MODULE 2 - DECRYPTING INFORMATION
SESSION 3 : INFORMATION AND DISINFORMATIONPractical activities
ACTIVITY 1 – Separating truth from fiction: fake news or real news?
Computer, internet connection, video projector (optional)
The aim of this activity is to teach students to use fact-checking tools and encourage them to ask the right questions when they encounter sensationalist news.
In the activity, they are shown a number of online articles and news items and asked to identify which ones have been manipulated and can be classified as ‘fake news’ and which ones are real, verified news. Finally, they are asked to describe the fake news by answering a few questions intended to open a more general discussion on how information is manipulated.
- The fact-checking can be done individually or in groups.
- The articles can be provided to participants directly on their computers (by USB flash drive or email) or displayed on a screen with a video projector (participants then must find the article first before deciding whether or not it is fake news).
1. Collect articles: For this activity, finding and selecting the articles is an important step since the activity’s success hinges on it. The articles presented need to make students use their analytical, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. It is recommended that you use real news items that are relatively surprising or even sensationalist to show participants that it is not always easy to tell the difference, thus making them really think critically. It is also preferable to choose a variety of fake news items, such as one scientific story, one political item, one bit of celebrity gossip, etc. Ideally the number of articles to be analysed should not exceed 6 so as to not overburden the students.
2. Set up the room: Seat students in front of computers either individually or in groups.
3. Pass out the articles: Participants will then receive the articles they are to analyse to determine which category they fit into (fake news or real, verified, and reliable news).
4. Verification: Participants check facts and apply journalistic methods (see ‘SHEET 7 – Thinking critically about information’). You can present these methods prior to the activity or let participants verify the information in the manner of their choosing. Students may come up with this method naturally. However, if the methodology is not explained before the activity, it is important to go over it at the end. Furthermore, since there are now a large number of fact-checking websites, some fake news items will probably already have been checked. Participants may use these sites but need to understand how the information was verified and, if the item is fake, which procedure was used.
5. Presentation: Once they have finished, each participant presents their ‘fake news or not fake news’ ratings. You can show the articles on a screen and let the groups say ‘fake news’ for the fake news items and ‘not fake news’ for the non-fakes. Depending on which ones participants get wrong, you will need to figure out where they went wrong and correct them. You can also vary how you correct their work, such as asking participants to move to different parts of the room depending on their answer (those who think it is fake news stand on the right, the others on the left). Another idea is to give the students coloured sheet of paper to hold up depending on their answers (red for fake news, green for articles that have been verified).
6. Wrap up: Afterwards, to push students to think more about the subject and open up a discussion, it is recommended that you ask them a few questions, for example:
- What was the intent behind the fake news items (scam, inciting hatred, promoting someone, influencing elections, etc.)
- What methods were used in the fake news items (doctored images, decontextualisation, distorting a real news item, etc.)?
- Did it take very long to check? Could you do the same thing in your daily life?
These questions can serve to introduce other concepts presented in the lesson sheets, such as fact-checking.
DOING THIS ACTIVITY ONLINE
- The teacher creates a link on the videoconferencing platform Zoom and sends it to students (teachers can also use other platforms that they are familiar with).
- Once everyone is in the same ‘virtual meeting room’, the teacher puts the students into groups.
- The teacher assigns the articles to the groups.
- The groups leave the main meeting room and enter ‘breakout rooms’ (this is an option on Zoom), where the groups do their web searches and categorise the articles as either ‘fake news’ or ‘reliable, verified news’. Each member can work independently and communicate with other members through the chat function or via videoconference.
- Correction is done in the main ‘meeting room’. This is when group spokespeople, previously selected by the teacher, give their answers and explanations on behalf of the group.
- The teacher can then base the discussion on what the students got wrong and bring up the topic of fake news, how it is made and shared, and its aims and impact.