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How do you navigate “fake news” with your students?

Let’s face it. We live in a politically divided country. President Donald Trump often describes news stories as “fake news.” He’s listed the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN as the “enemy of the people,” and he’s on record saying that 80% of media is fake news.

So what responsibility do teachers have to reconcile these comments with students? And how do educators wade into the political turmoil without getting complaints from politically charged parents?

Tackle fake news without being political

“Lots of educators are afraid of having that talk,” says Jaquelyn Whiting. “And I understand why they’re afraid of having that talk.”

“I begin every conversation about media literacy by saying, while we are in the room together, we are not going to use the term ‘fake news’,”

Whiting is the co-author of News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News. She’s also a library media specialist at Wilton High School in Connecticut. Whiting has made it her mission to inform students and in some cases colleagues on how to identify media bias

“I begin every conversation about media literacy by saying, while we are in the room together, we are not going to use the term ‘fake news’,”  Whiting says she’ll feel successful as an educator if she can remove the term from the students’ vocabulary.

“When that term is invoked. It tends to be invoked with the intention of shutting down dialogue.”

Whiting asks her students to think about three things when evaluating news.

  1. Information – What’s happening
  2. Misinformation – When someone tries to convey to you what’s happening and they make an unintentional mistake. You know the mistake was unintentional when they come back and write a retraction or clarification to correct the error.
  3. Disinformation – When someone tries to convey incorrect information to you for their own personal gain.

Whiting says dividing news into these three categories allow her and her students have a quality conversation about how we understand the world.

“We can start to differently about the choices that journalist are making when they choose to print or not print something,’ says Whiting.

Whiting says that the political climate is what it is and we have to learn to operate in it productively.

In Episode 120 of Class Dismissed we talk in-depth with Whiting about how to help students become media literate by identifying native advertising, influencers, and media bias. To learn more listen to Class Dismissed Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

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