Digital Literacy: Teaching Students to Distinguish Between Fact and Fake News

By Isaiah Moore

Digital Literacy: Teaching Students to Distinguish Between Fact and Fake NewsStudents change from year to year, but one constant remains despite the year: their love for getting in my business. At first it seemed a bit intrusive. But after some careful thought and a deliberate decision on my part to control exactly what I shared, I saw it as a strong learning opportunity. It was an opportunity to teach the all-important skill of RESEARCHING. I’d give them certain details about my life or what I was like as a child, or I’d show a picture such as me holding a basketball. I’d then make a statement and tell them to prove it true or false. They were free to use the resources given: internet, phone calls to friends, and even personal interviews (I often brought friends and family into my class as guest speakers). The students were so engaged; they wanted to know everything.

Having students research me may seem removed from education, but the effort seemed justified when thinking about how to help my students acquire research skills, especially in this day and age. We are in the midst of the Information Age, where no person escapes the precipitation of information. The torrential downpour of the digital age expands past the newspapers and news outlets on TV; it now enters homes through internet access and stays with everyone who owns a smartphone. The masses are being inundated with information, and so many believe opinions and “fake news” to be fact. Adults may believe they have the skills to decipher between fact and opinion, yet so many are hoodwinked, spouting opinions as truth. Now, think about our students, who do not yet have researching skills. They’re forced to wade through this, for lack of a better word, crap. But maybe, just maybe, if we teach them CRAAP, it’ll provide the canopy they need to protect them from the downpour.

My school’s librarians noticed the flood of “fake news” coming from students, so they decided to put on workshops about researching. My students took to it, since it allowed them to do what they do best: dig around the internet. However, what helped them most was what I want to share with you fine readers—that is a source evaluation method called CRAAP, which stands for currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, purpose. Yes, of course, I get that the kids probably liked the method because it allowed them to randomly blurt out “CRAAP” in class, a setting traditionally not reserved for such an outburst. “I can do this CRAAP,” one student would yell. Another would respond, “I got this CRAAP too!” The astute students loved the irony of it all: crap is a word used to signify garbage, but teachers were lauding CRAAP as something invaluable. What I loved about the method was that it allowed students to decide what information deserved their attention. For this reason, I am a firm advocate of using the CRAAP method.

Currency

Teach students to check an article’s currency. Teach students that once they decide an article is on topic, they should locate the date it was published or last updated. Students are less likely to spout misinformation if they have the most current information on a topic.

Relevancy

Teach students to evaluate the source for relevancy. They should always ask for whom the article was intended. Sometimes articles are biased. Authentic articles will present both sides and counterarguments.

Authority

Teach students to notice the article’s authority. They should take notice of who the author and publisher are and research them, looking for what qualifies the writer or publication to speak on the topic.

Accuracy

Teach students to look for accuracy. They may not be able to tell if an article is true or false, but they can tell if the arguments presented are supported by evidence. Have students write the arguments laid out in an article in a T-chart and provide the evidence that supports each argument.

Purpose

Teach students to look for the author’s purpose. The author’s intentions with the piece should be clear. Either they are trying to persuade, inform, or entertain. Knowing this will allow students to more accurately judge the information being presented. For example, if the author is entertaining, then they are more likely to give information that is not factual.

The sharing of personal details that I described at the beginning of this post is fun and allows kids to become more comfortable with me, and me with them. Yet there is a level of comfort that should not be crossed, especially considering the polarizing topics that have surfaced in wake of this year’s election. Schools do not allow educators to express their personal beliefs, nor should educators seek to; however, we must demand that students are critical of the information they receive. So while I am careful not to force my political views on students, I do force certain philosophies. For this reason, I make sure to point to a neon green poster on my wall of one of my favorite quotes: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” I demand critical analysis from my students, and I give them the tools to execute it. This way, they can “cut the CRAAP” for themselves and avoid the storm of fake news.

Isaiah MooreIsaiah Moore is an eighth-grade English teacher in Virginia Beach who’s had the pleasure of speaking to crowds of over 1,000 but still becomes nervous when conducting a 45 minute session for 30 students. (Don’t worry, he doesn’t show it.) An Albert Einstein quote guides his life: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.” Through word and action, this quote was taught to him by four Black male teachers in high school. Because of their impact, he decided to pursue education in hopes of impacting others the same way. To do so, he attended Morehouse College and became an Oprah Scholar while receiving his undergraduate degree in English. Afterward, he obtained his Master’s of Arts in Education from the College of William and Mary’s School of Education. Isaiah believes that education should be relevant, so he prides himself on developing lessons that incorporate real-world topics. This shows students their education extends beyond the four walls of his classroom. When Isaiah’s students apply these concepts to their daily lives, it is at this point that he sees his value. Here is where he becomes a man of success. Isaiah writes about his daily life in the classroom at his blog, Running Thoughts . . . Can’t Let Them Get Away.


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