Combating Fake News and teaching digital literacy in the classroom.

For this weeks post, I will look at how to combat fake news and disinformation in the classroom and how to teach good digital literacy within the high school social studies and English classes.

A resource that is important to read and understand is the NCTE framework for 21st-century curriculum and assessment.

Source: Screenshot from NCTE website

This framework is important because it allows teachers to give their students the tools and skills necessary to work and function in the 21st century.

The United Nations called Fake news and movements like the anti-vaccine movement as one of the largest threats facing society today. That said only combating fake news by trying to stop people from creating it is not the only solution.  What needs to happen is better education so that people know how to spot fake news and stop its spread.

That is where teachers come in.   I see it as no an issue of if it’s important to teach this in every class but an issue of how to teach digital literacy in each class for every age of students.

Photo Credit: Christoph Scholz Flickr via Compfight cc

I have an issue with the term “fake news” simply because it is bigger than just news, it is the influence and manipulation of users and their data.  as Claire Wardle points out in her article Fake news. It’s complicated the reason we have trouble with the term fake news is that it involves more than just news, it involves the entire information ecosystem. I agree fake news is an attack on our information ecosystem and threatens its purity and well being.

This video by Damon Brown and TedEd points out, today more than ever we are all reporters, which I believe to be a large part of the issue because now hundreds of thousands of people have their own platform to tell the world everything that they think and any information that they want to tell regardless if it is real or fake.

In social studies class where the students will be doing reports and research, I good way to teach them about the differences in sources it to explain what a primary source is and what a secondary source is.  As long as they understand that secondary sources have been interpreted by someone and their biases could be a filter what they read.

Photo Credit: Curtis Gregory Perry Flickr via Compfight cc

Damon Brown also points out that it is important to get news from other sources.  I find this to be very important as well, again if students are writing a report in Social studies class have the students look at multiple sources on the same topic so that they can get all the information. The last thing that Brown points out is that it is extremely important to verify any type of news before you share it! and that cannot be stressed enough to all students, knowing the whole story and whether a story is real is crucial before sharing it. A simple google search can save a lot of grief and help combat the spread of fake news.

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This next video outlines five steps to avoid fake news and therefore avoid spreading it.

This video really helps to put everything into a short list that could easily be taught to students and make getting the message across a lot easier and have a better chance of the students understanding.   the point that I feel is the most important is comparing to other news sources to get the whole picture and looking to see if any other news sites are talking about this news.  If more than one source is reporting on that issue or event than there is a better chance that the news is credible.

Photo Credit: Sarah G… Flickr via Compfight cc

As teachers, I feel it’s important to foster an environment where students can develop the skills to consume news and think critically.

Incorporating digital literacy can be tricky but also easy depending on the curriculum. For example, the ELA 20 curriculum calls for a section on asses and reflect.  Digital literacy could fit into here by calling for students to asses there ability to view, listen, read, speak, and write these things could be applied to news and other resources looked at in the semester.  there are many ways to incorporate digital identity into the class, we owe it to our students to prepare them the best we can.

Photo Credit: Stephen O Flickr via Compfight cc

The NCTE framework is a document that is very important and well worth the read.  instead of summarising the document I will just point out what I feel is the most important.

The first element involves students understanding and being able to use tools involved with using digital technology in the classroom. This is important because in order for the students to get the most out of what I am teaching them it is important for them to be able to use the tools necessary.

Another important element is being able to analyze and synthesize multiple streams of information. This is important because students will be bombarded with information so if they have the ability to take in information at a fast pace it will help them develop the ability to think critically.

Students being able to create good forms of multimedia texts so that they can stay well informed and don’t contribute to the spread of false information and misinformed information.

These guidelines are important to understand and fulfill in every subject area.  However, with Social and English where creating written work and interpreting other peoples work is a major part of the classes, it’s important for students to make there work as informed citizens and be thinking critically.

That is my post on combatting fake news and teaching good digital literacy.   If anyone has some helpful hints or resources to share please leave a comment.



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