Field Day’s media literacy game featured in story from Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin

By Karen Rivedal, WCER Communications

A screen grab depicts a scene from Field Day’s engaging online educational game, “Headlines and High Water.”

A story by “Wisconsin Life” contributor Christina Lieffring titled, “Choose your own journalism adventure: Teaching media literacy with ‘Headlines and High Water’,” on April 9 puts readers, viewers, and listeners ringside while students in a class at Marshfield High School play the online educational game from WCER’s Field Day.

Produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin, “Wisconsin Life” is a multi-platform project that produces media for radio and television celebrating the state’s people and places. The April 9 collaboration documents students in a speech class having fun and learning about journalism while role-playing the new game. Descriptions of the scene are interspersed with comments from Field Day Creative Director Sarah Gagnon about how the game was developed with input from working journalists and game-testing feedback from students and teachers.

“One thing that is really funny during all the testing with kids is that it makes them so angry when people won’t talk to them, because they don’t have enough trust,” Gagnon says. “Or they feel like it’s very unfair when they run out of time. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m sure journalists feel that way too.’”


In the game, early decisions by players produce differing outcomes, as they assume the role of reporters on deadline trying to turn in factual stories about a flood’s impact on a small-town festival. The game’s larger goal, Gagnon notes, is getting young people to use critical thinking about news and its quality.

“News isn’t perfect or fake,” she says. “It’s always going to be critique-able, and something that we have to be questioning and engaging with.”

Students in the speech class also are interviewed as they play the game about what they feel they’re learning. Freshman Jo Nyman came to a new understanding of the challenge involved in reporting a truthful and comprehensive story.

“Some sources are definitely not credible,” Nyman says. “Sometimes you have to fact check what other people say. So if someone says something and you’re not quite sure about it, you have to go and check other people just to make sure that it’s a good quality quote.”

“Headlines and High Water” is available for free play on Field Day’s website here. Field Day, a game development studio and educational research lab, is housed in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), part of UW–Madison’s School of Education.

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