As the old saying goes “bad news travels fast,” but today, all news travels faster than ever before…with push notifications sent directly to our phones makes news consumption something we have to actively opt out of now, rather than opt into.

LaGarde, J., & Hudgins, D. (2018). Fact Vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News, p.19. International Society for Technology in Education.

Although not a surprise that children nowadays are consuming more and more content via their social media spaces than any other online database, I was quite surprised to read that the Snapchat application was the highest source of news consumption, with 82% of users between the ages of 18-29. This study by Pew was from 2017, but reminds us that account holders can be as young as 13 years of age. Considering Snapchat spanning lockdowns these past twenty months, what might a study with younger groups of children reflect?

This was only one of many areas of Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins explored in their book Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking In The Era of Fake News. The book is all based on research evidence and illustrates just how serious information can ‘make or break’ an assignment, a situation, or even our own beliefs. There are graphs and images throughout the book which depict the research statistics, like the ‘Social media news user profiles’ (p.72), highlighting again where young people get their news from.

Even though readers may or may not be shocked to read just how potent fake news can be, through the research at the beginning of this book, the end of chapter three reminds of us that that’s exactly why educators have such a big responsibility to support learners in navigating this world of media which surrounds them. What I really appreciated was a consistent thread across the book, that advocating for media literacy was the responsibility of every educator in every subject, not solely the responsibility of the wellness lead, the computing lead, nor the history or geography teacher alone.

So where does an educator begin their journey to advocate for media literacy? Returning to my digital tote after reading this book in its entirety, I wasn’t surprised to find that I had bookmarked quite a few resource gems in the All Is Not Lost! Resources for Combatting Fake News section, ready to share and support staff with next week. Educators are extremely busy focusing on their lesson planning, assessments and data analysis to progress learning achievement, as well as the individual SEL needs of each of their learners, meaning that media literacy is not always a priority. LaGarde & Hudgins help to make it easier for the education community to get started with media literacy integration, sharing QR Code tables and simple lesson plan ideas and exemplars across chapter six, such as resources for fact checking content: www.factcheck.org and whois.domaintools.com (p.183).

Although I believe there is still a great gap between large companies, and the general public’s understanding of just how heavily the world of media is powered by algorithms which have the ability to manipulate how we navigate information, LaGarde & Hudgins do a great job of walking their readers through some of the fake news topics that we can directly support in the classroom. They outline the importance of cyberbullying and online trolling across the internet, and provide a strategies to support educators in broaching important conversations with learners, to help them respond in non-confrontational ways when participating online. “When it comes to fake news, doing nothing (in this case, not clicking) is the most preferable response” (p.184), and the authors then go on to outline strategies in chapter five, to learn how to source credibility and reliability of a site.

LaGarde & Hudgins make this overwhelming world of fake news seem less daunting and more manageable for educators, in the way they break down the strategies and tools in meaningful chunks of facilitation that is manageable and possible. As educators, leaders, and support staff, we are not just content subject experts, but we are guides and facilitators of learning experiences, and we each have a responsibility to ensure that learners have the knowledge and skills to safely navigate their learning landscape in its’ full scope, which includes media literacy.

I was very impressed with K-12 digestibility of this book, and actually ordered the sequel even before sitting down to write this review. I very much look forward to studying Developing Digital Detectives with my digital team of middle leaders in the second term…are you ready to join the conversation?

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