“Fake News”

There are many dangers that exist regarding falling into and spreading fake news. The internet has widely increased our ability to spread news and information about everything going on in the world, no matter how small (or how accurate). It is essential that all consumers of such “knowledge” increase their digital literacy so that they are able to effectively decipher between reliable sources of information and what we might refer to as “fake news”. We are experiencing a dangerous age of social media where propaganda is no longer used to simply push an agenda and encourage us to believe certain things, or act in a certain way, but rather, there is so much information being put out constantly, that it is used to exhaust our critical thinking and essentially “annihilate the truth” and our ability to find it. We are constantly being overwhelmed with information from a variety of sources on a variety of topics, it becomes nearly impossible to decipher right from wrong. According to an article on “Developing Critical Literacies” the line between the two is seemingly more and more blurred and uncertain. This is why developing individual and collective digital literacy is so essential to the wellbeing of our society.

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The best way to improve our digital literacy as a society is to start young in schools. If students are able to learn proper digital literacy from as young as they are able to consume such media, then they will grow up to be effective consumers and refrain from spreading “fake news” and contributing to the problem. “Fake news” can be extremely dangerous especially when involving powerful politicians, public health, dangerous people, etc. It is essential that young learners develop critical thinking when it comes to the consumption of any media, especially online sources. This is why I think it is absolutely necessary to include digital literacy education in schools. The NCTE framework provides an effective outline of implementing the basics of this into the classroom. KQED learning also has a great lesson plan with many helpful additional resources to incorporate this learning in the classroom. For younger kids, storybook type of resources can be really helpful in teaching to determine fact from fiction. Also, looking at articles such as “How Students can Spot Fake News” can be very helpful in finding ways to combat this issue. The dangerous issue of fake news is so prominent in our lives today that they are many, many resources online to assist one in educating themselves and others on resisting falling into the media’s traps, and being critical consumers at all times.

There are many tips to help consumers spot fake news. Some of which include:

  • determining what outlets are covering the story, and whether all outlets have a similar/differing spin on the topic
  • sensational headlines, often emotion provoking
  • out of context photos included
  • inability to do a background check to see if source is reliable (not a lot of information on it)
  • awareness that social media is filtered to present a certain view
  • is it based on evidence or opinion?
  • determine what government officials, health organization, other reputable sources have to say about it

Here is a great visual framework to assist in teaching this concept as well:

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The TED Ed playlist: Hone your media literacy skills also has some great videos that could be included in teaching students how to identify fake news.

There are so many resources out there that can be used to educate your students (as well on yourself) on identifying fake news and being critical media consumers. As a society we must do everything that we can to ensure the voices spreading the facts of heard and those spreading “fake news” are silenced. This begins on an individual level so educating yourself and your audience on how to decipher between fact and fiction in the media is essential. With social media and the online presence of information so present in our lives, one share can lead to ten more and before we know it, everyone quickly believes the message being passed on. We need to ensure that as a society we have the collective digital literacy to stop fake news in its tracks.

Here are some additional articles about people combating fake news and the dangers it poses to us:

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