Digital Literacy and Fake News

Digital Literacy and Fake News

In my previous blog post, I’ve talked about the 9 elements of digital citizenship. This new post focuses on digital literacy, one of those elements. In our recent class, we discussed digital literacy in more detail, especially how it fits into school curriculum and how it helps us spot and fight fake news.

What is Digital Literacy and Why is it Important?

As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, the necessity of learning about digital literacy skills becomes more evident. What is digital literacy? UNESCO defines digital literacy as “the ability to access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate and create information safely and appropriately through digital technologies”. I’ve recently watched “The Social Dilemma” and it was 10/10! It highlights the risks of social media and technology. It emphasizes teaching kids digital literacy, helping them recognize misinformation, understand algorithms, and be mindful online. It’s a call for educators and parents to prioritize teaching these skills for safer and smarter online behavior.

In education, it’s crucial for children to grasp digital literacy from a young age. As children are spending more and more time online, they are learning digital skills on their own, but without proper guidance in school, they might not learn the right things. Just being able to read online isn’t sufficient anymore.  Students are now expected to know how to navigate online content, analyze information critically, as well as responsibly create and distribute digital content. Digital literacy is important for many reason such as it develops critical thinking skills and problem-solving, ensures online safety, teaches digital responsibility, and encourages students to actively participate in society as responsible citizens.

Fact or Fake?

Fake or Fact On Wood Blocks
Photo by Alva Steury on Adobe Stock

In class, we also discussed distinguishing real information from fake stuff online. Throughout my high school years, we were encouraged to verify information from multiple sources. But how do you know what websites or news can be trusted and what not? It wasn’t until this class that I gained insights into identifying fake news and websites. I was so surprised to discover how easily fake news and profiles can be created and how difficult it can sometimes be to tell if they are real or not.  According to TRU Libraries, 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”. This website also explains why people believe fake news, how to recognize it, fact-checking, and ways to combat it. It caught my interest because it made me think about why some people easily believe fake news. This study shows that people often see information they agree with as facts more easily than information they disagree with. It highlights how important it is to think critically and check facts, especially in today’s word where there’s a lot of information and strong opinions. I found this study very interesting!

definition of disinformation
Photo by Feng Yu on Adobe Stock

We also covered the contrast between disinformation and misinformation and it closely related to the definition of fake news. The key difference lies in the intent: misinformation refers to false information that spreads unintentionally, while disinformation involves intentionally misleading or biased information, often aimed at manipulating facts or narratives for propaganda purposes.

Understanding these terms and keeping in mind the intention of the fake news is important for digital literacy because it helps us detect truth from false. Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online is a great article that delves into the complexity of online misinformation. It talks about how people and groups use the Internet to spread false information and influence others. It also explains the tactics they use, like fake news sites and social media bots. I think it’s a useful resource for teachers as it shows how this affects society and suggests ways to fight back.

Based on my personal experience, disinformation can lead to devastating consequences. I was born and raised in Ukraine, but some of my family members relocated to Russia years ago, so the impact of disinformation hits close to home. Since the war started, the divide between us has grown, largely due to the barrage of disinformation they receive through their TV channels. It’s heartbreaking to say that they trust propaganda more than their own family who is there to witness it. It highlights the urgent need for critical thinking and digital literacy to fight the harmful effects of disinformation. Damon Brown’s YouTube video suggests picking different news sources, making sure they’re reliable, understanding the context, and watching out for fake news. It can help to stay informed without getting misled.

Addressing Fake News: Strategies for Teachers

Educating your students about Digital Literacy and guiding them to identify reliable sources is essential. This knowledge can benefit them not only in school but also in the future, whether dealing with politics or staying informed. There are plenty of resources out there to help teachers teach digital literacy to students and how to fight fake news.

As a future high school science teacher, I know it’s important to help students find trustworthy information online. While college students might be better at this, high school children are just starting out and can easily be tricked by false facts. It’s becoming harder to tell real news from fake news, even in popular media and on social media. I found some excellent strategies in these articles: “How do we Teach Students to Identify Fake News?” and “Developing Critical Literacies: What We Need to Know in a “Fake News” World”. I plan to use them in my classroom when teaching my students about this topic:

English slogan strategy as a plan
Photo by Robert Kneschke on Adobe Stock
  • Prioritize helping students develop investigative techniques
  • Teach students to identify bias
  • Bring real-world fake news examples that we encounter everyday into the classroom
  • Develop and employ investigative techniques
  • Use rich examples
  • Encourage a mindset of critical thinking
In my class, I’ll incorporate activities that encourage critical thinking and fact-checking. For example, I can provide students with news articles, clickbait headlines and ask them to identify the sources, check for bias, and verify information using reputable sources. Also, it is important to provide examples to show students why it’s risky to believe and share fake news, especially in science. By practicing these skills, children will get better at distinguishing between fact and fiction and navigating the internet safely.
Another great resource for teachers to integrate digital literacy into their teaching is the NCTE’s Definition of Digital Literacy Framework. It provides ideas for teachers on what students should learn to navigate the digital world:
  • Be active and thoughtful online participants.
  • Explore diverse texts and tools critically.
  • Engage in creating, sharing, and evaluating content.
  • Advocate for fair access to information and tools.
  • Connect with others globally to solve problems together.
  • Communicate respectfully and address biases.
  • Consider the ethical implications of using information.
  • Understand how digital tools shape narratives.
  • Respect and celebrate diverse language and cultural identities.
hand of scientist holding flask with lab glassware in chemical laboratory background, science laboratory research and development concept
Photo by totojang1977 on Adobe Stock

As a high school science teacher, I aim to incorporate the goals of the NCTE framework into my lessons. For example, when introducing a unit on chemical reactions, I can assign readings from a textbook or scientific articles and have students write summaries or reflections on what they’ve learned. Additionally, I can facilitate class discussions where students explain concepts to each other and practice active listening. This can help develop their scientific literacy and communication skills, which aligns with the NCTE framework’s goal of promoting effective communication and active participation. By incorporating group work, hands-on experiments, and discussions into our chemistry lessons, I’m not only teaching students about chemical reactions but also helping them develop digital skills. When they research online for their assignments or use digital tools for experiments, they’re also learning how to navigate the digital world.

All in all, children must be educated about the digital literacy to navigate online resources effectively. It’s all about the tools and knowledge they need to be smart online users. As technology advances, it’s crucial for educators to update the curriculum with the latest information and examples. Using outdated examples, like a popular fake octopus website, isn’t as effective in teaching digital literacy to children anymore. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve and provide more relevant and engaging examples that truly resonate with children and prepare them for what they may encounter online. By doing so, we can better equip them to navigate the complexities of the digital world with confidence and awareness!

2 thoughts on “Digital Literacy and Fake News

  1. Hi Mariia,
    I remember watching the Social Dilemma movie when it first came out, but I think it would be worth revisiting. I like your example about how you could incorporate digital literacy in your future classroom. Getting the kids to identify sources and verify information is such a valuable life skill (I think many adults could benefit from this, haha).

    1. Hi Sabrina! Thanks for your comment! And yes, adults need to learn how to verify information from multiple sources too haha.

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