The other day I was watching one of my favorite shows, Amazing Race, and I noticed a Google Pixel 2 ad that was playing every commercial break. I’m so good at tuning out commercials, it probably took 3 or 4 times before I noticed there is a media literacy message in it! The commercial ends with, “There’s a deeper story behind every picture. Question your lens.” I think it will take a cultural shift to help people become aware of the influence of fake news in their lives. Like the TedEd video by Damon Brown, “How to Choose Your News,” he points out that even older siblings may not be aware of how much information we are faced with daily and that we need to know “how to read the news.” If mainstream pop culture and media begin teaching through advertising, it could really get the ball rolling.
I wrote down several words from Glossary: The Language of News Literacy, from the Digital Resource Center, which listed several key vocabulary words surrounding news literacy. In order to give my students some focus, at the elementary level, I’ve selected a few to teach, including: accountability, bias, context, direct evidence, entertainment, and fairness/balance. I also took note of what News is supposed to be – subjected to journalistic process of verification and an individual or organization is directly accountable. And also that reliable information has verification, independence, and accountability. Some of these messages were repeated over and over as I clicked on the articles in News Literacy.
The Factitious game by JoLT and AU Game Lab would be great for high school students and I thought my elementary teaching colleagues would benefit from this activity during a staff meeting. It is fun and really makes players think about what makes an article real or fake and how difficult it can be to distinguish between the two.
I will definitely begin using Newsela and Newseum ED. I had never visited those sites before and they will be useful tools for collecting and sharing articles with students. Newseum ED also includes some great lesson plans for the elementary level. Lessons for elementary students on fake news are difficult to find. Last year I found this Scholastic lesson plan which was perfect for elementary. Students had to figure out which article was real and which was fake. From there I had my fifth graders break into two groups to write their own articles. One group wrote a fake article and the other group wrote a true article.
This year I am going to incorporate photo editing tools and begin the process of teaching students how easily photos can be manipulated. I will also use BrainPop. While exploring the resources for this lesson, I decided to check BrainPop for media literacy and there is a great video for elementary students about media literacy. It covers bias and point of view, looking for a motive, and the fact that we are surrounded by media all of the time. It’s a great introduction for elementary students and stays in a safe territory.
While I haven’t put together a plan based on this lesson. It is a work in progress. I emphasize questioning motives all the time. With copyright and plagiarism lessons, I try to get students to think about who’s getting the credit and who’s getting paid. While learning about databases and the WWW, I emphasize the advertisements showing up all over the free articles on the World Wide Web and again we talk about motives and who’s getting paid. I am hoping that by covering this concepts throughout the year, by the time students work on the fake news activity, they’ll be thinking more critically about information.