Fake News, the Millennials, and the Classroom

via Giphy

It’s hard not to think of President Trump when you consider the concept of fake news.  As a prominent global figure, who is quick to label most media outlets that do not speak favorably of him or his Administration, it is hard not to think of him. As a Gen Xer who grew up watching network news, I am quite offended by his accusations and a little alarmed.

Although not our leader, he is considered the leader of the Free World, and as such a role model for our young people. In my view, the bizarre statements and erroneous claims are troublesome. Recently, Trump claimed he ‘came up’ with the term fake news in a recent interview with former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee on TBN. This claim being disputed by, CNN Editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, in a recent article. I have had practice discerning credible media outlets, and more specifically,  what political bias or point of view they are presenting. However, this was a skill learned with time and without the constant suspicion of false reporting. How would that have affected my worldview as a youth of the media? of power? of justice?

In our EC&I 831 session on October 10th, our professor Dr. Alec Couros pointed out that although we may think certain information as fake, others may believe it. Satire is no exception. I found an edited version of a recent interview between President Trump and former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. As you will note in the clip, Governor Huckabee is replaced with Stephen Colbert from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS. Clearly, this is satire. However, when I say “clearly”, I am making a lot of assumptions about the viewers. Who do you think would be prone to believing this? Perhaps people in other nations who are not familiar with Colbert? Thoughts?

Here is the original interview with Gov. Mike Huckabee on TBN.

[Fake] News on Social Media meets the Classroom

My classmate, Ryan, shared in his blog post on this topic recently that the Millennial generation, those born in the 1980s to the mid to late 1990s, are more likely to get their news using social media. As this is the demographic that I teach it had me wondering how these young adults interact with the news they receive on social media.

Pew Research Center conducted a study that confirms Ryan’s source in that Millennial’s aged 18 to 29 years old are more likely to turn to online platforms for news. However, of all adults accessing their news using social media, for example, only 30% have some confidence in its accuracy.

Few have a lot of confidence in information from professional news outlets or friends and family, though majorities show at least some trust in both, but social media garners less trust than either

If I can take this at face value, then I speculate that at least 66% of the population use either common sense, critical thinking skills or fact check when consuming news on social media. In that 30% who have some confidence in news on social media I wonder who are being blindsided by fake news and bringing that into our discussions in the classroom. If you note from the study above, 77% of us trust at least some or a lot of what our friends and acquaintances share with us. I wonder what will happen to this statistic over time with the increase of fake news in social media.

If fake news becomes so convincing that even the best ‘sniffer’ in the classroom doesn’t question it’s authenticity then aren’t we contributing to the distortion that fake news can generate? If we become increasingly aware that fake news is out there will we become suspicious of anyone who shares with us? How does that change the dynamics of trust in relationship with others? To be honest, Grad studies has already started to open my eyes to a new way of thinking about my world! Now I need to be extra careful in what my friends/students/acquaintances tell me in case they have been infected by the Fake News virus?!? Alec shared a great quote in class and I truly feel the affects of it:

“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

― Garry Kasparov

What to do?

I see great opportunities to demonstrate methods of fact checking mainstream articles that students wish to use in assignments. One great resource we have are our librarians. Students can certainly contribute to this as well. Furthermore, building into the assessment piece the process in which the student determines they are relying on a credible source may be beneficial. I can see how this holds the student accountable to their audience when sharing information. Again, going back to being a good digital citizen.

Do any teachers or adult educators build the process of fact checking, or otherwise verifying, sources into their assessment? Has that been successful in holding the student accountable?

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