on teaching teachers about fake news… [edited]

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?”

Let me tell you. It. Is. Hard.

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 went so-so. We got through just 1 of the 5 parts of the activity I had planned. The discussion that took place between the teachers ended up saving the day and truly helped me understand how to better approach teaching students about source evaluation in a fake news world.

Click here to view slideshow

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

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. The process of developing the labels is a HUGE part of of the source evaluation 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 (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 will need to put that information into an appropriate context and the 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 into “knowledge.”




One great point of discussion that came up in our discussion 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!


Sometimes it really does feel like building “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.”

Edited 1/20/2017:

My  teachers are AMAZING! On Wednesday afternoon we had breakout meetings during our scheduled faculty meeting time. On Thursday, I got 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 love the fact that this teacher, Lyssa, 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 you need to have in your head as you read, and what labels you place on each of those axes.

I would love to see science, math, social studies, arts, etc. teachers coaching their students through the, “What axes do we need for this research?” and “What labels do we need for this axis?” process.






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