Knowing the difference between fact and fiction has never been more important than it is right now. That’s why school librarians and teachers are eager to uncover media literacy tools to help students master this skill.
Experts who know how to discern, dissect, and understand media offered their experience, along with valuable tips, during the ISTE/School Library Journal “Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News” webinar on March 16, moderated by Joyce Valenza, assistant professor of teaching, Rutgers University School of Communication & Information.
Valenza joined Frank Baker, founder of The Media Literacy Clearinghouse (MTC), Damaso Reyes, program manager for the News Literacy Project, Gary Price, editor of Library Journal’s infoDOCKET, and Mike Ribble, educator and founder of Digitalcitizenship.org, who walked listeners through apps, web sites, and other tools to bring to their classrooms, schools, and libraries.
a huge need among students
“Most of our young people cannot distinguish news from advertising,” said Baker. His goal? To help students become what he called “healthier skeptics.”
Baker’s suggestions included looking for clues that often expose websites that are masquerading as legitimate news sites. These can include examining logos to make sure they look accurate, checking the actual URL (a real news site will not end in a ‘.co’), seeing if stories use original and unique photos, as well as confirming if there’s a way to contact authors on a news site. Baker says readers should always be able to reach a news organization and its writers. If not, that’s a sign the site may not be legitimate.
Think like a journalist
The News Literacy Project’s Reyes said his organization actually puts students into the role of journalists through its free online platform, Checkology. There they learn the rigor of sleuthing for facts. One assignment is to report and interview eyewitnesses at an event—and learn how to handle what happens when sources contradict each other. A goal of the program is to help users learn “what are credible sources of information,” said Reyes.
Price’s InfoDOCKET is one of those go-to sites for many librarians who are looking for primary, credible materials and resources. Despite today’s plethora of fraudulent news sites, “fake news is not a new phenomena,” said Price. But he admits that a confluence of social media, readily accessible online publishing tools, and the relative ease of distributing information has certainly helped false information flourish.
Price went through a list of sources he often turns to including C-SPAN, along with sites that store data, including online tool Zotero and Archive.org’s Wayback Machine. A particular favorite of Price’s is a website called Politwoops, which captures, archives, and shares those thought-to-be-deleted tweets from politicians.
To Digitalcitizenship.org’s Ribble, taking the time to not only look up information, but mastering the ability to discern between what’s real and fake, is actually core to becoming a good digital citizen. Ribble highlighted one of his favorite lesson teachers have used in the past—assigning students to write reports on the Northwestern tree octopus, an imaginary animal with a single web page about it. Students who turn in papers citing this fake source are then walked through their first lesson in digital literacy.
Reyes noted that the goal of any strong media literacy program is to not just point students to legitimate news sites, but show them why these sources are trustworthy, and then apply those perspectives throughout their lives in a variety of circumstances. In that way they develop the skills to not only read the world around them accurately, but also be responsible purveyors of information as well.
“We’re really focused on giving students the skills to interrogate any piece of information,” said Reyes. “It’s so important to give kids the tools they need.”
The archive of this webinar, which was presented by ISTE, Mackin Educational Resources, Rosen Publishing Group, Credo, and School Library Journal is now available.
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