By Lisa Tappeiner, Collection Development and Allied Health Liaison Librarian
Today, it is difficult for many readers of online information to distinguish scientific evidence, serious journalism, or informed opinion from publications with the sole purpose of supporting a political point of view and encouraging inflammatory reactions. All kinds of information, both facts, and alternative facts appear on professional-looking websites with catchy graphics and attention-grabbing headlines. Moreover, in a context where readers’ comments are prominent, unfiltered, and entertaining to read, it is as easy to be persuaded by social media’s reactions to a piece of online writing as by the strength of an argument and its supporting evidence, the reputation of a publication, or an author’s credentials. In this chaotic information environment, what kinds of strategies can we use to prepare our students to consume media wisely and make informed decisions, both as professionals and citizens?
At the annual Bronx EdTech Showcase in April at Bronx Community College, George Rosa, Senior Instructional Designer and Blackboard Administrator, and Lisa Tappeiner, Collection Development and Allied Health Liaison Librarian teamed up to discuss strategies for addressing the problem of media literacy and the proliferation of false information. They reviewed research that shows that despite being “digital natives,” students are coming to college unprepared to critically evaluate information sources at a time when these skills are increasingly essential.
A 2016 study by the Stanford History Education Group found that students ranging from middle school to college level from a variety of geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds were “easily duped” by information coming from social media platforms, such as Twitter or photo-sharing websites. This comes as no surprise to many educators who are confronted with student work based on unreliable information sources. Students, new to academic life, are encountering academic concepts, jargon, and research practices for the first time in a confusing online information environment. It is up to faculty, librarians, and educational technologists to provide students with opportunities to reflect on the information they encounter online and in social media and provide strategies for critical evaluation.
George Rosa presented a Fake News Evaluator that he developed on Blackboard using the quiz tool asking students to review science-related websites and rate them according to various criteria related to reliability, the authority of sources, transparency of sources of information, emotional content, typography, and layout, claims of secrecy. Students were able to see how the class collectively rated different websites, which serves as a springboard for critical discussions. They also distributed a handout with ideas for simple activities that could be used in any discipline to sharpen media literacy skills while building content knowledge.
If you are interested in learning about the Blackboard Fake News Evaluator or implementing critical media literacy activities in your classes, contact George Rosa in EdTech (grosa@hostos. cuny.edu), Lisa Tappeiner in the library (email@example.com), or join forces with the Hostos Media Literacy Movement (firstname.lastname@example.org).