Teaching Digital Literacy through Fake News

Today, our classrooms are becoming more and more crowded. Demands on our time, our resources, and our students are increasing. But there’s one new topic that’s getting a lot of attention. Fake news.  

Considering the far-reaching effects that fake news can have, it’s more important than ever to focus on critical thinking and strengthening the 21st century skills that allow students to effectively interact with, and succeed in, our world.  

With the rise of “fake news”, many teachers are working hard to create lessons which focus on digital and media literacy. These lessons focus on four major skill areas key to digital literacy. Accessibility of media, content analysis, critical evaluation of message, voice, and veracity, and the ability to create media to express yourself and communicate. Under the umbrella of content analysis and critical evaluation, we can focus in on recognizing fake news.  

To start, fake news is a term which has more commonly been used to refer to a fabricated type of news report or journalism which intentionally contains misinformation. What sets it apart from satire (think The Onion) or clickbait (when the headline has nothing to do with the content), is that fake news is usually malicious, and is presented as factual, despite being provably false. Fake news comes in a variety of forms, across social media and from more traditional news sources. It ranges from logical fallacies and false connections, to doctored photos and documents, with the most notorious examples being completely made-up. 

Recognizing the differences, and identifying fake news is a practical way to engage media literacy skills, and provide your students with the tools they’ll need in an increasingly complex and challenging digital world.

To do that, Peergrade has developed an example class on fake news, with a peer review rubrics which helps students along the way. Within that rubric, we’ve included a few pointers to help students evaluate fake news, and create their own, to help better understand and master critical evaluation of media. Some of the questions included ask for higher level critical thinking. How believable is this article? – for instance, asks for a value judgement, but provides a framework following questions about sources, references, and legitimacy of information that’s being provided. Students are also asked to identify bias, evaluating the message and voice of the piece.  

Each rubric includes our own instructions for an assignment. Check out each assignment below:

One last thing! We offer the aptly named CRAP test, which focuses on four key questions:

Currency – check the date, when was the article written, what about the sources they’re using?

Relevancy/Reliability – are they using appropriate sources and data? Are quotations cited, and can you check references? Click on those links, and see if they’re really related to the article.

Authority – Who wrote it? Are they credible? Are they a real person? Do a search and find out more about the author/company who wrote the article.

Purpose and Point of View – why was it written? Is it satire, or is it fact?  


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