DigiLit Sunday: Real vs. Fake News

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote two research reports: one on Abraham Lincoln and one on the State Mississippi. My research involved several volumes of the World Book encyclopedia. Many have this memory. It was limited research and borderline plagiarism. Over time I learned and grew.

My fifth-grade students are starting research articles.  They have chosen their topics and have questions. Now they want to grab a device. That’s their encyclopedia. In some ways, it’s better than my World Book experience in that it offers the opportunity to look at multiple sources.  But in other significant ways, the downside is the reliability or credibility of the information they retrieve.

The sheer volume of information is overwhelming. What’s a young reader/researcher to do?  I’d rather my students have one reliable source over multiple bad ones. In spite of my reservations, I can not disregard real, fake or somewhere-in-between information is available and being used. Fortunately, there are simple things we can teach kids. Kevin Hodgson’s slide show details useful and straightforward ways for kids to be on the look out for fake news red flags.

The critical part of the lessons in real versus fake news is not how to fact check but why we need to test the reliability of our sources. Misrepresenting the facts to get people to think a certain way or do a certain thing is nothing new. Our president-elect’s slippery use of facts and approach to the media has just made us pay attention to something that has been and will always be. We must be critical consumers of information.

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In the best of situations, how the writer or editor sees the news, creates a bias. Fake versus real is making headlines now, and hopefully changing the way we teach and consume the information we are fed.

Read more on this topic on Margaret Simon’s blog Reflection on the Teche.