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Fake News

Everyday, I am someone who wakes up and immediately scrolls through their phone. I always follow the same schedule: check emails, check messages, scroll through Facebook, quick check on Instagram, and sometimes a scroll through Twitter. This “morning update” is typically how I gather my information. I am not one to watch the news very often. I rely mainly on the various news outlets that I follow (Global, CBC, CTV etc.) on Facebook and/or Twitter to provide information. This week in class has really made me reflect on this process and how I filter through this information and decipher what is real and what is not.

What Is Fake News?

Cymone’s article from this week defines fake news as “news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, and could mislead readers.” Holly’s article goes a bit further and states that fake news doesn’t only encompass news articles, but includes all “misinformation that circulates online: clickbait, hoax…disinformation, misinformation, [and] memes.” We can gather essentially, that the idea of fake news is any type of false information that is spread, either deliberately or unintentionally. Megan made a great reference in her post this week to how the telephone game that we all played as children is a great way to simulate the spread of false information. This could be an example of a great activity to use to introduce the topic of fake news to your classroom!

How Have I Learned to Decipher Fake News?

Chris B’s article this week touches on the idea that fake news is not a technology problem, but is in fact an information literacy issue. The article states that technology “cannot address the underlying cause of digital falsehoods: our susceptibility to blindly believing what we read on the Web and our failure to verify and validate information before we share or act upon it.” This is very true and reminds me of how far I have come in my own development of these essential information literacy skills.

Growing up going to school in the early 2000s, I was very much exposed to technology and the beginning of teachers instructing students on how to utilize these tools properly. We had many lessons related to information literacy such as typing and how to use key words to research on a computer. In elementary, we were taught that Wikipedia is not always a good source since anyone can edit it. We were encouraged to consult sources that were known to be more accurate such as government organizations and encyclopedias. In high school, these lessons were furthered, along with instruction on how to properly cite a source and that “copy and paste” was actually plagiarism. Since I took AP English, we focused a lot on the use of MLA format. These lessons throughout my high school and elementary years were definitely useful, however we had never really dove in to cover topics relating to fake news or disinformation in the ways that were necessary. I was definitely someone who believed a lot of things that I saw online (photo manipulation was a big popular one when I was growing up).

As I went into university, I learned how to write papers using the APA format instead. These papers also contained a lot more citations than the ones I attempted in high school. When I began my university career, I realized how important the reliability of a source is. Additionally, as someone who was growing up, I became more interested in what was generally going on with the world (news, politics etc.). This allowed me to have more of an interest in reading things and having discussions with others. Often times, these discussions would allow me to begin to realize how much false information was actually circulating. Becoming more active(aka lurking) on Twitter especially has helped me to realize that fake news isn’t always new that is FALSE, it can also be things that are TECHNICALLY true, but what is shared is very carefully selected. There are many times on Twitter where I have seen people provide information that proved that something a government official has stated as true, is technically true- but not if you are looking at the whole picture. For example, this tweet by @steve_boots used the government’s own data to prove that Scott Moe’s claim about construction increases indicating a strong economic recovery was technically false overall as Moe’s original tweet only referenced the highest point of the data, and not the decline that followed.

As I continue to grow as a digitally literate person, there are a few questions I have asked myself lately when it comes to reviewing information presented (by the media, in a school textbook, on the news etc). Asking myself these questions has really helped me to reflect more on if I am reading accurate information:

  • Do I know the source sharing the information?
  • Does the source properly cite the claims they are making?
  • Is this source trustworthy?
  • Are multiple other sources presenting the same information?
  • Is this information recent?
  • Does it seem too good/crazy/wild to be true?
  • Are they any groups or viewpoints specifically excluded from this information being presented? Why?

How Can I Help Students to Spot Fake News?

As an educator in 2022, it is extremely important that we are teaching our students both digital and information literacy skills, this includes how to spot fake news. As I have mentioned previously, I am beginning a new unit in my classroom on media literacy. Part of this unit will include discussions about fake news. I plan on sharing with my students the following video as an introduction to spotting fake news:

We will also discuss the questions that students can ask themselves when trying to decide if a source is legitimate (similar to my questions above). Finally, some other helpful topics might include:

  • How are emotions impacting how you feel about what you are reading?
  • Reverse image searches
  • Verified vs fake accounts on social media
  • How to find out more about the source publishing the information (page’s about us page etc.)
  • Look at website endings and their meanings (.com, .co, .org etc.)

Have you ever taught a unit on fake news in your classroom or discussed it with your own children at home? How did it go? Were there any resources you found extremely helpful or engaging for covering this topic?

5 thoughts on “Fake News

  1. With the increasing platforms of social media, the cases of fake news are also rising. If I talk about the recent times, we all have spotted the fake news related to Ukraine war and Covid vaccines. It has been observed that people who have less knowledge or are illiterate gets more affected by fake news. But because of lack of knowledge they can not find the difference between right and wrong. Being a part of society we should guide people and tell the negative results of spreading fake news. Moreover, I liked your points on “reflecting questions”. According to me we all should think and teach students how to spot fake news. Being a teacher, have you discussed these questions with students and what were their response?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing! Like yourself, I appreciated Steve Boots coming and talking to our class. I hadn’t seen that piece of information regarding the stats that Premier Scott Moe provided. During my group’s presentation, I had shared a study that examined how adept students are at identifying fake news. A majority of the middle years and high school students felt information was to be trusted if it contained convincing stats. It seems as if using stats and manipulating viewer biases are now common strategies for politicians and others like them who wish to sway the public. Clearly, this is a bias that I need to be aware of and use as a red flag to do more exploration to verify what I am seeing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like that you mentioned text books as one of the resources that you think critically about. Just last week I had a student point out something from our Social Studies text that was now outdated. I was so glad to see that come from a student. Of course, they needed to be knowledgeable of the content to understand why the information was inaccurate, but it provided an opportunity for the class to see that at their age they have the ability to examine information and question what they are reading. A Social 8 text book from 2012 might be low hanging fruit, but I’ll take it! Thanks for your post this week Brittney!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank-you for your insight, Brittney. Like you, I don’t often watch the news but rather rely on the news outlets that I follow on my Facebook. Our past few classes have really made me reconsider where I find my news because I never really thought that deeply about how it may be selected specifically for me. It may be interesting for students to analyze what news comes up on their feeds.
    In the past, I have had students work with the CIVIX resource CTRL+F which was a great resource for students to practice identifying fake news.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like Bart said, I too like how you talked about textbooks. All too often we accept textbooks as good teaching tools because they are mandated to use by our school divisions, yet when we begin to critically evaluate them, we start to find things that aren’t lining up, missing information or are clearly out of date material. We spend so much money on textbooks, and all too often they are almost out of date before they are even printed with how quickly information changes now a days.

    Liked by 1 person

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