The library has kicked off this year’s middle school research skills workshop series with a lesson on credible websites vs. non-credible websites and identifying fake news. The students were asked to be detectives and jot down some of the ways you can identify which sites and articles are real and which are fakes.
Developing critical thinking is a skill that needs more attention than it gets. Forbes reports that 75% of adults are fooled by fake news.
I had students looking at websites about explorers. One of them was completely fake. What I found interesting was that even information that seems very obviously ridiculous to an adult, such as a claim that Samuel de Champlain went to Disney World to celebrate winning ‘Best Fort of the Year’ from ‘Better Forts and Ramparts Magazine’, caused students to actually need to look up how long Disney World has been open because they weren’t sure if this could actually be a possibility.
On our fake news exercise, some students weren’t sure if Justin Trudeau was building a wall or not. That is why it is so important to follow the rule of three and always compare three sources of information.
Is Justin Trudeau building a wall? The kids don’t know!
These videos show a few clever teams who immediately went to the ‘About’ page on the news article or website they suspected was fake to learn more about the source. It is important that they learn to look outside of the site to find out more as well.
I think it is also important not to take for granted when you are working with kids that something that seems very obvious to an adult is not very obvious to students in a time where when information is presented in a way that looks legitimate it is taken seriously.
My favourite part of this activity was showing the students the fake website Pets or Food where you can buy exotic animals either alive or dead. It is scary just how realistic this site is and that’s what makes it such a great example.
I think we all had fun and it was very eye-opening; from my perspective as an observer of this exercise to see how much work we need to do, and their perspective when they came to see how easily they could be duped. This workshop series will tie in nicely to future topics such as being safe online.