The Relevance of Fake News Today
Fake news has been around since the dawn of time, as the true definition of the word is simply a lie or a twisting of the truth. However, I personally have noticed an uptick in the “believability” of fake news since the “Modern Father of Fake News” Donald Trump took office back in 2016. Since then, he has almost singlehandedly lead a counter-attack on fake news by declaring citable news sources as “fake”, while touting his own odd claims (such as injecting bleach into yourself to kill Covid-19) as true. While Donald Trump is far from the only person in the world making outlandish claims, it is his position of power that has caused many people to believe in fake news, which is a dangerous fact. Therefore, it is important that increasing student digital literacy is a goal of every teacher, as it is a skill needed to navigate the uncertain waters of lies and deception that make up much of the internet.
Perspectives on Digital Literacy and Fake News (featuring three suggested resources)
The article “It’s Easier To Call A Fact A Fact When It’s One You Like” proves just how easily one can fall victim to fake news stories by revealing that, as the title suggests, people are less likely to question certain claims if they agree with them. Within the article, it is revealed that both sides of the political spectrum are less likely to question statements that align with their beliefs, thus proving that everyone must constantly be challenging the information they read online. This article is particularly worrying because smartphones, google, and social media all feed you information based on what you’ve liked/ searched in the past, meaning that you will almost always be suggested topics that you agree with. Therefore, it is important that everything is taken with a grain of salt, especially when a source seems sketchy.
The chart to the left does a great job breaking down the different types of fake news that people online should be aware about. Sadly, almost every style of fake news listed on the chart is easily found in today’s society, ranging from the crazy conspiracy theories that cause people to commit horrible crimes, to the countless clickbait/ scam emails that pop up in our email boxes. Additionally, propaganda and partisan claims continue to be a big problem in the world today, with “established” news networks such as Newsmax capturing the attention of millions by delivering passionate broadcasts about facts that are often taken out of context. The many forms of fake news presented in this chart showcase that it is a problem that we must confront, for there is no escaping it.
So what can one do to try and combat fake news? Well, luckily videos such as “Helping Students Identify Fake News with the Five C’s of Critical Consuming” exist that not only can help students, but also teachers make important decisions regarding a source’s credibility. Within the aforementioned video specifically, the creator suggests that one remember the Five C’s of Critical Consuming: context, credibility, construction, corroboration, and compare when assessing content credibility. Simple acronyms like this are easy to remember, yet key in identifying fake news easily and effectively.
Identifying Fake News in the Classroom
Within my subject area of High School History and English, I can think of numerous ways in which digital literacy can be taught. In general, I think something as simple as having students present current events at the beginning of each class is an easy and fun way to assess student’s understandings of digital literacy. Students could present their article, then back up why it is legitimate, after which the listening students could debate/vote on the article’s legitimacy. or, the teacher could purposely bring up a biased article about something relevant to classroom learnings and have students discuss whether the article should be trusted of not.
In particular, the following outcome and indicator are from the English A10 curriculum:
CC A10.4-Compose and create a variety of written literary (including a historical persona essay and a review) and informational (including an observation (eye-witness) report and researched or technical report) texts attending to various elements of discourse (e.g., purpose, speaker, audience, form).
|(f)||Write an inquiry report (e.g., research report, an I-Search, a technical report) that: addresses what makes the subject worth investigating puts central ideas into a focus or thesis statement includes information related to focus or thesis, is current, and drawn from reliable, reporting sources that are cited|
Since this indicator calls for students to use “current” and “reliable” sources, a lesson on digital literacy could be taught prior to students choosing their sources. Once students have gathered the required amount of sources, they could have a peer evaluate them (using an acronym like the 5 C’s) before they get to work using them in their work to ensure that they are credible.
Additionally, the outcome to the left is taken from the History 20 Curriculum in regards to the importance of propaganda in Soviet Russia. To tie this outcome into the concept of digital literacy, students could do an activity where they assess claims made by world leaders and their governments (ie. Trump) to determine whether they could be considered propaganda or not. Additionally, they could also look at the effect that propaganda has by looking at the large followings that Trump and Communist politicians have around the world
Incorporating the NCTE Framework in the Classroom
As the NCTE article points out, “delivering inaccurate information is dangerous,” and as teachers it is our job to educate students with information that is as unbiased and as accurate as possible. I believe the introduction of e-portfolios, discussion forums, and even digital tools such as Zoom are vital to the development of certain comprehension and interpretation skills. I think that an English classroom in particular could benefit from some sort of ongoing research project that is documented through an e-portfolio that other students can interact with, challenge, and discuss as a class in to promote students to think outside of their own secular mindsets. Additionally, by showing students how easy how easy it is to create websites and e-portfolios, they will likely gain an even better understanding of how easy it is to fabricate facts and publish them online in a way that looks visually appealing and trustworthy. For a few final thoughts on digital literacy, head over to Trista’s blog!