A report by the National Literacy Trust published in 2018 sighted that according to studies, only 2% of UK children could tell if news was real or fake.
Fake news makes for a fascinating and eye-opening topic in class and can be explored in a number of engaging and exciting ways, encouraging children to question what they see and discover that not is all as it may seem.
I wanted to design a class where I was not dictating to children what was 'right' and 'wrong' about safety on the internet, instead I wanted to use tools which encouraged them to explore the tricky topic of truth for themselves and decide not what was 'true', but what was more 'reliable' as a source.
I discovered some fantastic free online resources for games which have been specially developed to help children learn about fake news - who makes it and why, and what impacts it can have on the world, politically and otherwise. I could't believe the complex high level of debating and critical analysis I was having with eleven year-olds about the political climate in America and how fake news is used for political agendas, in an ESL class. I encourage you to explore and play these games with your child or students.
1. We started off with the question, 'How do I know when something is real?'
(because I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste it, because my friends/ family, society experience it/ see it, because I read it in a book, because I looked it up online, because I saw it on TV, etc)
2. Then we watched this introductory video, a brief introduction to fake news for kids:
We discussed times when we'd seen and believed fake news and found out after, or our experiences with fake news, and how sometimes it is very difficult to really know for sure.
3. We talked about people's motivations for making fake news (click bait for money, political agendas...) Here is a video about an anonymous man from Macedonia who makes money from fake news. You can watch him talking on a video in this link:
Next we started playing some games to test our critical thinking and text analysis skills. Factitious is closest to a version of twitter where you are presented with a news article and must decide whether you think it is a reliable source or not, by swiping it left or right. I didn't do much pre-teaching here, as I wanted my student to learn and discover the similarities and differences for themselves as they went along. This was a very fun and effective way of learning text analysis, bearing in mind that my students were B1 and some of the language is a high level of complexity, they were still able to pick out and notice the tell tale signs for fake news. Not always though, as sometimes, as in real life, there is not always a black and white answer.
here is the link to the sight:
5. BBC's ireporter
'Ireporter' is a fantastic online roleplay game developed by the BBC to help kids to learn how to make decisions and be critical about what the people around them are saying or sourcing. In it, the student plays the role of a junior reporter at the BBC who must meet deadlines to make reliable reports based on the information they are receiving. They get awarded points for accuracy, impact and speed. This is a super fun story that gets more involved as you play, and my students were highly engaged and responsive to it.
5. FAKE IT TO MAKE IT!
This is a game where you get to see the inside world of fake news through the eyes of someone who makes it. Here, the tables are turned and you are no longer the journalist trying to report the truth and decipher between reliable and unreliable sources. Instead, you choose a character and a motivation to make money. Then you must design your own fake news site. The game explains how you will be targeting American audiences since you will be receiving the highest amount of money per click for this audience. The more credible you can make your fake news site appear, the more game currency you receive and the closer you get to achieving your goal. Here students can take an inside look at how the minds of fake news reporters think, and discover the effectiveness of certain methods for scamming people.
Click here for the link: https://www.fakeittomakeitgame.com/
That's all for now. Have a look at these resources and please share. I have learnt so much about fake news myself. I would like to thank Lucy Valcheva for inspiring this article.