We have all probably heard the term ‘fake news’ quite a bit lately. Whether is in the realm of politics, economics, entertainment … we seem to be inundated with wave after wave of questionable ‘facts’. Propaganda or misleading information is not an entirely new concept in the history of humankind. But with the access and amount of information like never before in our history, separating the wheat from the shaft has never been more difficult or necessary. This phenomenon will not decrease (at least in the near future). So how do we prepare our students to become informed and empowered citizens?
We should always be encouraging students to question what’s happening in their world and become critical thinkers. We need to help our students develop skills and provide tools so they can become good CRAP detectors. CRAP is an acronym that has been used in fact checking advice that stands for: Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose (I have also found it as CRAAP with and extra A for Accuracy – here’s a great site to learn more http://bit.ly/crap101). This method encourages one to take a closer look at the information we consume and attempt to validate the facts presented. It is hoped that through this one can be aware of biases and alternative motives for some of the information posted.
We can provide strategies such as checking a domain extension like .com, .edu., .org, and more. Examining what each of these say about the potential motivation for a site. There are numerous fact checking sites out there like snopes.com, www.politifact.com, canadafactcheck.ca and more (here’s a great source to check out even more fact checking sites http://bit.ly/craptoolbox). Images and memes are a huge source of how many of our students get their news updates. Using Google Reverse Image Search and sites like fotoforensics.com can help trace the source behind these images and give insights into their validity. We can also model and encourage ‘lateral reading’ which entails opening up multiple tabs to check author information, references, and other information presented with the site itself and also to cross reference information with other sources and dare I say even a book. It is important to do our due diligence when consuming information.
There are many resources available to help teachers provide students with opportunities to become good CRAP detector. Commonsense.org (http://bit.ly/csfactchecktools) and mediasmarts.ca (http://bit.ly/mediasensetools ) are great places to start your media literacy journey. There are many teacher based ‘fake sites’ such as dhmo.org (I used this one in my class and had almost every student sign a petition to ban this substance without even checking the site – here is a link to more sites like this one - http://bit.ly/hoaxsite). There are many ways to infuse this important skill in the classroom.
The digital age produces and consumes information like never before. With AI increasing and ‘deep fakes’ on the rise, it is imperative that we give students the media literacy skills to fact check and make sense of it all. On some of the websites, I have been reading state that even democracy depends on being able to distinguish sophisticated ‘fakes’ from the ‘real deal’. I watched a great TED Ed video (http://bit.ly/howtospotfakenews), the young lady used the acronym FABLE instead of CRAP where the E stood for Exert. Exert some patience before you repost and become part of the wave of ‘fake news’. A moment of reflection can be the best way to deal with misinformation on and offline.
Pro Tip – You may have noticed I used a lot of links with bit.ly in them. This site allows you to take long web addresses and turn them into customizable shortened bit.ly links.
Dean Vendramin. Educator for over 20 years. Currently Education Leader for Math/Science at Archbishop M.C. O'Neill Catholic High School. Have a passion for all things in education with emphasis on technology integration, assessment, professional development, and 21 Century Education. Posts are articles he has written for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation monthly newsletter The Bulletin, Saskatchewan Math Teachers' Society The Variable, blog requests from memberships he is a part of, and his own thoughts.