The Hunt for Credible Sources: Recovering from the Pandemic of Fake News

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By Dr. David J. Childs, Ph.D.

Fake News Sites and Disinformation
Anyone that spends any reasonable amount of time on Facebook or other social media outlets would notice that there is an abundance of websites that offer false information. In a recent search on information about the past election I came across countless articles citing false information, many which relied on wild conspiracy theories including QAnon, voter fraud theories and perhaps worst of all, the belief that COVID-19 is a hoax. The term “fake news” was popularized by former President Donald Trump. And unfortunately he used the term to discredit anyone who disagreed with him. The Trump years have been ones plagued with misinformation, misunderstanding, miscommunication and even outright disinformation.

Importance of Finding Valid Sources
It is of the utmost importance that students and society in general can adequately differentiate between valid and invalid sources. If we do not have reliable information it can lead us to make uninformed decisions that can adversely affect every aspect of our lives; indeed disinformation can impact us politically, socially and economically. For example, disinformation can sway elections and cause corrupt politicians to be voted into office based on false or misleading material. A Democracy and Me article from May 2020 entitled Critical Thinking: An Essential Skill to Have in the Age of Disinformation provides more information on this topic.

There are a number of classroom resources and lessons available to help students identify fake news in the classroom in social studies, science and language arts classrooms. All three of these core subjects are heavily reliant on having accurate and reliable sources, therefore it is of the utmost importance that students can differentiate between valid and invalid sources. A good starting point is the PBS article entitled “Lesson Plan: How to Teach Your Students about Fake News” that offers a middle and high school focused lesson plan for teachers. The lesson provides the tools to combat false and misleading information in our society. 

Here are some other teaching resources and lesson plans on identifying valid sources.
How to Spot Fake News (and Teach Kids to Be Media-Savvy)
Lesson Plan: Fighting Fake News 
How to Teach Your Students About Fake News – Lesson Plan
Don’t Get Tricked By Fake News!
News Media Literacy Collection
Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News”
Fact Checking and Fake News Lesson Plans – The Ultimate Teacher Guide
Fake News — What’s the Big Deal?

Discussion Questions

1. What are some things you do to ensure that the sources you read or videos you view online are offering valid and reliable information?

2. Discuss why you think there seems to be a rise in misleading information being put out to the general public?

3. Why do you think there is an increasing amount of people in the US that believe conspiracy theories?

 

4 Comments

  1. I think this is a very important article because incorrect information is everywhere. Students especially need to know how to find factual information. This can help them when they are looking for credible sources to write papers. With so many websites containing false information, schools should spend more time teaching students how to find a credible source.

  2. Fake news is definitely a dangerous thing, feeding people false information that they will then believe is true because they saw it on the internet. I have seen countless social media posts and articles that are filled with untrue information that can severely misinform the reader. It is very important that whenever you read an article that you are checking the validity of the source, so that you are not being misled. I think that this is important to teach students because they are at an impressionable age where they can be easily swayed, instead we need to teach them to figure out how to tell if a source is credible or not. I am an elementary edu major and I think that it would be a great idea for the upper elementary students (4th/5th grade) to learn the difference between a credible source or one that is fake news. This would not be as lengthy as the older students may have, but I think it is important to take those first steps.

  3. In today’s society, some people decide what valid news is and what invalid news is without doing any further research and do not question any of the information. I find it hard sometimes to not listen to the Fake News because I am not sure if it is Fake News or not. Throughout my life, I have noticed that it is hard sometimes to differentiate between valid and invalid sources. With the resources, you have provided I will be able to go to valid sources for news from now on. In addition, I will be able to share these sources and teach my students how to know if a source is valid or invalid. I want my students to know that not everything on the internet or on TV is true and that they need to be skeptical about what they are hearing or reading about the news. I think teaching a lesson on Fake News (Valid and Invalid Sources) would be a great idea to teach students to look for discrepancies in information they read and dig deeper to find out if the source is valid or invalid.

  4. As educators, it is incredibly important for us to teach our students what to look for when reading the news. Students are subjected to very diverse thinking, political views, and news sources in their day to day lives. When in the classroom, it is important that we take that into consideration and give students the resources they need to be successful in reading news in an impartial manner. Offering tools through lessons, videos, discussions, etc. are a key way to engage students and to get them interested in reading news in a way that fights against the ‘fake news’ epidemic in present news.

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