A few years ago, I was using satirical news to research the accuracy of news sources. Today, there is an abundance of misinformation online which creates a great opportunity for us to teach our students media literacy with fake news.
Develop Students into Knowledge Constructors
In 2016, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) revisited its list of technology standards for students. According to ISTE, to thrive into our digital andconnected world, students should learn to become:
1. Empowered learners
2. Digital citizens
3. Knowledge constructors
4. Innovative designers
5. Computational thinkers
6. Creative communicators
7. Global collaborators
Standard 3 on this list identifies the need for our students to be knowledge constructors. Anchored in the research continuum, its objective reads:
3 Knowledge Constructor – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
More specifically, in the context of media litteracy indicator 3b reads:
3b Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
Review Satirical News
In my classroom, I begin my media literacy unit the way most teachers do: I bring my students to a reputable source of satirical news which they have never heard. They proceed to read an outlandish article they almost invariably take at face value.
A surreal discussion ensues until the first paradoxical element is noticed by one student. Then piece by piece they debunk the whole story. Students would then browse through the whole website looking for other gems in very much the same manner I had done to prepare my lesson plan.
Research Fake News
This year’s tsunami of fake news brings a lot of opportunities in the classroom to teach media literacy. Whereas the origin of satirical news are usually displayed on the comedy website which produced them (e.g.: the Onion) or branded onto the video clips themselves (e.g: College Humor), fake news’ sources are much obscured and require thorough investigation.
In Episode 739 of NPR’s Planet Money: Finding the Fake-News King, Laura Sydell describes her illuminating investigation into the origin of a story about the death of an FBI agent. This article originally published on the Denver Guardian looks very real and was indeed shared over a hundred thousand times on FaceBook.
A telling quote from the podcast:
“You know, the people wanted to hear this, you know? So all it took was to write that story. Everything about it was fictional – the town, the people, the sheriff, the FBI guy. And then, you know, had our social media guys kind of go out and do a little dropping it throughout (…) forums, and, boy, it spread like wildfire”.
Jestin Coler, Fake-News King
Satirical and fake news are great hooks to engage your students with. To deepen their analysis of media, there are four aspects of a message which students need to be trained to focus on:
Who produced the message?
Who is this message intended for?
What is the motivation behind this message (inform, persuade, educate, call to action, entertain, shock)?
How is language used in the message?
Report Fake News
Facebook announced that is it implementing out new tools to report false stories circulating across its social media network. Its reporting feature will now include a new option titled “it’s a fake news story“.
This latest development could be an interesting task for our students and serve as a great conclusion to complete their investigation.