This year I challenged myself to learn as much as I could about the News Literacy skills needed to navigate in this “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and mis- and dis-information overloaded era we find ourselves in.
To that end, I spent the summer learning as much as I could about News Literacy. I started the school year by offering a “Fighting “Fake News” in the classroom with News Literacy” PD to my teachers during our beginning of the year in-service. In that P.D., I had teachers work to create definitions for the term “fake news,” and discuss the problems inherent with that term. We sussed out various characteristics that might encourage people to call something “fake news,” (propaganda, clickbait, deepfakes, bias, etc etc) and decided a better term is “unreliable news” or “unreliable information.” We explored various reasons for the current “fake news phenomena,” as well as many excellent tools and strategies we could teach to our students to help them become better, more critical news consumers.
The P.D. session was very successful, and the feedback from staff was excellent. Several teachers commented favorably on how I managed to teach about this topic in a neutral way, using examples that showed both left-leaning and right-leaning bias. Unreliable news does not come from just one side of our political spectrum, after all! A few people actually commented that throughout the presentation they couldn’t tell which political party I might favor. In other words, I managed to teach about this topic, without indicating my own political preferences or biases. This was pretty much the best compliment I could have been given, because I did make a pointed effort to show that we can talk about news literacy and “fake news” in the classroom, without having it become left wing politics vs. right wing politics. I think the fact that even the term “fake news” has such implicit political connotations right now is one reasons many of my teachers had been leery about tackling it in the classrooms. It is important to show our staff and students that we can present this information in a balanced and neutral way. We can talk about how the term “fake news” is being used in politics today, without the lesson becoming “politically charged.”
Our superintendent, assistant superintendent, assistant principals, and several other district office administrators also attended the P.D. Which wasn’t intimidating AT ALL for a third year teacher lol :). But the feedback from everyone was great.
After this PD session, I saw an increase in collaboration requests from teachers wanting me to come in and teach their classes more about news literacy skills. I pushed into various social studies classes, english classes, and a few elective classes who I had never been asked to collaborate with before. I was even invited to teach our TV Studio Club students about responsible journalism and what to look out for to avoid unreliable news. At the halfway point of this school year, I’ve had far more collaboration opportunities, thanks to this demand for news literacy skills, than I did during the same time period last year. These successful collaborations and PD sessions even inspired me to push out of my comfort zone professionally. In November, I presented this information in my first ever webinar (which is archived at AASL ecollab, under “The “Fake News” Problem), and in March I’ll be presenting it in person at the annual Pennsylvania School Library Association’s conference!
Most recently, I was able to do a 3 day news literacy mini-unit for our Pop Culture elective. It was SOO successful! .
Happy teaching, friends 🙂