I mean, this HAS to be true, there was even a whole news report about it! Check out a screenshot below that (definitely) proves this.
Obviously I am joking, this is not the best blog post in the entire world (though my mom tells me this, so maybe it isn’t fake news). Fake news is absolutely everywhere in today’s media, and unfortunately, most of them are a lot more believable than the title of this blog post. So, how can we help our students navigate through different media sources to find trustworthy information? We need to improve students’ digital literacy skills! In the article What is Digital Literacy? they describe it as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”. People don’t just magically obtain digital literacy skills, it is something that needs to be taught with real-life examples and experiences. We cannot hold this expectation for our students to communicate and find information responsibly without first teaching them these skills.
Some Resources to Get Started
The absolute best way to teach students how to spot fake news and unreliable sources is to give them real-life examples. There is no need to use “fake” fake news to teach our students, we are constantly surrounded by real-life examples that blend into real information sources seemingly too well. Of course, you can always search around to find websites to help you out with this, but here are a few to get you started:
Headlines are the first place for writers to get a reader’s attention, so they are often dramatic or eye-catching. This can make it tricky to decide which news articles will be trustworthy or not. Teaching students how to pick out fake news just from the title is a great way to start some digital literacy teaching. However, I noticed that this website doesn’t tell you WHY you get it wrong. There is no feedback to say “Great! You got this right – these are the things you should be looking for” OR “You got this wrong, this is why”. As most teachers know, feedback is absolutely crucial to student learning, so this will be something you would have to add to your lesson.
This is a search engine designed to help students (or just the general population) to start researching topics. It is designed to ensure that search results are accurate depictions of news and information.
We actually did an activity in our EDTC class where we spent some time as a group spotting the troll. This was a super informative website that really helps develop the digital literacy skills that are required for using the internet. It gives feedback whether you get it right or wrong, and starts to build those critical thinking skills everyone should have to be a part of the digital world.
As I was reading through the different lesson ideas that these individuals have curated, I thought that they were pretty amazing! It is clear that a lot of thought went into these lessons, and they could be incredibly useful in the classroom. One thing I did notice was that for the science lesson they suggested a curated fake site to use for investigation, but I think it would be more useful to use a real fake scientific page. Especially since the pandemic, there are so many uninformed sites “informing” the public of fake scientific facts, so finding a different site for this wouldn’t be too difficult!
Of course, these are only a few of MANY available sources online to help students develop critical thinking and digital literacy. They are often quite easy to come across when you are looking in the right places!
Digital Literacy & the Curriculum
In one of my previous blog posts, I talk about the connections you can make to digital citizenship in a science classroom. As I mention in that blog, at first it seems like there isn’t really much opportunity to teach about it, but once I started looking at the curriculum ideas started to flow! The same thing happened with digital literacy.
Although in the Saskatchewan high school science curriculum there is nothing that specifically says “Teach digital literacy when teaching this topic…” there are so many different examples. For instance, when looking at the Science 10 curriculum, outcome SCI10-CD1 includes many indicators talking about climate change. Unfortunately, climate change is somehow viewed as controversial by some people which means there are most definitely fake news articles written about it. Instead of just teaching students “they’re wrong”, this time would be perfect to work on some digital literacy. Having students look at a fake news article about climate change and determine WHY it is not trustworthy or informative would be much more beneficial. The reason why fake news is so believable is that there are people who weren’t taught to notice it.
When discussing fake news, it is important to understand there is a spectrum of fake news types. This spectrum is discussed in 7 Types of Mis- and Dis-Information and I have included a screenshot of these 7 types! Of course, not all fake news is created equally, so it is important to be able to identify what type of fake news we are looking at. Allowing students to not only learn how to spot and identify fake news but to categorize it will lead to a great understanding of the impact it could have on the population.
Another important concept to include in my science classroom will be confirmation bias. The article It’s Easier To Call A Fact A Fact When It’s One You Like, Study Finds discusses an important study surrounding this concept. It is proven that we are more likely to believe fake news or information if it aligns with our beliefs. The converse is also true, we may be more likely to deny facts if it doesn’t align with our views. This means that I have a responsibility to help students realize how their beliefs may skew how they view information online. Becoming a critical online user, even with the biases we hold, is important. We must all think critically before simply deciding if something is true or untrue.
As a science educator, it could also be great to incorporate technology use into assignments. Instead of having students write a paper or do some random assignment answering questions, they could practice participating responsibly in the digital world. This could be through a Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok account where they create posts and share content related to the course materials. This would tie in perfectly with the NCTE framework. They explain that learners need the chance to move from being consumers of content to content creators. Of course, everyone is a consumer and most often also a creator, so both of these roles are incredibly important. The NCTE framework also discusses equitable access to texts, tools, and information. This of course is incredibly important in all classrooms and is something that needs to be included in every class. Some students with disabilities will require more technology tools to be successful in the classroom, so this is something that needs to be available to them. Furthermore, we also need to remember that not all students will have access to technology at home and assignments need to be tailored to this.
The importance of digital literacy education is undeniable and it holds a place in every classroom regardless of age or subject! We are in a time where the digital world is becoming more and more prominent, and our students deserve to learn how to navigate it properly.