How To Help Students Combat Fake News with Digital Literacy

Today’s students are growing up in and being fully submersed in a digital world. There’s a lot of benefits to this such as, the enhancement of communication and millions of resources at the touch of a button. One MAJOR disadvantage of a digital world is the “fake news” epidemic that has rather recently become a major issue in society. From reading “Developing Critical Literacies: What We Need To Know in a “Fake News” world” I learned that the “fake news” explosion, along with the internets is no coincidence. The internet has allowed for anyone, anywhere to create and post realistic but false media to any digital platform. In our consumer hungry world this has turned dangerous. The same article points out that in the 2016 U.S. elections the top 20 fake news stories outperformed the top 20 legitimate news stories on Facebook.

digital consumption

Our society is constantly digitally consuming 

This is a particularly concerning topic for students, as we need future generations to be able to disconcert real from fake online! Research done by the Stanford History Education Group concluded that students from elementary school to college “ability to reason about information on the internet can be summed up in one word: bleak” (Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone Of Civic Reasoning). What can we do to change this however? I think the obvious answer is students need to develop skills early on in their education to detect fake news, and false information in general. I believe this important issue can easily be tied into the curriculum in almost every grade level and subject area, while also including the goals of the NCTE’s framework for 21st century curriculum and assessment.

The article “How do we teach students to identify fake news?” has some great ideas for just that, and ones I defiantly plan on using in my future classroom! My favourites were prioritize helping students develop investigative techniques and bring real world examples of fake news into the classroom. These also both meet the NCTE framework in regards to developing proficiency and fluency with technology in regarding  research and finding reliable sources. To help students prioritize investigative techniques the article recommends information verification websites such as Hoax Slayer, Verification Handbook, and Snopes. I did not know most of these websites existed myself and immediately bookmarked them for future use.

By bringing fake news examples into the classroom students can see the forms in which fake news often takes (think political!). Its also a good way for students to check their own fake news identifying skills by comparing a fake news source to a real news source. We did a similar exercise to this in our EDTC300 class, and I found my own skills needed some sharpening. Below is a video I previously tweeted (@Glascockennedy) that shows some good examples of fake news and tips on how to detect it.

In regards to teaching students in my future science classes I have some ideas on how I could incorporate combatting fake news. Research papers are an important part of the secondary curriculum and a great way to get students to focus on finding valid sources. Finding good research sources requires lots of cross referencing to ensure validity, much the same as finding the validity of any other real news versus fake news sources. The assignment description could run along the lines of “find an article that make claims that climate change is fake. Search for valid resources that disprove this and write about it in a APA format paper.

The assignment focuses on being able to identify fake news or research and showing the ability to find valid research as well. It also follows NCTE’s framework in regards to students locating and synthesizing information from a variety of sources, publishing writing in a way that meets a specific audience (science community), critically analyzing a variety of information form a variety of sources, using technology for research and many others.

In todays world its critical students are able to identify fake news. Its not enough anymore to trust what we simply read and hear from the digital world around us. Gaining investigative skills to detect this in the world is more essential than ever. Epistemology is under risk and we need are future generations to be able to challenge this.

fake news

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One thought on “How To Help Students Combat Fake News with Digital Literacy

  1. Very good read!! It left me with a lot to think about, and reminded me of my times in school. We’d look at recent events in my social studies class, and one girl would always pipe up with the good old, “i read on Facebook…” line and the whole class would laugh and explain why that story couldn’t be true, yet she’d argue with us right to the bitter end. I think it is so important to teach students how to identify fake news. One of the first things I’d teach is to look at the website. (anything with .org or .net or .edu is probably not fake) I loved this read! Thanks for sharing

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