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Posts Tagged ‘fake news’

Having blogged a few times in recent weeks about fake news –  So … what are we doing about fake news? and an earlier post titled Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE I got a buzz reading last week’s Open Culture post: “Calling Bullshit” – which describes a College course designed by two professors at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West to combat bullshit in the information age.

Their comprehensive website “Calling Bullshit” gives a great rationale for introducing this course to college students.  A statement shared with students attending the first class highlights the most basic of reasons for establishing such a teaching course:

Have a listen to the first lecture and you’ll probably find yourself hooked!

The presentations – available on Youtube – are short, sharp and easy to watch and, say the two professors who developed the course, it is all there online for anyone to pick up and teach.  All they ask in return is acknowledgement of them as authors of the material and to let them know how the material is being used.

Viewing this series of 10 sessions would make a great professional learning opportunity for any of us working in education.

Most particularly for teacher librarians, viewing this series could be an inspirational stepping stone to develop a course suited to students and would clearly be an extension of the CRAAP Test mentioned in my recent post.

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Nothing much ….. or heaps?

Who, what, when, where and how is this issue being tacked in schools?

  • Who is taking fake news seriously?
  • What is being done to combat fake news?
  • When is fake news being tackled?  Before or after the fake news has been circulated?
  • Where is fake news being tackled? In subject specific classrooms or centrally via the school library?
  • How are our students being trained to be discerning believers of that which they read or hear?

It would be interesting to run a survey of schools and find out some answers to this question.  Feasible or likely – do you think?

An undeniable fact though is that the term ‘fake news’ has probably never been bandied around more that it is today.  Indeed, ‘fake news’ has been selected as the Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year.  Commenting on this decision, its editor, Susan Butler says:

“There has come a point with fake news where people are beginning to believe what they want to believe, whether or not the news story is actually true.”

(Sydney Morning Herald, January 25, 2017)

Is the term ‘fake news’ new?

Not really, is the implication of a hefty article by James Carson of The Telegraph which claims the term jumped into mainstream media with Donald Trump’s accusations against CNN but in reality is another term for ‘bending the truth’ or propaganda, a tool used to influence public opinion for quite some time.

If the frequency of the term ‘fake news’ is starting to wear thin though, equally powerful ‘catch phrases’ have started to pop up: ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ being the two front runners.

It’s clear that today though, the spread of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ has never been easier.

Social Media has rewritten the books! 

The implication of information being published and shared at will, without any authoritative verification of its truth is, to put it plainly, very scary!

Moves to address the issue are coming thick and fast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about this very issue: Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE which highlighted platforms and programs that are being developed to help people verify facts.

Educating our students to be discerning and informed on how to sift fact from fiction has probably never been more important!   Teaching them specifically how to fact check through valuable online resources such as Snopes, FactCheck and PolitiFact Australia are important and essential!

But this is only one aspect of the kind of education we should be providing in our schools.  So much more needs to be included in an education program.

A recent report – Students fight fake news and the spread of misinformation – about one school’s effort in Melbourne to tackle this issue was inspiring.  Students in English classes at Lowther Hall in Essendon are encouraged to apply the CRAAP test – checking for currency, relevance, accuracy, authority and purpose – to articles they come across in the press.

Reading this article seems to imply that this process was developed in Melbourne by this school’s Head of English but an online search finds reference to the CRAAP Test dating back to 2012 in a paper written by Sarah Myhre: Using the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Websites. More recently though, the American Library Association has updated its CRAAP test for spotting fake news.  A quick reference as to what is included in the CRAAP test can be found online.

Teacher Librarians have forever been working with students in sessions either alone or in a team teaching situation with subject teachers to instill in students an awareness of the currency, relevancy, accuracy and authority of information they come across online.

Indeed – one of the massive failures of the current climate of school administrations as they apply staffing and resource cuts to school libraries is a recognition of the value of having qualified and experienced teacher librarians to lead and guide school communities to recognize and address this modern scourge!

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For years, teacher librarians have been teaching students not just how to run online searches but how important it is to authenticate information found.

But over the last 12-18 months with the preponderance of ‘fake news’ popping up not just on the internet but in usually reliable print publications such as newspapers and journals, the impact ‘fake news’ has had on our world has been the subject of much discussion around the globe.

So it is refreshing to see that the conversation has now started to shift from how dangerous fake news is to how to spot and combat fake news.

Perhaps under threat from mega million law suits, Facebook has been one of the first to take a lead by informing users of some basic tips on how to spot false news.

For a few brief days in mid April this year, Facebook users in just 14 countries got to see this alert:

from where they could read through the following concise and useful tips on how to spot false news:

Why only 14 countries were included in this roll out and why the alert was only live for a few days is a complete mystery.  Given the value this kind of shared information can have in the fight against the spread of misleading and false information, one can only hope that Facebook was testing the ground and will come back to making this a permanent alert available to global Facebook users.

As reported by engadget recently, Google also is attempting to stamp out the spread of fake news by inserting a ‘Fact check by’ tag on searches on contentious issues.

Another interesting development this week is the announcement by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

WikiTRIBUNE is being developed as a new kind of news platform.  By calling on the community to work hand-in-hand with journalists, the aim is to verify and edit facts before they appear online.  Using crowdfunding to hire 14 journalists, it is intended that WikiTRIBUNE, like Wikipedia, will be free to access.

WikiTRIBUNE is set to differ from other news outlets in four specific ways:

  • the news source will be clearly stated
  • access to WikiTRIBUNE will be free and ad free
  • contributors from both the community and journalists will be equals
  • to achieve full transparency donors will be informed where money goes

Read more about the purpose and nature of WikiTRIBUNE in this excellent engadget article Wikipedia co-founder launches Wikitribune to fight fake news or listen to Jimmy Wales himself as he invites the world to come on board.

 

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