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Fake News Experiment

Author: Professor Sherri Singer
In the Fall 2017, we began an unusual honors experiment.
Twenty students were accepted and given a deep experience, including:
Lunches with the college president
Participating in high-level campus events
Discussion-based classes and research projects that covered politics, history, communications, and critical thinking.
Citizenship that is informed
These students are a challenge to keep track of and the highlight my day. We talked about informed citizenship in the first fall. Did my students actually read the news? Did they read the headlines? Did they actually read the news? They asked me two crucial questions as I challenged them to read the news and stay informed.
“Do you correct fake information on social media?”
Are you able to trust your “friends”?
I was stunned by these questions. I wasn’t correcting my friends. When challenged by students to do right, I did.
In class, I started the experiment by showing the things that appeared on my feed and my attempts to correct the news. I started by posting comments saying “it’s fake” with a link to prove it. In the first few months, I received many apologies and was ignored. I started to see comments like “I’m sure Sherri will correct my mistake” and I received private messages saying, “I’m glad you did that, because I don’t like calling out people out.” Did the social experiment succeed? Yes, I did see people’s shares change to a certain extent. It changed my classroom. Definitely.
No matter which course I teach, we now discuss fake information and social media and generate news. Students need to be encouraged to read news articles, and they need to have the ability of writing news. It is difficult to find the right balance between accurate information, detailed reporting, and word limits. It is difficult to provide balanced reporting that is concise and accurate. It is important to help students understand the limitations and assign mini assignments about the news.
Fake News Resources
There are many resources that can be used to help teachers and students learn about the news. Here are some of my favorite news resources.
Voila “Factitous”, a swipe quiz, works great on cell phones. There are several difficulty levels.
Fake It to Make It is an educational video game that teaches students how fake news is used to make money.
Fake News Generator allows students to see how easy fake news can be created and provides an online template so they can make their own.
One of my favorite assignments is to have students “Tweet” within a Wiki about an issue. Their tweets should be accurate and meet the character guidelines. Sometimes it’s more difficult than you think.

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