Librarians Being Proactive in “Post-truth” World

Additional  contributers Cathy Rettberg and Erinn Salge

“Child Trafficking Ring Tied to Hillary Clinton Campaign”*

“Russians Hacked Democratic National Committee Emails to Lead Voters To Trump”**

“Miracle Herbal Remedy to Cure Cancer”***

So many of our news stories sound like sensational news. Remember that ice-breaker game two truths and a lie. In today’s media landscape of sharing information rapidly it seems that the ratio has turned to two lies to a truth, and our students are struggling to tell the difference. There has been a flood of fake news, conspiracy theories, and click-bait, etc.; especially in this election cycle, but thankfully there has also been a host of articles drawing attention to the critical need to reveal the lies and teach our students analytical evaluation skills. Many of us in the library world and specifically several librarians in the AISL group have been discussing and sharing ideas about addressing this through our role as information literacy leaders. I am sharing some of the links that have bounced around and some of the lessons we generated to continue to the do the work we always do but in this new context.

In this “Post-Truth” climate we have the potential to reinvigorate our lessons of information literacy, sources awareness, and website evaluation skills. There are several layers of information literacy to delve into around the recent media buzz calling attention to the recent “fake news”; I see an opportunity to collaborate with subject area teachers on topics like identifying bias, analyzing authority, evaluating websites,and fact-checking etc. There is a way to reach every subject area and share the librarian lens of critical and discerning approaches to sources. Here are several links I found valuable in shaping my thoughts on the lesson I delivered last week:

Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world by Joyce Valenza

I refer to Valenza’s work frequently. She frames the complex topic thoroughly and categorically. There are ample examples, great tips for students,and an exhaustive list of resources. The vocabulary list is a great tool to approach a social studies teacher to create collaborative lesson together.

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources by Melissa Zimdars

Consider looking to professors of media studies since it is their concentration and expertise. A local professor of communications tipped me off to this document that went viral on Facebook feeds. Valenza also includes her on her list, but I am drawing attention to it because it helped me fill the gap in current new media tips. It is straightforward and accessible for students to understand. Additionally, another AISL librarian shared a libguide search of college librarians also updating their sites and lessons as well.

Students Need Our Help Detecting Fake News by  Frank W. Baker

This example was posted in Middle Web. It is another variation of the examples above but I like the focus towards the middle school arena to help middle school teachers and librarians scaffold news media literacy to their students. There are numerous more, but Valenza’s site covers many more.

Website Evaluation and News Media Literacy Lessons and Presentation

With the many general discussions about the topics several AISL librarians shared the work that we are doing and gave me permission to share so that we have some specific examples:

I’ll start with mine because I can explain my process with it.

Evaluating Sources: Luck of the Draw or Skilled Play-Lesson by Courtney Walker delivered in a social studies class specifically the 9th grade Global Studies with Mr. Daniel Asad at Shorecrest Preparatory School.

Mr. Asad started the class by referring to the recent Pizzagate situation that had happened over the past weekend. He used this example to show how “fake news” can have dire consequences in extreme cases. This set the stage for me to share the importance of critical analysis skills with web resources. This lesson starts generally with looking at sources on a spectrum of scholarly sources to the sensational. It is not a stand alone lesson on news media literacy, but a retooling of the process of web evaluation with the inclusion of the tips to identify of fake news and current updates. I adapted resources that I had used before along with a current article I came across in Knowledge Quest to put recent fake news proliferation in a broader context of website evaluation. We planned for one class period, but I found us running out of time at the  end of class. We also delved some into bias, click-bait, and conspiracy theories, but only scratched the surface– a follow up lesson is possible to continue the discussion. This is in a document form that was projected and shared with the students. After going over the document and discussing the concepts students were given a checklist sheet which was the “card” they had been dealt. Links to these “cards”/websites is linked on the document underneath the image of the cards. I didn’t have those linked or projected during the lesson- I have only added for others to see the handout and the sliding scale of the websites. I repeatedly stressed that even though we are using these charts that these are not hard fast rules, but tools to filter through the many shades of gray in sources.

Link to Evaluating Sources Lesson

Reporting the News: Is it Real or Fake? Lesson By Cathy Rettberg, Head Librarian, Menlo School Atherton, CA (reprint permission from shared email exchange)

The following example comes from librarian Cathy Rettberg in an email discussion with AISL Librarians about news media literacy. The opening timeline of twitter posts coupled with the number of times the tweet was viewed and shared illustrates the how quickly misinformation is spreading.  Included is her powerpoint and the active lesson her students completed to embody the reporter role and spread their “news.” Make sure you check out their final headlines at the end.

In her words,“Yesterday I did a lesson in 8th grade. We looked at the Eric Tucker story that was outlined in the NYT, talked about fake news in historical perspective (propaganda), discussed the echo chamber concept, clickbait, how to look at bias in news sites. I had them evaluate news sites by looking at coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline, then place their site on a grid (photo attached). Finally I gave them the “facts” about a made up 8th grade ice cream protest (students walked out, disrupted 6th grade, teachers got angry, MS director came out and smoothed the waters). The students then had to write a news headline about that event in the style of the news website they had investigated. It was fun! And their headlines showed they really understood the concept. It’s so important for each of us to do this with our students, in some way.”

Link to Reporting the News Lesson

“Some of their headlines, if you want to use them:

The Blaze: Childish 8th Grade Protesters Disrupt School Environment for Ice Cream

WSJ: Student Protesters Put on Hold by Middle School Principal

Daily Beast: Students Fight for their Rights!

NYT: Peaceful Protesters and the Battle for Ice Cream”

News Literacy:Truthiness and the truth and everything in between presentation by Erinn Salge Head Librarian Morristown-Beard School (reprint permission from shared email exchange)

Finally, hot off the presses from Erinn Salge. Erinn started the email thread that many of us chimed in on because it was on our radar or we were in the process of designing our own lessons. Just today she shared the powerpoint that she presented to her upper school. While many of us have the example through our email I wanted to also cross-post here for future reference and because it is relevant to the discussion. She has provided both slides and her notes for others to see how she tackled this contemporary topic. She defines some important new terms in news media literacy and has clear steps for students to use to identify false news.

Link to News Literacy Presentation

Link to New Literacy Notes for Presentation

I am grateful to the dedicated librarians that are always seeking ways to inform their staff and students through constant engagement and outreach to their community. And while we have always taught careful inquiry into all kinds of media staying abreast of the new forms and iterations of this skillset and sharing it is vital to our learning communities. I hope this post is just a start, and I invite others to comment and share the ways you have retooled your own lessons. I know there were many others on the email thread as while as others of you in the trenches covering this as we speak. There were rumblings that there may be another post coming up that might scaffold it to a younger audience so that this information might reach all levels of instruction ( Wee might see that real soon?).

Thank you, David Wee, for noticing— in a perfect storm of propaganda, perfidy, and the press just yesterday the Washington Post shared the article, “After Comet Ping Pong and Pizzagate, teachers tackle fake news, about how educators are responding to “fake news.” Because I had shared a snippet of my lesson on Twitter last week a reporter picked up some of my lesson as well as other teachers around the country addressing #fakenews. I am honored, but more importantly thankful that the reporter included a librarian to show how important our role is in fostering critical users of information in our schools and communities.

Here are some of the books I have read to inform me-

Using Sources Effectively: Strengthening Your Writing and Avoiding Plagiarism by Robert A. Harris

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

UnSpun:Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

Additionally, these are some of the articles that I have bookmarked/outlined in Diigo that I am continuing to collect on this topic. Digital Bookmarks on Website Evaluation, News Media Literacy, Fake News

*Revealed as fake news recently known as Pizzagate or Comet Ping Pong because armed man was about to act on this fake news story.

**Still under investigation by the FBI and CIA to verify the truth

***Recent news story in which a man named Adeniji created a fake website and office to collect money on fraudulent claims of a miracle herbal remedy for cancer.

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