on teaching teachers to be wolves in a “fake news” world…

I had an opportunity to teach my teachers about “fake news.”

“I’m not a librarian. What should I be teaching my kids about fake news?”

After reading Courtney Walker’s latest post, I have to admit, I added the quotation marks around “fake news” in my blog title and the presentation I did wasn’t really about “fake news” in and of itself. I just used “fake news” as a buzzword to get teachers to come to my breakout. It was really about more holistic source evaluation.

Let me tell you, though, whatever you call it. It. Is. Hard.

As it turned out, though, an awesome number of my teachers are, indeed, “media literacy wolves.”

My plan was to do about 15 minutes of background information about fake news, a 30-minute activity where teachers tried to analyze web content, then 15 minutes of discussion.

The 15 minutes of background based heavily on presentations and work by Erinn Salge and Kathy Rettberg, and shared in Courtney Walker’s post–Librarians Being Proactive in a “Post-Truth” World went pretty well. Once we hit the 30-minute activity block, though, we got through just 1 of the 5 parts of the activity I had planned. Though the session went off the rails a little, the discussion that took place between the teachers ended up saving the day and in the end helped me understand how to better approach teaching students about source evaluation in a fake news world.

Click here to go to the News Literacy slideshow.

Click here to go to our faculty meeting breakout session Fake News Libguide

By the way: The content below will probably only make sense to you if you buzz your way through the slideshow and Fake News Libguide linked above, first.

Thoughts for future consideration:

  • The x-axis is almost always going to be the basic starting point for “point-of-view” or “bias.”
  • The labels “factual” and “sensational” didn’t work for some of the working groups so they changed the labels used. Perhaps the most valuable take away from the entire experience was coming to the realization that the process of developing the labels might be one of the MOST IMPORTANT parts of of the source evaluation and literacy process. This is where a lot of critical thinking and analysis are happening so don’t short circuit the process!
    • Perhaps “independently verified” and “unsupported assertion/claim” might work better on the y-axis?
  • In some contexts (reading articles about science studies come to mind) other axes might be necessary.
  • Placement on the the axes is not so much about a binary process of, “use it if it is above the line, but not if it is below the line…” as much as helping students understand, “This article is from the owner of the Deepwater Horizon. I can use the information in my research and in my project, but I need to put that information into an appropriate context and that context is…”
  • It is hard to impossible to make decisions about the “quality” of the information in a piece on a topic if you only look at one or two sources. In an world where information has been democratized, we need to engage with more sources to have any hope of being able to triangulate the information we find and construct “knowledge.”




A point of discussion that came up was, “Why can’t we just find unbiased sources to direct kids to?” and/or where do we find “good quality, unbiased sources?”

One teacher pointed out that our sources have always been biased–that the history textbooks of (some of) our youth were widely accepted, but presented a definite orientation/bias.

In an information universe that has been highly democratized by disruptive technologies, we are now able to see video, hear the voices, and read the lives of countless groups of people that in an earlier time had no meaningful voice.

The disruptive technologies that make that possible, however, also mean that the tasks of vetting, evaluating, and contextualizing information have shifted from writers, publishers, editors, and librarians to the end users of information. It’s a new world!

You Know You Are a Lucky Librarian When…

Well, my teachers are an AMAZING pack of wolves to have around! On Wednesday afternoon we had breakout meetings during our scheduled faculty meeting time. On Thursday, I got invited to hang out with a class as they did a modified version of the activity. How cool is that?!?!? I work in such a cool place!!!

I actually thought that the teacher wanted me to teach the lesson, but I love the fact that this teacher, Lyssa, stood up and just started teaching the source evaluation piece as I sat in the back of the room and got to watch! She challenged students to develop their own method to make their thinking and analysis of the article visible. In my mind, a foundational part of becoming information/media literate is knowing what axes (or factors) you need to have in your head as you read, and what labels you place on each of those axes.

Here are some of Lyssa’s students in action!





Training More Wolves

My larger goal for information instruction in this realm is to see all science, math, social studies, arts, etc. teachers similarly coaching their students through the, “What axes do we need for this research?” and “What labels do we need for these axes?” process as well.

We have just booked arcs of lessons with our 10th grade English teachers and our US History teachers who had chosen different break out sessions so for these teachers, our library lessons will serve as faculty PD opportunities for us with them as well.

The Activity (as I plan to modify it when I do the lesson with students in the coming weeks):

  • Have each group use blue painters’ tape to create X and Y axes, and give each group a stack of Post-it notes.
  • Show the class copies of The Three Little Pigs and read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf (Jon Scieszka).
  • Have groups decide on what labels belong at each end of the x-axis for point-of-view, then have them place each source on the x-axis.
  • Discuss the implications relevant to the use of each source.
    • Does it matter that the stories are being told from different points of view?
    • If you were a reporter, how could you know which source was more accurate?


Sometimes it really does feel like constructing “knowledge” from our information is a real burden. It. Is. Hard.

When we really think about it, though, what can feel like a “burden” is, in many very meaningful ways, the ultimate “privilege.”

I want every student who graduates from Mid-Pacific to venture out into the world with the ability to construct knowledge from information, and to realize that they have the RESPONSIBILITY to seek out TRUTH.

It’s not easy. But nothing that’s truly valuable and meaningful ever comes without putting in some work.

6 thoughts on “on teaching teachers to be wolves in a “fake news” world…

  1. What a great piece, David–thank you! What a successful breakout session–I agree that it was a good thing that the teacher felt informed/empowered and was able to run with the lesson. Thanks for sharing!

    • Working with so many great teachers that “get” the need for information literacy and digital literacy instruction makes working here kind of magical! I am definitely blessed! 🙂

  2. Bravo! May I continue to give credit to the creators, and adapt this lesson plan to use on for a class of my own in a couple of weeks?

    • I’m not able to speak for others, but as far as I am concerned please feel free to modify and use anything that I’ve made and shared in my posts. If, however, there are things that I’ve shared that were based on the work of other librarians (and a lot of my stuff is derivative), please contact the originator(s). Thanks for asking! You made my day! 🙂

  3. Great piece is right, thanks, David!
    Fake news is the pits but the gift that keeps giving to librarians hoping to prove the import of information literacy skills and electronic database subscriptions.
    Love the Information Is Not Knowledge caution, and the great News Literacy definition.

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