Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Our Goal Should Not Be to Teach Kids How to Identify Fake News

Teaching our children and students how to recognize fake news is a good first step, but it should not be our goal. I wrote about the spread of fake news recently and shared a variety of research, data, and resources for teachers to help students develop media literacy skills. But I think that I – and many of my peers who have written and shared with urgency about fake news – stopped short of what is really needed.

We need to go farther. We need to teach our children what to DO once they have determined an article or image is fake news. Here's why we need to take this next step, and how we can do it together.


At it's worst, fake news has caused violence – as in the case of the man firing a rifle in a pizza shop after reading a fake online article that the restaurant was "harboring child sex slaves" inside. Sadly, the man in this situation is not the only adult who has fallen for fake news. Pew's recent research indicates that nearly a quarter of adults admit to sharing fake news in the past and most of them didn't know it was fake when they shared it. (I'm not sure whether it is more or less disturbing that some of them shared fake news that they knew was fake.)

Taking action to debunk fake information and prevent it from spreading is essential if we want the internet of the future to be a positive place where we can find what we need, communicate with others, and grow together.

One way to help your students understand how sharing fake news can lead to misunderstandings, anger, and even violence is to share this video with them.

Don't worry, I've checked to ensure the accuracy of the information in the video on After showing the video, ask your students if they have:

  • seen fake news in their social media feeds (these are some examples from the election of 2016 in this Buzzfeed post)
  • seen their friends share fake news by mistake/on purpose
  • shared fake news by mistake/on purpose
  • reacted to/seen others react to fake news with emotion
It is critical that these conversations do not include blaming or finger-pointing. Adults and children alike have been fooled by fake news and have shared fake news. Make it clear to your students that we are learning together and need to become better consumers and sharers together.


Step 1: Identify Fake News

Right now my favorite resource is this ten question checklist from The News Literacy Project and This easy-to-use list is starting to gain traction at both the middle and high school levels. I like it because it helps students calibrate their gut-check when it comes to online information.

While it is important to teach students how to investigate the reliability and origins of an author or website, their gut check will help trigger those investigations. This list of questions from ConnectSafely can help learners dig deeper when investigating fake news.

But once students have identified that something is fake news, is refusing to share it enough? For decades we have told students to stand up to bullying and teasing and that being a bystander is not permissible. We need to apply this same standard to fake news. We need to teach our students and friends how to stand up to fake news without provoking more conflict.

Step 2: Find Confirmation

Teach students how to confirm that information is accurate. The most viral articles and images that turn out to be fake news are outed quickly on websites like Snopes (my personal favorite), FactCheck, PolitiFact, and Poynter. For instance, one of the most shared fake news stories in the midst of the election of 2016 was a story released by the Southend News Network reporting that Pope Francis has endorsed Donald Trump. If a student used the 10 question checklist above and believed the story to be fake news, that belief could be corroborated by reports on:

Step 3: Take Action!

Adolescents, teens, and adults who see fake news and simply scroll further down their feed are acting as bystanders to the fake news phenomenon. For decades we have told students to stand up to bullying and teasing and that being a bystander is not acceptable. We need to apply this same standard to fake news. We need to teach our students and friends how to stand up to fake news without provoking more conflict. We can do this by scripting comments and responses. Here are a few examples:

  • Hey, friend! A lot of people are concerned about this. It turns out that it is fake news. Here is a link that explains what's going on.
  • Thought you'd want to know that this is fake news. You might want to take it down so people don't get confused. This link goes into more detail.
If your learners are even more progressive and are willing to share the truth on their own timeline – and not merely in the comments responding to the posts of others – here are more examples:

  • I've seen many of my friends post links to websites and articles claiming _______. This post explains the truth. Let's spread the truth together. Please share!
  • In case you've seen posts about ______ and have become concerned, this information will clear things up. Lots of people were confused. You're not alone!

We can all raise the bar together. Our end goal should not be to merely teach student to analyze the media they consume, but also how to create a share media that makes the internet a better place. Use these strategies when you use social media and be sure to share these strategies with your students, too.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The 4 Stakeholders of Education Technology

I'm an educator in many ways: I'm a learner, a teacher, a parent, and a leader. Each role makes me better informed and better qualified to fulfill the other roles. I value all four of these vantage points, and here's why.

1. Learner

Over the past few months, I have developed skills in privacy policy vetting and app deployment for the teachers and students at my school. I've also started to develop a library of openly licensed education resources in content areas and grade levels where I have never taught as a classroom educator. These skills and resources only came with significant research, collegial support, and practice. And these are only my most recent learnings. One of the best parts of my role as an education technologist is that I know the field will continue to develop and change. I'm still learning and exploring the potential of virtual reality thanks to offerings from a few companies my school works with and the free apps available on iOS. I will always be a learner. I will always be challenged.

2. Teacher

In the classroom with students, I provide insights as they research and design projects. What are the most reliable websites? Who are the experts the can contact for insights and interviews? How can you best evaluate, compare, and analyze the information you've gathered? What is the best medium to share your findings? Should you use an infographic, public service announcement, podcast, essay, animation, coded simulation? Once you've decide the right medium, which tools will help you create the highest quality product and learn new skills? When you decide to share what you've learned, what is are your responsibilities as a digital citizen when you publish online?

3. Parent

My 2nd grader's teacher sent me this photo of her
using manipulatives to solve math problems
with a classmate in the fall.
My young children, ages 8 and 5, want to be just like their parents. They see us video chatting with our friends and family, emailing for work, writing and designing original creations, streaming and downloading music and videos that matter to us, and more. To me, this means it is important to introduce them both to online gaming, Google Drive creation and storage, YouTube, and even Snapchat. While they do not yet have accounts on ALL of those platforms, they do have accounts on some. Those accounts are private, monitored and controlled by their parents, and exist so that their digital learning is just another part of their early learning about socialization, communication, and service. When they are ready, my children will decide when and if they want to share what they've learned and created with the broader internet.

Just as I'm teaching my children, their teachers are teaching me. Often, I get updates via email or a home-school communication app or website with photos of my daughters reading, learning, and even dancing and singing during their school day. These updates sometimes include photos, which I love to share with my children in the evening as a conversation starter about their day, and sometimes include links to valuable online learning resources that we can use to supplement what is happening at school. I've been able to learn with and from my children thanks to these resources.

4. Leader

As a blogger, speaker, digital learning specialist, and director of education I often find myself working with colleagues to lead the charge when it comes to policy changes, pilot programs, and professional learning in education technology. This role gives me opportunities to experiment, make mistakes, and share my findings with others.

In the end, no matter the role you fulfill in education technology, you should feel like you can experiment, make mistakes, and share your findings too. This certainly does not mean that we should not take responsibility for doing prior due diligence when it comes to student data privacy and essential security measures. But it does mean that when we have put reasonable safeguards in place, we need to be able to take chances for the sake of advancing student learning and engagement. We should ask ourselves, "What does technology make possible?"