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?

 

12 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.

  5. It seems to have become a common thing that we run across nowadays that misinformation is out there. We have to be able to sift through this information and even be willing to dig deeper in order to gain a better insight on what information we are reading and/or believing. As a future educator, it is extremely important to be educated on pop culture topics that may be controversial, but all in all, find more information that could weed out the misinformation that is out there on unreliable sources. It will be my job to teach my students how to differentiate with sources of information that they come across on too.

  6. Misinformation is everywhere. People, news outlets, politicians, etc. have the ability to provide information online that is not credible. This has a negative adverse affect in new and incoming students. Throughout our educational lifetime we have a focus on trying to find evidence, support, back up, etc. It is even in our Kentucky State Standards (7.I.UE.3 – Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, authority, structure and context of the sources to guide the selection to answer compelling and supporting questions.) When we live in a society that allows for misinformation to be incorporated into our daily lives, we remove the ability for people to be able to back themselves up. Due to this pandemic of falsehood we as teachers have the important just of developing new strategies for people to be able to further break down evidence to be able to determine if it is sufficient, correct, unbiased, etc. It is my responsibility as an educator to make sure students are able to locate correct and accurate evidence to not only be able to sufficiently defend themselves, but to just process and know information.

  7. The discussion about fake news is a really serious topic. To be honest though, I never heard much about fake news until President Trump went into office. I knew that false reporting’s would happen here and there but I never realized how often it happened. I feel as though President Trump was tired of all of the false information spreading around, as were a lot of Americans, and used part of his platform to emphasize “fake news”. I’m not saying whether I agreed with that or not, but rather that is how that term got so popular. With that being said, I believe it is important to differentiate between fake news and news you want or don’t want to believe. As the future generations continue to grow with technology, social media is continuing to grow, which is where a lot of people get their news sources from. From my experience, I have witnessed a lot of fake news articles that were published as headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media outlets. I completely agree with you when you said, “therefore it is of the utmost importance that students can differentiate between valid and invalid sources” because they need to be aware if the information they are reading is credible or not.

  8. I agree that is critical that students learn how to find valid sources for doing research and really to be an informed citizen. I have realized myself how important it was for me when reading the news about the election and really anything, that I ask myself what is the purpose of this article? Are unbiased facts being presented? So often times, I think people go looking for sources that reiterate what they already think and believe. They ignore what is true and unbiased because it doesn’t fit into their ideology. That is when people/sources are purposefully putting unproven and unreliable news out there because it is being allowed by people that are more than willing to take it in as fact. Students need to be taught how to look at news and information from an unbiased view and to evaluate their sources as biased or not.

  9. I really enjoyed this article because I thought it was an interesting topic to bring up with children. I remember in high school learning about credible sources and how to use them in research papers; however, I think that reliable sources can be used for more than just research papers. I also think that many media outlets can be deceptive and it is important to teach children this. Even when it comes to commercials, social media, or different types of government outlets it is important to teach anyone how to tell if news is being spread in a way that is reliable. To be honest, this is still something that I am trying to learn.

  10. It’s so important, especially in this day and age with the introduction of the internet, that children, students, and adults alike learn online literacy skills and are intentional with the media they consume. Places like this that are centers of resources and examples on responsible news consumption while also showcasing the dangers of misinformation are vital to protecting our communities from things such as “fake news”. Personally, I find that variety in the media I consume has helped protect me from misinformation and encourage others to expand their palette in this sense as well.

  11. I found this article to be important especially when navigating the ever-growing popularity of media sources and the spread of false news and articles. As a future educator, knowing the correct information is essential to my career. I need to be aware of current events, questions students may ask about topics, and the ability to prevent potential misinformation among students. Considering this, I want students to be aware of finding the correct information. The article gives a lot of resources for helping students find correct information, an activity that would be fun and useful in the classroom.

  12. “Fake News” is a bigger issue than ever right now. Ironically it is the people that are so concerned about “fake news” that are the ones that spread it the most. I recently received the Covid vaccine and I was amazed by the amount of people that cited fake news sources to try and sway me out of my decision. It only took me two minutes to Google and research different accounts to disprove their sources but they argued that there is a conspiracy theory behind covering up the “real story”. I think these beliefs come from having a leader in office that perpetuated them, lack of education regarding how to find credible sources, and the sudden shift in the number of news sources available due to technology. This is especially true for older generations who are suddenly on social media platforms such as Facebook.

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