How often do we see article titles like the one above? We have likely all heard the word ‘clickbait’ before, yet too often we cannot help but click and see where it takes us. Why? Well, in the world of participatory culture in the digital age, we see more and more ways media draws us in, often in an effort to persuade us towards a certain set of actions. This may mean buying an item, spending time looking at advertisements, or increasing other peoples’ popularity. But what happens when a media source tries to use confirmation bias to increase your ignorance towards other groups of people? Or what happens when false information is spread across the world? And more importantly, how can we as teachers teach the next generation to avoid it?
What exactly is ‘fake news’? “Fake News is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically. Fake News is related to propaganda whose purpose is to spread information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view” (TRU Libraries, 2019, para. 1).
What are some reasons that fake news is so hard to recognize and fight against? There are several key factors that play a role in this. Some key aspects include: confirmation bias, emotional connection, digital bubbles, and inability to spot disinformation and misinformation.
Spotting fake news get harder every day. Fake news often comes across looking similar to reliable news and some skills that use to be used (like the CRAAP Test) are no longer reliable. As difficult as it is, we can give our students (and ourselves) better skills and knowledge that can support their fact-checking.
- “Move beyond traditional – and often ineffective – information evaluation checklists (i.e., CRAAP)
- Prioritize helping students develop investigative techniques
- Teach students to identify bias
- Bring real-world fake news examples that we encounter everyday into the classroom“
I think one of the most important thing to support students is by focusing on teaching digital literacy. There are several video series that can help develop students’ digital literacy and increase their ability to find fake news. Here are some that I have found to be helpful:
Alongside teaching digital literacy is teaching digital citizenship. Students should not be afraid of the internet, but they should know how to use it well. For more information on digital citizenship check out my blog post that also includes specific lesson ideas for Grade 7 students. More great lesson plans can be found at these blogs: Laura Fiddler, Alexandra Crammond, and Allysia Coburn.
Some helpful tools to use when teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship:
- Bias in the News Worksheet – Help break down what is meant by different kinds of bias in the media and how to combat them.
- Have students use PolitEcho so they can see what kind of information is being exposed to them. In order to combat this, use the Chrome Extension ‘Escape Your Bubble’.
- Use helpful tools such as: Can you spot the fake news headline?, Spot the troll, and Break the fake. All of these provide students with the ability to test their ability to spot fake news while providing helpful tips for the future.
In order to be competent when teaching students we need to be knowledgeable ourselves. Spend some time dedicating time to this subject area that influences your life daily. Here are just some resources you can use:
Fake News: A Library Resource Round-Up: a collection of various sources that can increase your awareness of fake news and identifying falsehoods in the media
Escape Your Bubble: Use this Chrome Extension to make sure you are not surrounding yourself with confirmation bias.
This Comic uncovers some of the realities of having your own biases and how they relate to the information you find online.