Fake News Invasion: Teaching Media Literacy Skills to Teens

Like most everyone else in education circles, I read the report from Stanford University a few months ago and was horrified by the results. Like everyone else, I fretted and I rang my hands for a couple of weeks, then I racked my brain for a month more, and then on Tuesday I gave a presentation to seventeen teenagers on the topic of fake news and media literacy, and I am relieved to say that it actually went quite well!

So, in the spirit of giving, of resistance, and in fighting ignorance at every turn, I also decided to transfer the bulk of my presentation’s content into a post so everyone can review it, rework it, and make their own!

Please bear in mind, this is one of my first-ever educational presentations, so it’s by no means perfect, either in content or in structure. It’s as un-biased as I could make it but it’s not totally neutral when it approaches certain areas of discussion. That’s actually one of the nuggets that I was hoping to share with the teens – that everyone and everything has a point of view, but that the more facts you omit and truths you sugar coat, the further away from a normal point of view you move and the closer to a dangerous agenda you get. So this is me, acknowledging my bias. I don’t like virtually anything 45 has said or done (except that term limits for congress would be rad) leading up to or post election, and that probably comes across in some of my information. However, I did try to present as many facts about the situations surrounding him and as little interpretation as possible.

Anyway, I digress. If you’re interested in learning about fake news or teaching others, what follows is a series of suggested areas to focus on, a slew of discussion questions for each area, and a few pointed facts for your consideration. The questions are mostly open-ended and unanswered here because, as stated, they’re intended to start a discussion and allow kids to participate and take partial ownership of the lesson, but if you’re planning to teach the topic, just have your own answers and definitions on hand if there’s no response or there’s a super wrong answer thrown out.

Also, definitely don’t just take my word for it (who am I to you, anyway? Possibly just a rando librarian in Rhode Island who very occasionally blogs – personally, I think you should trust me as a credible source of information, but  you shouldn’t always believe everything you read!) and definitely do a little of your own research. I found these sites tremendously helpful:

  1. PBS Lesson plan: How to teach your students about fake news (which was amazing, and I literally couldn’t have gotten started without it)
  2. Stanford’s own Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning (which provides some examples/exercises you can print out)
  3. Common Sense Media: Identifying High-Quality Sites
  4. How to Teach High-School Students to Spot Fake News from Slate
  5. The Library’s Role in a “Post-truth,” “Fake News” Era from Proquest
  6. Project Look Sharp
  7. School Libraries Fight Fake News
  8. Gustavus Adolphus College’s LibGuide
  9. Indiana University East’s LibGuide
  10. Central Washington University’s LibGuide

We started with the simplest ice breaker of all, an inverse of Two Truths and a Lie. I taped up three news stories and asked them to identify which one of the three is the real one by sticking post-it notes to it. Once that was over, we jumped right in to the…
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Tattooed Librarians of the Ocean State 2014 calendar!

Tattooed Librarians of the Ocean State 2014 calendar!

The president of the Rhode Island Library Association and I collaborated on this article that was featured along with a slideshow on the flippin’ Huffington Post! What the what! Such a thrill and honor!

My Feminist Manifesto

I know you’re all just dying to hear me rant about women’s rights, sexism, feminism, sex, men, and the like, so without further adieu…

When it comes to sexism, some say “fight fire with fire,” but I think more along the lines of “two wrongs don’t make a right” and “an eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind.” Why battle sexism against women with sexism against men, especially when a blind tirade for women’s rights can leave many women by the wayside anyway? Hear me out, but first…

Before I go any further, I should probably acknowledge that my response to sexism and feminism and the like are, of course, all tainted by my own experiences and my place in the universe. I am well aware of the fact that:

  • There are women who are much poorer than I am – the vortex of poverty affects women worse than men in most cases, and has the power to destroy everything in its path.
  • There are women who have been raised in very different societies or cultures, sub-societies and sub-cultures, or just family units than I have been – whether it be in the debutante-riddled pockets of the South, a patriarchal tribe in Africa, or a subtly male-dominant household right next door. You can change where you are and where you want to go, but you can’t change where you come from, really.
  • There are women who are considerably better looking than I am – this can prove to be a disadvantage to some because it makes it more difficult to be taken seriously in the workplace in any way other than as a piece of meat.
  • There are women who are considerably less attractive than I am – this can prove to be a disadvantage because, let’s face it, what is beautiful is good. It’s how we’re programmed.
  • There are women who have been physically beaten or tortured, emotionally or psychologically abused, to varying degrees of severity, although none at all is acceptable – of course these will deeply affect their thoughts and feelings on the subjects. I don’t think this requires any more explanation.
  • There are women who are older than I am, who faced the issues of their day and without the gift of 20/20 hindsight that I have had all along, and all the progress that has been made over the years that I benefit from and probably do take for granted more often than I should.

With all this in mind, I’m not a feminist – if anything, I’m a humanist. I don’t bristle at gender roles in and of themselves; I object to feeling pigeon-holed and feeling as though I don’t have any options, because I actually have about a few thousand different combinations of options to choose from, and honestly, I want to be a housewife. My ideal career involves working with children, cooking and baking, house cleaning, interior decorating, and personal shopping. These are real jobs, but when they’re all wrapped up with a tag that reads “housewife,” they’re suddenly meaningless. I don’t see why I should be forced to seek fulfillment by working for The Man when I could be working WITH the man of my choosing, as a partner in one of the most private of all companies and the comfort of my own home.

The shock and awe elements of the early “women’s liberation” movement were necessary given the severity of the situation, but I feel that there was an unfortunate failure to follow up with almost anything. We were led to a vast array of choices, which is obviously great, but given no tools with which to base our decisions on or methods to deal with them – this conundrum has been the subject of some of my favorite novels, from The Bell Jar to Commencement. Now, women must be all things to all people at all times (case in point: the new Sarah Jessica Parker movie), and if that’s what they want to do, that’s great – but I don’t, and neither do a lot of other women, and I resent feeling as though I have to just to be taken seriously, especially when most men can still just skate by because their gender roles haven’t been modified basically at all. I don’t do everything all at once well, personally, and I don’t need another romcom about some 6-figure, size 0, frazzled-and-fabulous working woman to remind me of that fact and make me feel better or worse about it, frankly.

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