“Fake news” is a phrase that has been thrown around over the last few years, but what role does it play in the lives of today’s students? And what are they learning about questionable “news,” from misleading headlines to hoaxes to blatant disinformation, and everything in between?
Students in Grade 9 English have been asked to consider these questions, and more, as they learn about news from a few different angles — how news writing is structured and presented, how to differentiate between fact and opinion in what we read and write, and how to evaluate the reliability and credibility of information coming from different sources. As teachers, we are often asking ourselves how we can best teach about media and information literacy so that students develop as not just readers and writers, but also responsible media consumers, media creators, and citizens. But the proliferation of misinformation over recent years continues to present challenges.
All students agreed that misleading news is a problem that can have terrible consequences in the real world, but not all shared the same opinion on whether or not enough was being taught in schools about “fake news” and other kinds of misleading information in the media. Most, however, took the position that the Ontario curriculum should include more on the subject. Now with the pace of an octomester, opportunities to link different skills and concepts together must be seized. And so, this issue provided the topic for a persuasive writing task the class is currently engaged in — writing to the Ministry of Education to let their views be known in a letter, one in which they must express a supported opinion on the matter, but also one that we hope may have other, more positive, consequences of its own.
Do you think that young people are learning enough about false and misleading news? What can we all do to support them in developing the skills they will need to responsibly and capably navigate an ever-changing landscape of messages and information?