Thursday, December 8, 2016

She’s Gone: The Innovative Educator Leaves Us & Other Fake News

JK. I’m still here. :-p
By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about fake news and the role that played in our presidential election.

Innovative educators realize the time has come to connect with students around literacy and how to determine what’s real from fake.

Are Your Students Prepared?

Can your students evaluate the accuracyperspectivecredibility and  relevance of information, media, data or other resources? (3B - ISTE Student Standards)

A study from the Stanford History Education group says probably not. The study indicates that “Our ‘digital natives’ may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through media channels, they are easily duped.”

That's a problem because as Michael Spector, author of "Denialism" reminds us in his TED Talk, "Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

There are many layers to this work. Here are just some of the types of literacies we must help our students acquire.

4 Types of Literacy

1) Information literacyKnowing where and how to find accurate information
2) Media literacyUnderstanding media sources, potential biases, etc.
3) Factual literacyHow to tell truth from nonsense; how to empirically verify a “fact”
4) Emotional literacyUnderstanding how one’s prior experiences and opinions influence their view of information

When we consider each literacy area, we must keep in mind that it’s not that simple. Newspapers and news stations don’t always get it right. There are times when what you read in social media can be trusted. For example it can be a channel to get news directly from a primary source, rather than through another party.

Textbooks may not have their facts straight. As one Edutopia author put it “textbooks are processed into existence using the pulp of what already exists, rising like swamp things from the compost of the past.” It is also true that the content of these textbooks are influenced by those such as the Gablers who were expert organizers and founded a  nonprofit corporation 43 years ago, Educational Research Analysts, which continues to review textbooks and lobby against liberal content in them. More on that here.

So what’s an innovative educator to do?

You can start by selecting some real and fake news stories and work with students to analyze what they are reading. They should consider some of the following questions:

Ask Yourself These Questions:
  • Who created the story?
  • Why was it created?
  • Who was paid as a result of the story?
  • Who receives harm or benefit?
  • Is this fact or opinion?

You can visit Project Look Sharp and refer to this PDF and this website for more details on how to measure credibility.

You can turn to experts for advice on how to help students think about sources. Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network and Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College recommend doing the following:

Consider the Source:
  • Pay attention to the domain and URL
  • Read the "About Us" section
  • Look for quotes from sources
  • Look into the background of those quoted
  • Check the comments for accusations of false information
  • Reverse image search

You can read more about each piece of advice in this Fake or Real? article from

Students aren’t the only ones who fall for fake news. Their parents can use some support too.

How have you addressed this where you work? Have you incorporated some of these strategies into your classroom? If so, what has worked or has been challenging? If not, is this something you might consider doing with your students? Their parents?

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