One of the negative sides to the digital world is that hundreds of false news are being spread— and many people, believe it or not, fall for some of the most bizarre news. My intent isn’t to make a fool out of these people, but more so on how can we avoid these fake news and determine which sources are reliable?
Digital literacy refers to the ability to utilize technology to be able to access information and communication. One may think, “I know how to text my friends and I can use Google to find out any information I need.” But digital literacy is so much more than that— it’s about navigating multiple different platforms and being able to utilize those platforms to its full benefits.
An issue that has been growing out of hand recently is fake news. Part of digital literacy refers to the ability to determine whether a source is reliable or not through research and a little bit of thinking. Here is a little quiz/game where you have to use clues and your own judgement to spot a troll! Some of these clues might be:
- how personal/private the account is
- if the account focuses strongly on one side/opinion (politics, for example)
- the account shares fake news that usually degrades individuals
.. and much more! From this, you might think, “why don’t people avoid trolls and fake news if it’s so obvious?” Well, the problem is that they aren’t very obvious anymore. Here is an article of why people fall for fake news. The most serious cause would be: we like reading about what we like/believe in (here is another article that proves it). When we read news about something we aren’t interested in, for example, if there’s a news about how a thunderstorm hit Saskatoon, most people wouldn’t even bother to read it because it’s not uncommon and some aren’t interested in Saskatoon weather. But when we read about something we like to hear about, we’re automatically more focused and interested, and automatically think it’s true because “I knew that was going to happen!”
But how can we actually teach students about practicing digital literacy to avoid false news? As a secondary math education student, there are a few ways I can educate my future students on digital literacy. I would start off with simple examples of fake news and information, just like how Katia talks about “bat child” and “dolphin growing human arms” in this article about developing critical literacy. Silly, but effective because everyone(almost) knows that it’s not possible for a dolphin to grow human arms. Then I’ll go ahead with more realistic and modern examples, such as fake news that we commonly come across on social media platforms. TikTok is easily one of the most common places where false information are spread, especially since so many students nowadays live inside TikTok for hours. Many students aren’t willing to do simple Google researches, and end up just believing in everything they see. I can apply this to my class as a math teacher by using math websites as an example. I’m sure a lot of us are familiar with Chegg(an online website where students can ask homework questions and “professionals” will solve them). Other than it being a problem used for academic misconduct, another problem is that these people who answer questions won’t always be correct. Then who or what can we ask for help? That’s why us teachers exist! Although we aren’t “digital,” part of practicing digital literacy is being able to utilize technology so that it helps you— so in cases where the internet can’t help, you have to turn to non-digital ways (if that makes any sense).
NCTE(National Council of Teacher of English) suggested that students report their work and progress through blogs, presentations, and etc., which is what my EDTC 300 class has been doing! This is a great way to introduce students to the digital world, as well as track their progress and places they need help with. This will also prepare them for digital-heavy environment such as university and jobs, to prepare to be a responsible digital citizen.