As the picture of the tabloids demonstrates, fake news has been around for a long time and it is still with us at the checkout line at the grocery store! But it is more invasive with the Internet.
We might be getting sick of the words “fake news” right now due to their overuse and misuse these days. But it is refreshing to know that good information is out there to help people who choose to take it in to help sort out what is real and fake.
When I was in Bangkok teaching a class for the USAID in January, I enjoyed reading the English version of the local papers. I found an article about how to spot fake news and to think before sharing (novel approach)!
Then when I got back, our local paper the Columbus Dispatch had a wonderful article about how students are being taught to THINK about what they are reading and how to come up with what is accurate. Following that, ASCD published an article from the Seattle Times which released a worksheet to help students lessons on news judgment.
I am sharing the Columbus Dispatch article first. The next two blogs will be the one from Bangkok and from ASCD (a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading). The Dispatch article shows how various area schools are incorporating reading and discussing news articles into social studies, government classes, and writing courses. I’d love to see a follow-up study to see what kind of conversations might have occurred in the homes where the older generation uses its comfortable sources and the younger one has learned to delve deeper.
Teacher Amanda Suttle’s students know to take with a grain of salt an online article positing that millennials are bad with money and need financial-planning help. It was written by a bank executive. And they get that a photo of mutated daisies, posted online with the claim that they sprouted near Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, could be total bunk. These were examples that she floated this week for her 12-student media-literacy class at Licking Valley High School, just east of Newark, and she’s glad to see their healthy skepticism.
“I often ask them questions that I don’t have the answers to because I want them to think for themselves and not just tell me what they think I want to hear or what they think the ‘right’ answer is,” Suttle said in an email. “I consider it vital that they learn how to question everything, to resist the urge to believe the single story, the stereotype or the first thing they hear. In essence, I want them to read more and not be easily duped.
The kids have heard about fake news. Who hasn’t? President Donald Trump and his advisers have used those words repeatedly to refer to national news outlets — without evidence — and those national news outlets reported how fake news articles from partisan and fringe groups shared on Facebook and Twitter swayed voters in November.
So what is “fake news,” exactly? And how does one pick it out on a slick website with a legitimate-sounding name?
On Wednesday, Suttle’s students watched two recent news stories, from NPR and from NBC News, about people who churn out completely made-up news stories from their homes, one in Los Angeles and another in Macedonia. The Macedonian man blamed Americans for being gullible enough to buy it.
Down the hall during the next class period, journalism teacher Eric Comeras used a checklist to show students how to evaluate an online news source: Does it use excessive punctuation?!?!? ALL CAPS? Is there a byline? Are the media outlet’s editorial standards posted anywhere? Is there a current date on the story?
Here was No. 1: “Gauge your emotional reaction: Is it strong? Are you angry? Are you intensely hoping that the information turns out to be true? False?”
Other central Ohio schools also have been weaving media literacy into their academics.
At the private Columbus Academy, social studies teacher Laura Miller recently had her eighth-graders read seven online biographies of Ho Chi Minh, Communist leader of North Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s. She asked them to determine which were credible and accurate.
Freshmen at Bexley High School are learning about the rise of fascism in 20th century Europe and tying in discussions about propaganda and how governments can censor and control media, said teacher Anna Schottenstein. She said the topic also comes up often in the high-school government classes because of current events.
The Wellington School weaves media literacy into middle-school social studies, including discussions of fake news. Teachers there hope to bring in a reporter from the online magazine Slate to talk to the students about recent developments, school officials said.
At Licking Valley, the class discussed an article on a recent Stanford University study showing that a majority of youngsters aren’t savvy about discerning lies online. For example, nearly 40 percent of high-schoolers thought the mutated daisies were the real deal.
Suttle asked the teens whether parents should shelter children from certain websites with online controls.
“You’re narrowing them in their thinking by only allowing them to look at certain sites,” said senior Grant McHugh.
Passion Stoneking, a senior, said that learning to sort fact from fiction is important enough that schools need to designate a teacher to teach it.
Freshman Hayden Hile said parents have a responsibility to work with children on this.
Senior Jenna Smith agreed: “Students should be more self-aware. They need to know when they’re being lied to.”