How schools can combat fake news through critical literacy

The Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools, published its Fake news and critical literacy: final report yesterday. It is a must-read for teachers and school leaders, writes Sarah Horrocks, director of London Connected Learning Centre.

Key findings are that only 2% of children aged 5-16 have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake, half are worried about not being able to spot fake news and two-thirds now trust the news less as a result of fake news.

We encourage children to learn to question what they see – whether it’s a photoshopped image or an unofficial website  pretending to be the ‘real’ one – and start to unpick the layers of truth and reliability they come across online.

 

At London CLC we recognise these findings from our work with schools, where we tackle critical literacy and help children navigate the online world with a critical eye.

While online safety has long been a key topic, over the past couple of years we’ve been urging schools to incorporate a broader focus on digital citizenship and criticality of information. We run a number of professional learning sessions for teachers and headteachers alerting them of the growing crisis around social media and political manipulation, and the duty of schools to prepare young people with the critical literacy skills they need to function safely and effectively in an online world.

Our Fake News workshops with primary school children are particularly important right now. In those workshops, through discussion, we encourage children to learn to question what they see – whether it’s a photoshopped image or an unofficial website  pretending to be the ‘real’ one – and start to unpick the layers of truth and reliability they come across online. A key feature of our workshops is enabling children to create their own spoof news stories using HTML, demonstrating just how easy it is to publish something that can look convincing.

We’re delighted to see that our Fake News workshops fulfil all of the Commission’s five recommendations in the report: that children

  • Be given opportunities to practise their critical literacy skills in real-life digital environments.
  • Understand how the news is made in order to develop critical thinking skills and the ability to spot fake news stories.
  • Be encouraged and supported to talk about the news they read at home and with their peers.
  • Have the critical literacy skills they need to navigate the digital world and question the information they find online.
  • Have the right to access accurate news from trustworthy media companies and have opportunities to discuss and contextualise them.

At London CLC we encourage all teachers and school leaders to read Fake news and critical literacy: final report, to check out the great critical literacy resources for teachers on the National Literacy Trust site and find out more about our Fake News workshops.

  • For more detail on London CLC’s professional learning sessions around critical literacy skills and fake news, please contact James Goddard: jgoddard@londonclc.org.uk
  • For expert comment on the Commission on Fake News report and teaching critical literacy in schools, please contact Sarah Horrocks: shorrocks@londonclc.org

 

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