There has been a lot of discussion about fake news and how it may have affected the recent presidential election. From clickbait sites to deliberately misleading sites to satire sites, and sites that may spread fake news by accident, the impact of fake news is far-reaching. A recent study from Stanford showed that middle and high school students had trouble differentiating real news from fake news—and that this issue even extended to college students.
Media literacy is, therefore, more important than ever. The good news is that it’s never too early to start teaching those skills to your students.
An article on the education website Edutopia recently put forth some tips on how you can teach your students media literacy, how to differentiate fact from opinion, and how to discern fake news when they see it.
You can start in first or second grade with looking at a site they are already using for their education or to play games, and tell them to find the ads. This will help them see that ads are different from the content. You might even be able to help them to understand what ads are and why they exist.
In the higher elementary grades, give your students links to real and fake sites and give them a checklist to fill out about each site. Have them use the CARS test (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, and Support) and create a list of trusted sites. Make sure they look for the same information on several trusted sites to verify how true the information is.
In middle school and high school, teach your students to apply the CRAP test to articles they read online. Have them check the Credibility, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose or Point of view of articles that you instruct them to read. Use a checklist to help them figure out the validity of the information they read. In addition to reading news sites, have them read tweets and other social media postings.
Middle and high school are also good times to introduce the idea of media bias and fact versus opinion. They can do more independent research than they did in elementary school, so have them visit sites like Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, and Politifact.com as well as looking for stories about the same incident on different websites.
It might also be helpful to have them see what the same story looks like when reported on by U.S. news sites versus news sites from other countries such as BBC News.
You can also introduce students to the idea of sponsored content—website or blog posts designed to sell a product while telling a story about or reviewing a product. Keep in mind that according to FTC regulations, sponsored posts are supposed to have a disclosure that they are, in fact, sponsored posts, and that those disclosures are supposed to be at or near the top of the post. However, some bloggers and website authors accidentally or deliberately fail to disclose. That’s when you need to teach them to discern advertising from reporting.
How have you been teaching your students to discern fake news from real news? Please share your thoughts in the comments.