Fake News- A Critical Consumers guide to Media awareness

In a previous blog post I said:

“The danger of not teaching students to be critical consumers is far greater then not recognizing harmless April fools jokes.  Children we teach today will be the decision makers of tomorrow so if they are willing to believe things without evaluation we are in big trouble.” (click here to see the rest)

In today’s geopolitical climate of Fake news, Alternative Facts, and Click Bait we as educators have an opportunity and responsibility to teach our students how to evaluate the merits of sources of information. Katy Farber has a great blog that outlines some of the tools necessary to keep our students Critical of the Media that they consume.

The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a paper “Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge” that shows that:

“Searching the Internet may cause a systematic failure to recognize the extent to which we rely on outsourced knowledge,” the study said. “… People mistake access to information for their own personal understanding of the information.”

So not only is it important for us to detect the biases in media but also from within ourselves as the act of reading headlines, summaries, and “facts” which we mistakenly confuse for a full understanding of the subject we are reading about.

Synthesis of information is at the top of Blooms taxonomy for a reason, books, video’s and other sources of information even if correct may not cement an idea or concept, when we are able to synthesize information we can truly say that it has been learned.  I find that this is what makes blogging so important for me, as a writer I am able to write ideas pair them together and through research and understanding I synthesize what I have read in a new internal understanding and prepare it for an audience.

Noam Chomski says that:Blooms-Taxonomy

“Technology is basically neutral,It’s kinda like a hammer . . . the hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to build a house or a torturer uses it to crush somebody’s skull . . . same with modern technology [like] the internet. The internet is extremely valuable if you know what you’re looking for.”

And he also states that:

“Random exploration through the internet turns out to be a cult generator,” Chomsky concluded. “Pick up the factoid here, a factoid there, somebody else reinforces it, and all of a sudden you have some crazed picture which has some factual basis, but nothing to do with the world. You have to know how to evaluate, interpret and understand.”Newbie working

Noam Chomski’s statement echo’s one that I often think of, A fool with a tool is still a fool.
It is that ability to evaluate, interpret and understand that will insulate our future generations against the dangers inherent in Fake news, Alternative Facts, and Click Bait. It is our job to make sure that students leave our institutions with the cognitive tools to handle the deceptive and purposefully crafted fake news that is now so pervasive. Confidence is a key point in this paradigm, there is a delicate balance between becoming so reluctant to internalize new facts based on your understanding of the world through your current world views and the flexibility of thinking required to adopt new ideas.  Any swing too far in either direction and you either become a too closely paired with antiquated ideas, or willing to accept any new idea without contest.

Fake news is big business and is becoming more sophisticated, burring “Native advertising” in between real articles has become common.  One of my favorite magazines, Scientific American uses this strategy to bury advertising amidst actual articles about Science, very disappointing.  The only identifier on these articles is a small print “Paid Advertisement” marker.  This sophisticated means of trapping audiences in the illusion of news is used all over the internet and is the daily bread of many internet advertisers. Our students need to be trained to detect fake news so that their world view is not pinned on “Alternative Facts”.


If you like this contact me on Twitter @csgamble I’d love to hear what you think!


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