Fake News in the School, Community & World

June 10, 2021 3 By Ashley Peterman

Fake news. It is everywhere. You want to search Facebook for recent news, but fake news will often occur. You see someone add you on Facebook or Instagram with a profile picture of one of your friends, but it isn’t your friend’s account. Fake news and fake accounts are everywhere. So, the question is this:

How do you manage this? How do we keep things safe? How do we tell the difference between fake and real? How do we, as educators, teach our students how to tell the difference?

With fake news, the article, Fake news. It’s complicated, states seven types of misinformation. These include:

  • Satire or parody
  • Misleading content
  • Imposter content
  • Fabricated content
  • False connection
  • False context
  • Manipulated content

There are so many types of fake news. This makes it even more important to teach our students how to identify fake news on a daily basis. As the NCTE framework states, students learning or presenting inaccurate information can be extremely dangerous. We need to carefully educate our students on how to identify inaccurate information and the dangers.

It is important to note that teaching about digital literacy is not just one lesson and then done type of thing. It needs to be taught the entire school year from when students begin classes, until they end. Of course, the focus and material will not be nearly as heavily at the end of the school year is reached, but the students will gain more knowledge by the end.

Since I do plan to teach grade one, these students are not going to be as invested in social media as students in middle years/high school would be. However, those students that gain access to social media accounts at this young age are easily persuaded. They do not know a ton about the world, so if they see something posted online, they are most likely going to believe it. This is why we as teachers have an important role in teaching our students how to identify fake news.

In grade one, teaching the students about fake news needs to be a lesson. If I teach traditionally (by standing at the front of the room and talking) the students are going to get bored. Let’s face it, what grade one students wants to sit there and listen to their teacher speak about fake news for half an hour? I know I would not be able to focus for that long at such a young age.

Therefore, including games to play with the students about fake news is crucial. The article, How do we teach students to identify fake news?, lists the strategy to “bring real-world fake news examples that we encounter everyday into the classroom”. This could be done using games such as Spot the Troll or Break the Fake. Since it is such a young grade, I could use these games and adapt them into a simpler version. For example, a profile with one of the students’ photos, but not their name. I could easily start with small things like this and then build onto it as the school year progresses.

Curriculum Applications

Thinking of subjects to teach digital literacy in accordance to with the students in grade one? Well, here are a few ideas.

It could be taught within English Language Arts. If the students are going to be doing some online research, they could first play an adapted version of Break the Fake before the assignment. Then, while researching, they can be aware of what was learned during this game.

It could also be taught within the identity and community piece of English Language Arts. To do this, the students could play an age-adapted version of Spot the Troll in the classroom. This could teach the students about identity (both fake and real). As well, it can teach the students about their own community when online, and to always be sure that you know the person.

These are just a few examples of classroom applications. There are soo many ways that relate to curriculum to teach students about digital literacy. I would also like to hear my readers’ thoughts and ideas for incorporating digital literacy lessons into the classroom (preferably the earlier years, but I would also like to hear some higher-up years ideas). Thanks for reading this post!