A growing number of Americans are getting their news from social media (Pew Research Poll), and increasingly, disreputable news sites are using these platforms to distribute fake news for financial profit. A key tenet of information literacy has always been the ability to evaluate sources, however the increased sophistication of fake news sites means that this skill is more important than ever.
Students don’t know what they don’t know
Credo surveyed thousands of college students and hundreds of faculty and found that students dramatically overestimate their ability to evaluate sources when compared to their professors. 54% of students felt confident that they could accurately evaluate sources; only 16% of faculty shared their optimism.
How to evaluate sources
Please feel free to share the following short video with your students and fellow educators. It outlines the five commonly used criteria for evaluating a resource: Authority, Accuracy, Currency, Relevance, and Objectivity.
As the fake news story trends across all media outlets, print, digital, real, and false, many articles have been written about how to spot fake stories (like this one from CNN). That’s all well and good for addressing our immediate concerns, however the real problem is much deeper: we aren’t doing enough to teach students information literacy and critical thinking skills. For example, the Credo survey mentioned above predates the fake news story by over a year. We will continue to be plagued by stories like this until we address the root causes for why people fall for bad information.