaimed writer, journalist, and physician Dr. Seema Yasmin comes a savvy, accessible, and critical (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) book about the importance of media literacy, fact-based reporting, and the ability to discern truth from lies. What is a fact? What are reliable sources? What is news? What is fake news? How can anyone make sense of it anymore? Well, we have to. As conspiracy theories and online hoaxes increasingly become a part of our national discourse and truth itself is being questioned, it has never been more vital to build the discernment necessary to tell fact from fiction, and media literacy has never been more important. In this accessible guide, Dr. Seema Yasmin, an award-winning journalist, scientist, medical professional, and professor, traces the spread of misinformation and disinformation through our fast-moving media landscape and teaches young readers the skills that will help them identify and counter poorly-sourced clickbait and misleading headlines.
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CassidyCheatwood

A critique that I do have is that this book is quite tedious. I think this could‘ve been shortened to an extent because I personally did not find it engaging enough for a young audience. It often felt repetitive almost? Overall though, it‘s a decent book that I think parts of it are really important for students to look into.

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CassidyCheatwood

The most memorable chapter was the social media chapter and your brain. Learning about how your brains gets hits of dopamine through social media and how your brain becomes semi-dependent or fully addicted to it is scary, but really important for young minds to understand (and adults, of course). It‘s like a plague that has infected almost everyone, and this chapter lowkey made me want to delete my social media because of how addictive it is.

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CassidyCheatwood

Finishing out my What the Fact? Posts because life happened for awhile… anyways:
I like how Yasmin lets the young audience know that we are all, as humans, innately biased. The anecdote she gives about the bike and cognitive bias is adequate for her audience, but I also feel like some parts of the book can go over a younger audience‘s head because of the density of information and definitions.

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ms.gabourel

“A good place to start is by acknowledging that you, yes, you, are biased. Then, because implicit biases are hidden by definition, you can use an online test, such as Harvard University‘s Implicit Association Test, to figure out what you need to work on.“

ms.gabourel I liked this section of the book on acknowledging and understanding your own implicit biases. It reminded me a lot of what we discuss in class. I am also familiar with the Harvard test that the author mentioned; I think it's a great source to use and recommend to others. Especially those who think that they are immune to bias. 1w
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ms.gabourel

I enjoyed the chapter titles, “HOW TO CONSUME NEWS LIKE & PRO: FACT-CHECK THE NEWS AND CREATE YOUR MEDIA DIET.“ I enjoyed this chapter because it proposed solutions to tackle the problem that is misinformation. The first paragraph of the chapter discusses how it can feel hopeless to navigate the current media landscape. I appreciate the acknowledgement that it can feel hopeless, and the suggestions on how to create a “media diet.“

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ms.gabourel
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I like how Dr.Yasmin used images, graphs, and other alternative kinds of media throughout the book. I think this adds a bit of intrigue to the text; it also reminds me of National Geographic books I would get from the scholastic book fair. The image above illustrates the sphere of consensus, controversy, and deviance. I like how the author used the image to explain how topics travel through the spheres. She uses the example of corporal punishment.

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ms.gabourel
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While this book was not my favorite that we have read so far (I really only like memoirs in the non-fiction genre), I think it is definitely a useful and interesting read. Younger readers who are trying to navigate the internet could 100% benefit from this book. I have been working with rising 9th graders this summer and the way that they interact with social media is wild. This book could be paired super well with specific discussions of posts.

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kristinsmoyer
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I agree that often people don‘t engage with the news to learn about current events but rather to confirm their biases. Much news is catered to people‘s values. Often journalists target the values of their audience in order to stir them up for or against something. This allows the journalist (especially those with soc media platforms) to gather a larger audience. It‘s easy to gather an audience that way, as the viewers receive a confirmation bias.

ms.gabourel I agree with you. It feels like all the media west every day is just trying to capture our attention. It can be exhausting to see what and how stories are being reported. 1w
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CassidyCheatwood

In the beginning of the book, I like how Yasmin emphasizes the importance of understanding that the point of the book is to not change minds or opinions, but to only strengthen their research and own understandings. A lot of times, I think people (especially parents) get worried about their kids reading books like this because they‘re afraid it is “indoctrinating” but it‘s pretty clear that she is only trying to educate a new generation.

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abbytayloryalit

The Framing of Operation Iraq was extremely interesting. I was aware that propaganda was extremely popular in most of the wars that have occurred. When I think of this propaganda, I think of the posters that were in newspapers and people like Rosie the Riveter. However, I never considered how videos could be altered/ staged in order to gain support for a war and to spread false information.

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abbytayloryalit

I loved learning about the history of the United States Postal Service. It's crazy to think about how not too long ago people were relying on the mail service to receive information about political figures, such as the president. However, in today's day in age, we have that information instantaneously. We have much more access to these individuals, and I wonder if this information affects how these people are viewed in history.

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abbytayloryalit

I really liked learning about the Dunning-Kruger effect. I feel like it's connected to every conversation we had in methods class about the importance of background information. This concept would be extremely helpful to bring into my classroom prior to having any type of debate. I would use this cognitive bias to encourage students to do research prior to entering into any type of discussion.

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abbytayloryalit

I found the analogy of the false information being like the Corona Virus to be extremely informative and helpful. I never considered how false information originates with one person and spreads to everyone else. In today's society, I feel like false information is extremely common, yet many people blindly accept information as facts.

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amw40488
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Pickpick

I think there were a lot of good lessons to learn from this book. The above paragraph stood out to me a lot because social media isn't going away anytime soon, but there are ways to control and regulate how we use it. It's up to each individual user to decide what their media consumption will look like, and this approach outlined by Yasmin seems like a good starting place for anyone looking to change their habits.

abbytayloryalit I loved this paragraph because I feel like social media consumption isn't one size fits all. There are going to be people who aren't affected by social media and others who are heavily influenced by it. Everyone needs to assess how they are affected by it rather than listen to other people tell them how they should feel about it. 1w
kristinsmoyer This is so funny! I haven‘t even read this part of the book yet, but the other day I had an idea to keep a journal of how social media makes me feel on a daily basis! So interesting! Limiting time honestly helps me feel so much more refreshed! 1w
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abbyleap
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I WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS ADVICE WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL! I was a very opinionated high schooler, and, while I didn't actively try to pick fights, I was, by no means, adverse to them. I really would've appreciated someone telling me that I would really have to pick and choose whether or not certain relationships were worth my energy and time, and it would have helped me quite a lot.

abbytayloryalit This is phenomenal advice for general society but more specifically for teachers. Obviously, we are going to have to have difficult discussions we don't want to have but those factors are important to think about. 1w
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abbyleap
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On the other hand, as opposed to my earlier post, this section, I thought, explained a complex topic really well for a younger audience. I believe the key difference, for me, is in the tone; the section before felt vaguely condescending, and judgemental of the search (or interest!) in knowledge. On the flip, this section is particularly welcoming of the quest for new knowledge that young readers are on.

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abbyleap
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Okay, despite being a hater at my core, very rarely do I rag on specific parts of books. However, the tone in this particular section really just... made me kind of hate the book to be honest. I think back to the version of myself that I was when I was in high school (and was the target age for this book), and I just know that I would have hated being talked down to.

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abbyleap
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I particularly loved this metaphor within What the Fact--there is something especially interesting in the way in which we talk about virality and the way people are interconnected both online and offline; I think the decision to compare the COVID-19 pandemic is both topical, and a great way to introduce the concept to readers, no matter their age.

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ms.reagan
Mehso-so

Overall I enjoyed reading this book, but I do feel like the author got a little bit repetitive at times. There were some examples and chapters that just felt really long for no reason, but otherwise, I think this book is a great read for middle and high school age students! The author is really passionate about what she writes and that is evident throughout the entire book!

abbyleap I agree with you! I do think that the book underestimates the intelligence of the average high schooler/middle schooler. Overall, I think it does an okay job of introducing complex topics to kids. 1w
abbytayloryalit I agree. When reading this book, I found myself getting a little frustrated with the repetitiveness, but I don't think there was enough to distract from the message. 1w
CassidyCheatwood I totally agree. It just felt like I was reading the same thing over and over. It could‘ve been shortened in my opinion. 1w
ms.gabourel I totally agree, the book would have been just as effective if they cut out a few of the chapters. It probably would have held students attention better if it was shorter too, lol! 1w
ms.gabourel I totally agree, the book would have been just as effective if they cut out a few of the chapters. It probably would have held students attention better if it was shorter too, lol! 1w
5 comments
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ms.reagan

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the easily digestible writing style. The author didn‘t waste time with fancy words or complicated metaphors; she just wrote. I think this would be an easy text to adapt or use within the classroom just because the writing style would reach even the students that don‘t like reading!

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sofiajurado

I really liked the psychological aspects of media literacy that were explained in this book, specifically when it came to the social media chapter. The way Yasmin explains concepts makes it easy to digest and understand, and I can definitely see how this book could fit in a classroom setting.

abbyleap I agree with you! I think she does a good job of taking really complex topics and makes them easy to understand. My issue is that she becomes rather condescending in places, to be honest. 1w
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amw40488

Yasmin's discussion of objectivity and neutrality was very well done, in my opinion. Being completely impartial regarding topics such as politics, climate change, gender issues, etc. is pretty much impossible, no matter how hard someone might try to stay open-minded to all sides of an issue. Personal biases prevent true neutrality from becoming tangible, especially in the realm of journalism.

abbyleap I agree with you! She brings up a lot of good points about the way that people feel about things/interact with each other, in general, but I think she does an especially good job here! 1w
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amw40488

Just finished Chapter 3! I was pleasantly surprised by the timeline of American journalism; truthfully, I had no clue it dated back to BCE. I also really enjoyed how Yasmin discussed the issue of narrative framing and how framing can affect the exposure that an issue receives. Who tells a story is so important; an author's credibility and the way they frame a story can completely change how we perceive an issue, and I think that's very powerful.

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sofiajurado
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I used to be a Journalism major before I switched to English Ed, and I took a few classes that discussed a lot of the topics in this book. It's interesting to get a lot more context and learn more than I was able to before I switched my major. I think things like news/media literacy are important to understand, especially when it comes to recognizing things like dis/misinformation in the content we consume every day.

abbyleap That's so interesting! I appreciate your perspective on the book, then. I agree with you that dis/misinformation is really important to understand (and the skill will only become more important over time), especially because the way that the world is so interconnected now. 1w
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sofiajurado
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I really like the author's use of sidebars to present rhetorical questions and additional information. If I were to use excerpts from this book in the classroom, I think a lot of these questions would create great discussions as a class. Even outside of the classroom, it was interesting to think about these questions by myself and consider the information being presented.

amw40488 I agree! Yasmin's sidebars have made me take a second and think deeper about the issues she's discussing. I think these questions would be very beneficial to present in a classroom setting! 1w
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ms.reagan

I personally loved the portion about social media in this book! I feel like the power of social media is so heavy on the shoulders of the students we‘ll be teaching and how it impacts their lives. Additionally, it‘s so interesting to learn about how it affects their brains (and ours as well)! I‘d always thought about how social media and literature intersect, and this book offers powerful insight!

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ms.reagan

One thing I really like about this book is its ability to really break down the many confusing components of misinformation and how easily it can spread. The real world examples and connections to mathematical models really helped bring this issue to an understandable level. I especially loved how they fooled us all with the apple seed/arsenic fact, it really put how misinformation spreads into perspective !

amw40488 Completely agree with you! I think talking about the spreading of misinformation in the context of the pandemic was also super smart. It really highlights how eager and willing people are to believe anything in the face of uncertainty and confusion. The examples Yasmin used to showcase how fast information can be spread were kind of mind-blowing to me! 1w
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Alexa_Cussans
Pickpick

This is not typically I book I would read, but I found myself enjoying it! It was very informative and found it to be very relevant to today‘s issues. I think lots of high schoolers would enjoy this book due to it focuses on topics like social media.

colby_reads I agree, I feel like this is something that would be useful in a classroom today, and students would be able to understand it easily due to its references to social media. 1w
kristinsmoyer I really am enjoying this book! I‘m skeptical of a lot of media, and I think it‘s important to know how to navigate it! 1w
ms.reagan At first, I didn‘t think I would like it at all, but after pushing myself through, it really opened my eyes to the importance of understanding media and how it impacts our society! 1w
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DanyYnad
Pickpick

I really enjoyed this book as such an informative and entertaining resource for audiences to tap into to see the full depth of what it‘s like navigating media, news, and conversations in all sorts of forms. I think I will definitely revisit this multiple times in my teaching both to refresh on it myself and introduce for lessons and reading. Overall, I loved it!

Alexa_Cussans I also really enjoyed this book! I found it to be very informative and relative to today‘s issues. I plan on having this in my future classroom to help get students into non-fiction. 1w
kristinsmoyer I loved the stories that were included too! 1w
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DanyYnad
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I loved this part of the book as it serves as such a great tool for opening discussions and especially handling disagreements in classrooms. I feel like a big portion of English classrooms is knowing how to engage in difficult conversations and these steps help lay it out for younger students. For myself, I also appreciated the steps to improve my own handling of disagreements and difficult conversations.

Alexa_Cussans I never thought of this section being helpful for classroom management! Super cool! 1w
ms.miranda_readsbooks I didn't even think about how great this would be when doing discussion in the classroom. There was honestly so much stuff in here that could be used in the classroom that I will definitely be buying myself a physical copy so I can revisit throughout my teaching. 1w
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AriaBlue
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More books like this one should be published. While reading is a great source for entertainment it‘s great for educating readers on important topics such as the effects of misinformation.

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AriaBlue
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Whenever I read a book I always look at the cover to get an idea of what to expect. First off all I like the unique title of the book. I like how the cover is filled with images that we see all the time on the media. To me the way the cover of a book is presented is crucial because it gives me as a reader a first impression.

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Laurenwhite0508

To build on my last post, I do think that some responsibility needs to be assumed for making newcomers to social media aware of this information. I would love to do a unit one day on some of the things she touched on in this book. She made me very aware of the power that social media (and the internet in general) holds over us, and I think that there is a lot of value in the idea that we do have the ability to at least educate ourselves on it.

kristinsmoyer Yes, social media is such an instant way to intake information, yet because it is often so surface level, it can send false messages! This is an interesting topic! 1w
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Laurenwhite0508

I really enjoyed reading chapter four of this book, which was all about social media. Not only did I learn a lot of things I did not know about brain chemistry, algorithms, etc. but it also prompted me to think about how social media outlets have become and extremely controlling presence in the last several years. I think this chapter alone would be a great addition to any middle/ high school classroom. This information is extremely relevant.

ms.miranda_readsbooks The social media chapter of this book also made me wonder how it could be paired up with the next book on our reading list which is about a certain case of social media gone bad. I haven't started reading it yet but based on the synopsis it seems like a good book for discussing how harmful social media can be and how important it is to be aware of that. Maybe it could even be paired with this last chapter from the book? (edited) 1w
ms.reagan I talked about this too! Social media is already such a big presence in the lives of our students, and the biggest impact we can have is to help make them aware of the benefits and drawbacks! 1w
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amw40488
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I am learning so much from this book already! I thought I knew a lot about misinformation and “fake news“ before reading this, but this book is proving that there is so much more to the issue of false information than meets the eye. I'm almost overwhelmed by how much I've learned from the first chapter alone, but Yasmin has done a good job of dissecting certain topics in a way that is approachable and easy to read, especially for younger readers.

Alexa_Cussans I also learned a lot about misinformation in the first chapter! Before I read it, I had an idea on what fake news was, but I feel more informed on the topic after reading this book. 1w
AriaBlue Yes right off the bat chapter 1 is loaded with information about misinformation. 1w
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kristinsmoyer
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Yasmin‘s comments on the importance of local news interested me. Generally national and global news has become the focus of our attention. However, we have much more access to making changes on a local level than a national or global one. With a loss of informative local news, citizens are less aware of how local government is spending money, controversies within the community, the state of the education system, etc.

amw40488 Lately, I've been seeing a lot of people urging others to focus more of their attention on their local government rather than the national government. Some have admitted that they never thought it was important to take part in voting for their local government. Perhaps the tides will change and local governments will start getting the attention they deserve from citizens; small changes can, in fact, lead to big changes! Great post! 2w
AriaBlue Yes I agree. I noticed that the national and global news and least on local news. Local news is important because of it being near home. (edited) 1w
colby_reads I noticed this too, and I totally agree with her. Our voice may never be heard on a national level, but we definitely have the capability of making an impact on a local level. 1w
ms.reagan Local media is such an overlooked outlet and because of that we are inundated with a menagerie of national news that sometimes has no effect on where we live! I love that Yasmin highlighted local news importance! 1w
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Alexa_Cussans

I found myself learning a lot throughout this book! For instance, I had no idea what a troll army was until I read this. I think the author does a great job introducing new concepts in a digestible way. I think this kind of book is a great read for people who are starting to get into nonfiction due to its simplistic writing style.

DanyYnad I agree! I found all the new ideas and concepts that I did not know about before so easy to understand and see how they all fit together. It‘s such a good tool for younger audiences started to encounter more difficult social concepts and conversations. 1w
ms.miranda_readsbooks my jaw was actually on the floor during the whole troll army portion. Even though most of us have been on social media for at least over a third of our lives (and our students will probably have been on it for half of theirs), there is still so little we know about it! I think that is why this book was so important. 1w
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AriaBlue
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I‘m listening to the audiobook and I liked how the narrator included the alert sound effects of social media and other media alerts into the narrative. It‘s definitely an accurate symbol of today‘s society.

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Laurenwhite0508

I am very fond of the idea of using this book as a part of a larger research unit/ project. Obviously the general idea of the entire book is very valuable to impressionable young people, but I also think that implementing some of the ideas in this book on the heels of reading it would be a great way to reinforce the risk of misinformation and disinformation. I wish I had been introduced to something like this in middle/ early high school.

DanyYnad I would‘ve also loved to have a book like this when I was younger! It seems like such a valuable resource to have and I think it could work in so many different lessons for discussions, media comprehension, and more. 1w
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Laurenwhite0508

So far I am really liking this book. I have seen several people mention this already, but I think it could be a good introduction to non-fiction writing for a student who has not previously enjoyed non-fiction. The writing is very compelling, and the anecdotal elements provide a good break from the informational aspect of the book. This is somewhat how I got into non-fiction with a similar book and it really opened my eyes to how enjoyable it is.

Alexa_Cussans I also think this book is a great intro to non-fiction! Not only is the writing style simple and compelling, but the contents in the book are very relevant and relatable! 1w
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DanyYnad
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I absolutely loved the way that chapter 2 was introduced in the book with the story of Sara and Mimi in order to then use it to talk about the chapter‘s focus of biases. It gives a great example of our own biases that may come from the simplest of stories and what that informs us of. This book is definitely going in my classroom and I‘d love to use it as a resource in class!

sarabeth_donaldson I agree! I love the way that Yasmin demonstrates how stories matter through an emotionally interesting story. 2w
AriaBlue I‘m still reading the book but so far it‘s interesting. 2w
AriaBlue I‘m still reading the book but so far it‘s interesting. 2w
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DanyYnad

On first impression with this book, I really like how the author/publisher included different compositional modes throughout the book. Everything from the pictures, graphics, bolding specific words, and sidebars made it for a really dynamic read that didn‘t get too tiring to look at. I think for the seriousness of the message that Yasmin is sending, it does a good job of making it easier to grasp!

sarabeth_donaldson Now that you mention it, I realize that those different elements are the reason I‘m enjoying reading it so much. It continues to show the importance of a more complex way of writing nonfiction. 2w
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sarabeth_donaldson
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Yasmin consistently reflects on what she previously wrote and continues to summarize. It feels as if she is constantly saying, “Because this… then what about this?” in an if-then pattern. She has an increasing depth of exploration on this topic, which has increased my curiosity as well.

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AriaBlue
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I just started reading the book but it‘s interesting. Chapter 1 describes how people have been guided through false information during the pandemic. There were several theories. One media post called the virus a hoax and people believed it until it affected them. Misinformation can serious cause people like Bryan and Aaron when they were infected by Covid 19 causing Aaron to die from the disease. Everyone should do research for themselves.

sarabeth_donaldson I think it‘s so interesting that Yasmin uses the recent global pandemic as an opportunity to talk about misinformation. I completely agree that everyone should do their own research! I do remember, however, that in the early stages of COVID, there wasn‘t that much reliable information about the virus. Yes, people were being misled, and nobody knew what to believe. Sometimes doing your own research is scarier. (edited) 2w
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Alexa_Cussans

I started reading this today and I‘m really enjoying the first chapter. I really like how the author uses real stories people have shared online to spread awareness about fake news or misinformation.

Laurenwhite0508 I agree with you! I think that this book makes for a really good introduction to non-fiction for students who have never read it before. There are plenty of anecdotal elements that keep this book compelling, while still being informational. 2w
AriaBlue Yes I agree that the author using real stories of others helps empathize the message she is trying to convey to her readers. 2w
2 comments
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sarabeth_donaldson
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I love the way Yasmin launched into why stories are important, not only for our brains but also for our worldviews. I was busy learning all about how our brains work, then, all of a sudden, the author pulled me into a very interesting and moving fact about our perspectives and how stories affect them. This is great writing!

Laurenwhite0508 I completely agree with you. This book has been very compelling so far, but I still feel like I am absorbing a lot of information that I did not know prior to reading this. I think that non-fiction can be a difficult thing to put in the hands of young readers, but this book could be a great jumping point for that. 2w
ms.reagan One of the best things about this book is how well Yasmin demonstrates in real time what she is talking about! You don‘t have to wait on a complicated example; you become the example! 1w
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kristinsmoyer
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After exploring the unreliability of media, I thought, “how can I discern truth?” I like how the author mentions deductive and inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is based in perception but can‘t always be proven. Although we can‘t prove all of our perceptions as 100% accurate, that‘s okay! Our beliefs can exist on a scale and shape our worldview for good. However, we should be willing to have our beliefs challenged/explore new info and POVs.

kristinsmoyer This also reminds me of the phrase “sacred uncertainty” from my Melville class last semester. Some things can‘t be accurately predicted or proven, but that doesn‘t mean we should have a pessimistic outlook on life. When we let go of the need to know and control everything, it‘s freeing! At the same time, this is not an excuse to deny factual evidences/make claims that are clearly unsupported. 2w
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kodieleidson

I don‘t typically care for nonfiction, but this one hasn‘t entirely bored me yet. I think the author does a good job of drawing the readers in, but I have yet to feel really drawn in. Hopefully that changes the further I get into the book.

DanyYnad I had the same feeling at first! I I generally don‘t gravitate towards non-fictions books but this book worked so well to captivate and draw you in that all of the sudden you have all the knowledge without feeling bored. 1w
2 likes1 comment
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sarabeth_donaldson

“What the Fact?” was published in September of 2022, just a few months before ChatGPT from OpenAI was released to the public. This marked the beginning of easily accessible AI, especially written AI. I wonder what Yasmin would say about information disorder now, after so many people have discovered and are currently learning about AI. This is definitely something that could be used in a classroom regarding artificial intelligence!

Laurenwhite0508 I really like the idea of using this in a classroom that is talking about or using AI! I would also be curious to know more about what she thinks now that we have access to AI. 2w
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kristinsmoyer
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Two things that have particularly interested me from this book are the Soviet Union‘s tactics in spreading disinformation for political purposes and how those tactics are still used + the use of bots and trolls in disseminating false information.