In today’s day and age, you can’t go a day without hearing some new rumour or supposed news story. Even real news stories can have a twist of fake-ness to them. So how does one educate the citizens of tomorrow how to distinguish between real and fake? Students are bombarded with advertisements, viral videos and countless media outlets on a daily basis. It is then vitally important to challenge them to be critical about what they read.
One way of doing this, is teaching them the proper way to research. I often do this in my ELA B30 classes where my students are in charge of researching a global issue via TED.com. They need to discuss their issue and present relevant information for the class and also come up with viable solutions for this global catastrophe. I encourage students
to find something they are passionate about and in most cases they do. I’ve had topics such as Blackfish, global warming, overpopulation, refugees and war, and poverty. These are REAL issues and my students gladly teach the class about why we need to act now! Of course, with these issues comes two very different sides. So, we discuss how to find credible sources, what types of things to look for in a valid website or post. We discuss finding said information in more than one place and making sure as Alec Couros said in class, “take the emotions out of the equation.” When people are revved up about an issue, it is human nature to find information that justifies our way of thinking and not information that challenges it. Coralee discusses in her blog this week a lot about the Trump government and his accusations that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is soliciting fake news. She also makes an excellent point that someone is obviously believing this fake news. To avoid this myself, I encourage my students to look at both sides. What are the arguments for? What are the arguments against? How can they challenge these points appropriately and rebuttal? The biggest challenge in teaching my students to think critically is getting them to remove their emotions from the situation.
The same works for day to day teachings. It’s not something I intrinsically do but it’s something that when the opportunity comes up that I take advantage of. It could be as simple as a rumour they heard at school. If a student confides in me, I ask them “how do you know it’s true?” It often gets them to pause and think about the source of
information, even if it’s for just a second. These little teachable moments are what matters the most because it teaches students to not only think for themselves, but it asks them to question the status quo and think about everything that they learn and hear. In class if a student brings up a question and one I do not know for sure, I ask students to google the answer; but not just one student, a few. This creates discussion around the answers they find as they criticize each other’s responses. Whose answer is right? Are they all right? Is there a combination that is correct? What sources did they use? These lessons are the most important and they aren’t something that can be structured, only molded into a lesson given the right circumstances.
As for myself, I try to read many different sources on a certain topics before deciding on a correct answer. It is more time consuming but then I can feel confident in the knowledge I am acquiring. I recently watched “What the Health?” a documentary on Netflix about the meat and dairy industry in the United States. What I learned on the documentary was enough to make me give up meat forever. However, I realized that the story was completely focused on veganism the entire time. Never bringing up the flaws in its own diet. After thinking about the documentary a little more, I started analyzing it and discussing it with a few of my friends. And then my search took me online to a plethora of resources both crediting and discrediting the documentary. My head was spinning with information. In the end, I did not give up meat or dairy because for one, I enjoy both of these things and come on, like I’m going to give up pizza! This is just one example of debates online and my approach to critically analyzing what I read and see in this world full of information. It is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, but it just takes practice to cut through the fluff and hopefully find at least a version of the truth you can feel satisfied with!