Real or Fake? How to Check Yourself

img_7661If you think a lot about fake news these days, and if you aim to help your students or family members develop the ability to effectively evaluate and decide what’s real and what’s not, National Public Radio (NPR) just published an excellent article, Fake or Real? How to Self-Check the News and Get the Facts. This piece highlights six steps that individuals can use to judge the stories they encounter, and the article includes a detailed description about how to go about following through with each step.

The entire NPR post, which is chock full of helpful information, will be a useful teaching tool for anyone who wants to gauge a news item’s authenticity, and the six basic steps are easy to master. Post the list near computers, on the refrigerator, and in rooms where family members use digital devices and on digital devices’ note pads.

News Evaluation Steps from National Public Radio (Read the article for lots more detail.) Continue reading

Triple-Check For Fake News on Social Media — Learning Resources

Watch the embedded CNN video below.

Watch the embedded CNN video below.

It happens to me all the time on social media. I see something interesting that connects with what I like or want to believe, start to read it, and then I immediately start to share it with my friends. I’m learning, however, to think more about it first. Now I’m spending more time considering whether what I see and read comes from a reputable news source or if some of the details in the article can survive a fact check.

Anyone can set up a catchy name on Facebook and send out news, but these authors don’t necessarily check or even care about the facts. Here’s an what Brian Stelter on CNN has to say on the subject on his Oct 30, 2016 broadcast.                  Continue reading

Building Habits of Evaluation into the Conversation & the Curriculum

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21st Century Vocabulary Words – Evaluation

A few days ago at the public library I overheard two teachers talking excitedly about a curriculum unit that they were developing. As the discussion progressed, they also began noting their frustration with the cavalier attitudes students demonstrate toward online resources. I was not surprised by the conversation.

Young people who are growing up today seem to navigate effortlessly through digital materials—learning resources, games, publications, websites, and apps—but we adults often forget their limited fluency when it comes to identifying the quality, reliability, and credibility of information. If they are to become good evaluators kids need lots of practice and plenty of time spent observing adult models.

As the educators continued talking, I thought about two 21st Century learning vocabulary words—evaluation and credibility—and mulled over how we get young people, in an age of unlimited content and information, to develop stronger habits of evaluation.
Continue reading

10 Ways to Help Students Evaluate Digital Information

goodwebsitebadwebsiteAlthough I am a big fan of encouraging students to begin any research project with curated resources such as the online databases at a school or public library, I know that many learners head straight for Google.

When students make garden-variety searches on Google, teach them to investigate and ask questions about what they find, especially if they are planning to use a website to learn more about a topic. The strongest 21st Century learners will make the process of asking evaluative questions second nature — examining each and every site before deciding whether or not to use the information.

Questions to Ask About Any Digital Resource          Continue reading

A Book About Wikipedia to Read With Children

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Wikipedia is cool, Wikipedia is filled with information, and Wikipedia is a great fun to visit.

That said, reminding children about the authority of references and the expertise of authors — whenever children begin research — is an important part of teaching and parenting. A critical 21st Century and life skill is understanding how to go about judging the quality of references and especially learning how to figure out when information is not up to snuff.

If students start out a project by looking up a topic on Wikipedia, and many of them do, they should hear — over and over at every age — about the importance of seeking out and reading other resources to confirm the facts. Adults, too, need to make this a habit.

truth in numbers

Image from Amazon site.

A new book, Wikipedia: 3.5 Million Articles and Counting, offers parents and educators a great opportunity to read together and learn more — lots more — about Wikipedia. Author Heather Hasan writes in detail about the history and philosophy of this mammoth open-source encyclopedia, explaining how Wikipedia works and describing how the editors keep track of new entries, edits, and re-edits.

Hasan points out the ways that Wikipedia writers occasionally argue over topics, and she notes that editors often decide to lock down a subject or entry. Other short sections of the book share Wikipedia facts and myths, a glossary, and several pages of bibliographic references.

If you read this book with children in your family or students in your class, be sure to have continuing conversations, both while reading the book and afterwards, about the importance of expertise and authority, pointing out that another reason to confirm the facts — aside from worrying about misinformation — is to learn whether even the experts disagree.

An excellent Wikipedia documentary, Truth in Numbers, is available at Amazon, and includes interviews with many of the people who have helped the Internet to develop and grow — the movers and shakers of the World Wide Web.

7 Questions to Ask Before Sharing Hurricane Sandy Media With Kids

The Pier Before the Storm
Photo by Marti Weston, 2008

Parents and teachers of digital kids should make it a habit to evaluate media for authenticity and reliability rather than automatically sharing dramatic images with children. Evaluating media is a critical 21st Century skill — for adults and children

The other day a friend sent me a link to a storm picture. The image featured a familiar ocean pier with huge waves about to crash onto its farthest end. (The photo at left is the pier long before the storm). While the drama of the image intrigued me, on reflection I was bothered because I could not learn anything about the website that hosted the image. Other than labeling the town and the storm, the photograph offered no other identifying narrative.

With its etherial quality, the image looked as if the pier was superimposed over a dramatic ocean scene — the waves and spray crashing at one end while the rest of the structure was clear without any water or spray obstructions. Moreover, since I was familiar with the location, I could not figure out where the photographer stood to take the picture. Perhaps I was wrong, but since I could not discover anything more about the picture, I decided not to send it to anyone else, and I am not even posting it here.

When a huge emergency like Hurricane Sandy occurs, digital pictures and videos circulate all over the web and via social media. A fair amount of these digital materials mis-represent the situation. To avoid focusing too much on the misrepresentations we need to apply some 21st Century common sense. Continue reading

New Google Lessons: Understanding YouTube and Digital Citizenship

Visit the Google lessons site.

Check out the Google interactive lessons, videos, and slides, all focused on digital citizenship, privacy, and YouTube best practices. Useful for teachers as well as parents, these discrete units are easy to use and share, especially when students need an organizational framework before beginning to look for school project resources. Each lesson is readily downloadable as a Google Doc and even for other presentation media such as PowerPoint.

Many of the Google videos include tips that can help students use YouTube more effectively while honoring copyright principles and evaluating content carefully. Google developed these digital resources for secondary students, but in many schools the videos will also be valuable for middle schoolers. Even fifth grade teachers may find that some of the videos can help them in the context of curriculum units.

A conundrum exists, of course…          Continue reading