Let’s Teach Fake News

“Fake news” is becoming prominent and educators have a responsibility to teach students how to decipher truth from falsehood. Even if the curriculum does not explicitly require us to cover this topic, we want our students to have the ability to decipher fact from fiction. There are many ways to incorporate this topic into your classroom, but first let’s discuss why we all need to learn more about this topic.

Claire Wardle with First Draft has an excellent article on this topic,  Fake News. It’ Complicated.  Wardle breaks down “fake news” into misinformation (the inadvertent sharing of false information) and disinformation (the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false). She goes on to list three elements that can be used to break down information:

  1. The different types of content that are being created and shared
  2. The motivations of those who create this content
  3. The ways this content is being disseminated

Check out this great visual. Have you encountered all 7 types of mis-and disinformation? I certainly have.

Source: First Draft

Claire Wardle goes on to pose the question, “what can we do?” We all play a crucial part in this ecosystem of misinformation. “Every time we passively accept information without double-checking, or share a post, image or video before we’ve verified it, we’re adding to the noise and confusion. The ecosystem is now so polluted, we have to take responsibility for independently checking what we see online.” As an educator and a parent, I add that we are also obligated to teach others about the prevalence of mis-and disinformation…or fake news.

The School Library Journal offers another great way to break down the questions to use when deciphering fake news. They believe educators can counter fake news with information literacy. They promote teaching about fake news in schools and involving parents in the discussion. They ask these questions in their smell test:

Source: School Library Journal

If you still are not convinced this is important, read Developing Critical Literacies: What we Need to Know in a “Fake News” World by Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros. They state that there is often sinister intent in the creation and distribution of fake news. I found the media bias chart very interesting. Check it out and let me know your thoughts on it. They also give advice on how to deal with the phenomenon.

Strategies and Techniques for Dealing with Fake News:

1. Develop and employ investigative techniques

2. Use rich example

3. Nurture a Critical Disposition

So, how do we teach students about fake news? I can envision many ways this topic can be brought into the classroom. I taught a Grade 7 Social Studies mini-unit on Democracy in Canada. I only had 5 classes to teach on the topic and there was so much more I wanted to discuss. Fake news and media bias would easily fit in this unit. Additionally, there are many avenues with ELA to incorporate this information. When covering non-fiction reading, fake news articles could be throw in to the mix to help students develop the skills of deciphering facts from fiction. How about letting students manipulate a digital image in Art class so they realize how easily it can be done. Ideally carrying the theme throughout all the subjects  as a thematic unit would be optimum. What are some of your examples of implementing discernment skills in the classroom?

The Oatmeal has an awesome comic presentation: You are Not Going to Believe What I am About to Tell You. Please check it out! I am serious, check it out. It is excellent. Teachers can use this for a variety of grades. It walks us through some of the emotional friction we can experience when we learn uncomfortable truths. In fact, some information can make us so uncomfortable that we refuse to believe it.

Another option to add to the classroom is an online game by Factitious. It tests our ability to tell if an article is fake news or actual news. This could be done as a class with the questions on the smart board or by having each student complete the quiz independently. I also think this could be a good link to send home to parents and have the parents continue the discussion at home with their children. Students may be surprised to know that even their parents can be mislead.

Source: Facebook, Unknown

Starting off the discussion in a comical way can help ease into the topic. How about the above spoof that was posted on Facebook. I especially like that they actually admit the post is a joke. It would be interesting to know how many people only read the first couple lines and believed the message. Although a bit of satire and comical jests can be fun. There are indeed real dangers to the ecosystem of misinformation.

What can we do? We can be responsible in crediting sources before we spread fake news to others. We can teach our students to develop critical literacy. Regardless  of how you teach about fake news and mis-and disinformation it is important to start the discussion.




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