Fake News Lesson Plan Ideas with Jennifer Carey

Today Jennifer Carey @TeacherJenCarey gives us ways to teach information literacy. She gives us tips for developing savvy in our students. She also talks about the “term” fake news and if we should be using it at all.

jennifer carey fake news

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Below is a transcript modified for your reading pleasure. For information on the guests and items mentioned in this show, scroll down to the bottom of this post.


Transcript for Episode 123 

Fake News Lesson Plan Ideas with Jennifer Carey

Link for this show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e123


VICKI: 00:00“That's fake news.” I hear my students saying it all the time. Today, we're talking with Jennifer Carey who's going to help us understand how can we teach students to truly understand what is fake and what is true. And how about some us adults need to know it too, huh Jennifer?
JENNIFER:  00:18Oh absolutely, I can't say– any day I log on to Facebook, I see something that's been showed or shared with other people that's absolutely false news.
VICKI: 00:28I know it. And just this morning on Facebook, somebody was warning me about not taking the car to the gas station because it might have this certain drug on it and that somebody could attack me. And I went straight on Snopes and it's fake, and it's been around for the last seven years. And I'm like, “Why do people not understand the basic idea of looking something up to verify it?”
JENNIFER:  00:47I honestly think it's the proliferation of social media. It happened so quickly and we've had such a rapid transition away from print media that we haven't had the time and the experience to really develop the skill set of analyzing media content.
VICKI: 01:03

How do We Help Students Know What is Fake?

So how do we start off by helping our students understand what's fake?

JENNIFER:  01:07Okay. That's a great question. And I'll say that I got very interested in this when I read– it was a study published at Stanford that stated that most students cannot identify fake news sources and it was pretty alarming.

And a lot of adults can't identify fake news sources as you said. What I like to do is start with my students.

What “Fake News” is NOT

One, I want to be clear. I'm not talking about critically analyzing up ed pieces or a news article, but really identifying that proliferation of fake information that's disseminated through, sometimes, outright false news sites or that just might be shared online. We all see that Facebook status update or Twitter tweet. That's what I'm really focusing on here. And I always try to make that clear to people because the term fake news is also thrown around when people disagree with what a news story is saying.

VICKI: 02:05That is true.
JENNIFER:  02:06So we're not talking about that.
VICKI: 02:07Yeah. So we're really trying to help people understand and do some research because there are sites that masquerade as news sites that aren't.
JENNIFER:  02:17Exactly. And sometimes, especially politically partisan websites will pick up news stories from those masquerading news sites and share them, which then just exacerbates that problem.
VICKI: 02:31

First Step: Understand Traditional Media

Okay. So how do you help kids?

JENNIFER:  02:33So the first thing that we do is we start going over traditional news media. Now, my school has many student subscriptions to three or four online newspapers: The New York Times, Washington Post, The Herald, as well as a couple of others that teachers can access. So the first thing that we do is we start looking at traditional news media outlets. And so that'll be everything from the print media, which is now digitized, to television news. Including hyper-partisan new sites like MSNBC, or Fox News, in addition to CNN or BBC.

And we talk about what is it that you could identify on here that makes this a legitimate news resource. So for example, that the name is recognized. We've all heard of Fox News. We've all heard of The New York Times.

Having authors listed.

Sometimes even things just as basic that they proofread their news stories.

You'll go to those fake news sites and they don't bother to proofread. Sometimes it's clear that they've been run through a translator. So, different things like that.

JENNIFER:  03:46We talk about, “How do we authenticate a traditional new site?” We even talk about things like, “How does it look? Is it a clean version? Are there weird ads? What type of ads are on CNN versus a fake news site?”

Second Step: Look at Fake News Sites

And then we'll take a look at some fake news sites that are out there that we know exist. And those change all the time because there has been a more aggressive campaign against them. And we'll point out the odd spelling errors and grammatical errors that we've never heard of this organization, that there's no listed author, that the ads on there are really bizarre. So we'll start talking about those different types of things. And fake news sites have different levels of sophistication as well.

VICKI: 04:29

Third Step: Learn About Common Deceptive Tricks of Fake News SItes

Yes. And sometimes, they'll have a name that's close to the name of a legitimate newspaper, so you'll almost have to know how to look up the legitimate names of newspapers, don't you?

JENNIFER:  04:38Absolutely. I've seen stuff even like CNN.SI, so it looks like it's coming from CNN, or Fox News Reporting, it's not from Fox News. So we talk about that. Now, I teach high school kids and

Lesson Plan Idea: Gamify Fake News by Having Students Try to “Fake Each Other Out”

I have an exercise that we do in class, that the kids actually really love, where we gamify the process a little bit. Once we go through this overall, “How do we identify fake news sources? How do we vet information?” I then divide them up into teams and I have them bring me five news stories. Three of them are going to be fake that they've created and two of them are going to be legitimate news stories.

So they can pick whatever they want. And they create the news article and they try to trick their classmates. So they try to make the more sophisticated ones. So every time they correctly identify fake news or real news, their team gets a point. And anytime they trick their classmates into their fake news story, their team also gets a point.

VICKI: 05:43Love that.
JENNIFER:  05:44Yeah, they get really into learning. “Okay, how can we make this look like CNN?” Or they'll bring in a news article and The Times that sounds ridiculous but is actually a true story. And it gets them delving a little more deeply into what's going on right now in the American news networks.
VICKI: 06:03

Lesson Plan Idea: Truth or Fiction Bell Ringers

Fantastic. I love that. I do something called truth or fiction where I do  Bell Ringers and my students have to determine is it true or not. (See 3 Fast, Free Fake News Lesson PlansScroll to the bottom of this post to get these.  )

I love the idea of having students kind of do it to each other because they're kind of one of the tricks of the trade of the– you hate to say it, but the scummy people out there who are profiting from ignorance.

JENNIFER:  06:24

Why it is Important for us to educate ourselves to know truth and fiction in the news

Absolutely. And while Facebook and Google have been working very hard to start tackling this issue, they're never going to stay ahead of it. And it's really important that students and really adults understand what to look for and that they always question what's being posted.

VICKI: 06:41Yes. And when we abdicate our own truth finding to someone else, I feel that's when we get in danger.
JENNIFER:  06:49I completely agree and that's just part of that bigger critical thinking, critical assessment component that we want all of our students to have.
VICKI: 06:57

What is the biggest mistake teachers make when teaching information literacy?

So, what do you think the biggest mistake teachers make when they're addressing this topic of fake news?

JENNIFER:  07:01One is I think they sometimes get into the weeds and part of that's the political climate. We do see people criticizing New York Times or CNN or Fox News by using terms like “fake news” and that is a misnomer and I think that confuses the issue.

And I think they get worried about being political because most fake news stories are political news stories. Also sometimes, I think teachers aren't confident in their own ability.

There's a reason we're teachers. We love learning, we're great at learning new things and disseminating information. So I think going out there and learning more about media literacy or getting some of this information under your own belt can make you feel more confident teaching it to students.

VICKI: 07:45Yes. And you know some things we come across are inflammatory and could be misunderstood.
JENNIFER:  07:49Absolutely.
VICKI: 07:50Yeah.
JENNIFER:  07:50

Prevent Problems by Involving Your Administrators

Absolutely. Absolutely. And so I also think it's great to get your administration involved if you're concerned that something might get misread at home. In an exercise like this, you could talk to your administration in advance, let them know what you're doing. That way, if they get a call saying, “Hey, my student said that Hillary Clinton killed 14 people,” they know the context already that this was in.

VICKI: 08:13Educators, as we start back the school this fall, we are the front lines of information literacy and helping people learn to understand what the truth is. And this is not something that we can hide. We have to be out there and we have to explore it.

So I love this option Jennifer has given us for helping kids explore truth or fiction in our news and also this nuance of fake news as almost a political slur against mainstream media. So I think these are important conversations to have with our students and a fantastic way for us to really start touching on information literacy.

JENNIFER:  08:50Thank you so much Vicki for letting me come on and talk about this.


Full Bio As Submitted

Jennifer Carey

Jennifer Carey has been an educator for nearly two decades. She is the Director of Educational Technology at Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Florida; an Executive Board Member of ATLIS, and the Chair of the Executive Board of the Independent School Educator's Network at ISTE.


Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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