Media Literacy in the Classroom: Fake News and Cyber Sleuthing

It’s a phrase that I was not even aware of until a few months ago, but now I hear it everywhere I go.  It’s pervasive and has made me step back and think critically about the things I see on social media and on television.  Our president refers to it almost daily, and journalists are scrambling to further define it and differentiate themselves from it and the confusion it brings to the public.  That’s right, folks – I’m talking about fake news.

For our international readers (or for those of you who don’t follow the news or internet trends very closely), “fake news” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: I would define it as news articles that are fabricated for the purpose of spreading misinformation.  I have heard the term thrown around almost every day for the past few months – it is inescapable.

President Donald Trump even referenced a specific instance of what he considered to be fake news during his Black History Month celebration speech less than two days ago:

Teachers are now introducing what fake news is – and ways to identify and dismiss it – in the classroom.  The Columbus Dispatch reporter Shannon Gilchrist recently published an article fittingly titled “Teachers confront fake news in classroom lessons” to uncover this creative method of cyber sleuthing during this weird and perplexing time for the media (and the United States in general, pretty much).

According to the article, teachers around the country are exposing are integrating media literacy methods into their lessons.  New Jersey teachers Amanda Suttle and Eric Comeras show their students “made-up news stories” and provide them a checklist to show students how to properly evaluate news sources:

“Does it use excessive punctuation?!?!? ALL CAPS? Is there a byline? Are the media outlet’s editorial standards posted anywhere? Is there a current date on the story?”

“Gauge your emotional reaction: Is it strong? Are you angry? Are you intensely hoping that the information turns out to be true? False?”

The dedication of these teachers featured in Gilchrist’s article towards making sure their students are fully informed on how to scope out news sources for their credibility is incredible.  Students around the country are learning about what it means to be a consumer of digital media in the 21st century and the challenges that come from what feels like a never-ending news cycle.  Whether it be through listening to the stories of media experts like at the Wellington School or by having candid discussions about propaganda and censorship at Bexley High School, children are having the opportunity to engage in media literacy in an unprecedented way.

And it seems like students are just as receptive to this new classroom trend as the teachers are passionate about teaching about it.  According to a high school senior cited in the article, “learning to sort fact from fiction is important enough that schools need to designate a teacher to teach it.”

So, dear readers – what do you think?  Should media literacy be something taught in the classroom?  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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One Response to Media Literacy in the Classroom: Fake News and Cyber Sleuthing

  1. leighahall says:

    This brings a whole new world into the classroom in terms of what we have to teach students about reading. There’s always been a push to help students be critical of what they read, and to be aware of whose perspectives are being represented/left out, quality of source, etc….but the whole fake thing adds another layer. It’s like learning to decipher tabloid news (Elvis sighting at local Burger King!) but it’s embedded alongside more accurate coverage.

    Liked by 1 person

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