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?
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?