Fake News

Pizzagate!  Russia! 

Unless you have been living under a rock (without Internet access), you have probably heard a lot of the recent buzz about fake news. It doesn’t seem like fake news and misinformation are going away. And according to today’s All Things Considered, many schools are not doing a great job preparing children to deal with fake news.

Why would that be a surprise, when many adults are having trouble sorting through what’s factual, what’s hyperbole, and what’s completely made up? Nevertheless, according to today’s story, The Classroom Where Fake News Fails, "How do they [children] become prepared to make the choices about what to believe, what to forward, what to post to their friends when they've been given no practice in school?" What this says to me as an educator is that it is incumbent upon schools to teach children Informational Literacy.

Informational Literacy: A set of abilities to recognize when information is needed and the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

It’s no longer about sourcing information, but rather children need to become connoisseurs who can validate information in a wide variety of ways. And if you think the fake news mainly pertains to topics we adults will encounter, think again.

While this has previously been reported by several news outlets, one of the top sites that (unfortunately) you’ll find on a Google search of Martin Luther King, Jr. is martinlutherking.org. The text on the search page says it’s “A valuable resource for teachers and students alike.” But once you click through it explains that MLK was a communist, wife-beater, plagiarist, sexual deviant and all-around fraud. There are flyers a child can “download, print and bring to school.” There is even an “educational video” that I didn’t have the heart or desire to click on.  

With the increasing prevalence of misinformation and fake news, especially online, great schools must continue to evolve. In a preschool classroom, this could be a simple as helping the children come up with a Google question of the week, thinking together about what Google might say, and checking the answer at the end of the week. In elementary school, we need to teach children how to: read URLs, see who owns the website, look at the history of a webpage, check the external links, and validate information from multiple reliable sources.

Like many emerging topics in 21st century education, this transcends the 3-Rs that were the primary focus of 20th century schooling. Our school is tackling this topic head-on in our best effort to prepare children for the ever-changing world they will encounter. Remember, as many as 65% of the jobs our children will hold have not been invented yet! What the experts agree on is that our kids’ future success will depend on four main skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Today’s discussion on All Things Considered provides even more evidence in the case for transforming the way we educate!

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