There was a call this week from Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills, for children to be taught, in school, how to recognise fake news.
Absolutely bang on!
Working out what’s real and what isn’t is a vital skill, and it always has been, and that’s what school – if it’s about anything – is about.
So the problem isn’t a new one. What is new, is the fact that news is no longer controlled by a small group of individuals with their own agendas. It used to be that children (and adults) could learn to filter their news just by looking at the masthead at the top of a page, and adjust their expectations accordingly – If it says “The Guardian” at the top, you can expect different prejudices than if it says “The Sun”. And, of course, whatever, it says at the top, you can expect that somebody, somewhere is going to sue, or at least complain to a regulator with teeth, if those prejudices get too out of hand.
With social media, that’s all gone now, and you can’t tell instantly where your news comes from, or what level of rigor has been applied to it before its originator hit the “send” button.
You’d think that would make fake news harder to spot. However, the truth is, it’s never been easier to spot lies. Put any news story into Google, and you can, in about a minute, find out whether it’s real, and even trace it back to its original sources.
Showing children how to do this should be pretty easy. In fact, I’m going to come up with a workshop/game to take around schools to help children navigate what’s real and what isn’t.
Any teachers interested in this? drop me a message