Fostering Critical Thinking in Students Amidst the Fake News Pandemic

For two weeks, my Grade 6 students and I discussed, grappled with, and analyzed the proliferation of fake news articles in the Internet, especially in various social media platforms. This was not an intended part of the lesson at first. But, since we were learning about the virtue of honesty and universal value of truth, the students themselves brought out the issue of fake news articles in our discussion. The students were aware of the presence of and how the fake news pandemic challenges and clouds the way we live the virtues of honesty and integrity.

fake-1903774_1280Like the United States, the Philippines had been thrown into frenzy when, during the recent 2016 National Elections, different unreliable websites started posting articles aimed to discredit candidates of opposing parties. The articles spread like wildfire because of the undeniable effect and pervasiveness of social media among Filipinos. Netizens turned against each other. The line between facts and lies was blurred.

So, how do we teach students to be critical of what they are reading in the Internet or watching in the news?

The answer to this complex question is not simple. However, as teachers, we can start with spreading awareness of the presence and danger of fake news around us. Spreading awareness must be coupled with a critical and evaluative attitude towards news. Teaching students to evaluate websites and sources of information must be embedded in all subjects in school because this is an essential skill as we continue to depend on the Internet as an instant source of information. The students must be able to question and know the author and institution behind the news and at the same time apply the “rule of three” which essentially asks the reader to confirm the news through reading three other valid sources.

The challenge of fighting fake news does stop here. To help other netizens know about the fake news, we must teach our students to be proactive and take part in reporting or flagging fake news. A few months ago, I have seen information campaigns that local news agencies have created to fight this epidemic through thinking before clicking and reporting to social media authorities the users that spread them.

In my own classroom, aside from equipping the students the needed skills, I also gave them the chance to take part in a proactive stance against fake news epidemic. In a few days, my students will be sharing their own versions of information campaigns regarding fighting fake news in social media. The future multimedia projects created with iPad apps will be fruits of their collaboration and critical thinking. Through these simple projects, I hope to help my students take part in the global fight against fake news in order to uphold the universal values of truth, honesty, and integrity. Wait for the next article that will showcase my students’ campaigns against fake news.

Some helpful resources in teaching students to evaluate websites or online news:

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