How media literacy can help students discern fake news

JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Helping children
distinguish between false information and fact-based news, it's a distinction increasingly
a problem for adults. And, to be clear, we're referring to false
information disguised as a legitimate news story, not reporting that people dislike for
political reasons and label fake news. In Washington state, educators and media literacy
advocates have joined together with legislators to address the problem. Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza with
our partner Education Week traveled there recently. It's part of our weekly series Making the
Grade. NIAMH O'CONNELL, Teacher: This was the front
page of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Niamh O'Connell third grade
history class at Bertschi School is analyzing old news stories, looking for evidence of
bias. STUDENT: People, if they don't know how to
analyze it, will just say, oh, wow, that's true. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Fred Coddon (ph) looks at
the choice of words used in a story about Japanese internment camps during World War
II. STUDENT: Notice how they're wording it Japanese,
instead of Japanese-Americans? NIAMH O'CONNELL: What was the purpose of that? Why do they do that? STUDENT: The purpose was to say, oh, we're
not imprisoning American citizens, or, as they put it, we're not evacuating American
citizens. We're evacuating Japanese. NIAMH O'CONNELL: And why do they use the word
evacuate? KAVITHA CARDOZA: Another student also notices
the language. WILL PARSONS, Student: I saw some fake advertising
for the Japanese internment camps. They said they were assembly centers. NIAMH O'CONNELL: So they kind of made it seem
really cool, and, actually, it wasn't? WILL PARSONS: Yes. KAVITHA CARDOZA: O'Connell uses examples from
the past, so these kids can become smarter about media messages in the present, even
though they're only 8 years old. STUDENT: I want to learn how to like analyze
it myself and have my own opinion. NIAMH O'CONNELL: They soak up everything around
them. I think it's important for kids to be able
to control the interpretations that they hear and see every day, instead of the interpretations
maybe controlling them. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Recognizing bias in news
stories is one form of media literacy. Spotting when the news is entirely fabricated,
like these stories, is something else entirely. Often, these stories are designed to look
as if they come from legitimate news organizations, and are meant to be easily shared on social
media, resulting in confusion over what's real. During the recent election season, there have
been reports of a concerted effort to spread fake news, in a bid to influence public opinion. A recent Stanford University study of almost
8,000 students showed they were easily duped online. Researchers found, overall, young people's
ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word:
bleak. You have been working on media literacy for
how long? CLAIRE BEACH, Media Literacy Advocate: About
40 years. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Claire Beach is a media literacy
advocate and former teacher. She says just because kids are comfortable
with social media doesn't mean they're savvy about the information they're consuming. CLAIRE BEACH: When they're using their phones,
they may know how to make something work, but they don't have the ethical piece, the
emotional intelligence piece. It's a wilderness out there for some kids. KAVITHA CARDOZA: She's worked with lawmakers
like Democratic state Senator Marko Liias to encourage media literacy classes in grades
K through 12. MARKO LIIAS (D), Washington State Senator:
I was reading a stunning statistic that, just since 2003 to today, humanity has created
more information than we created in all of human history up until 2003. So the pace of information, the pace of data,
the pace of what our students are being exposed to is rising exponentially. KAVITHA CARDOZA: How do you convince people
that this is not about politics, this is about critical thinking? MARKO LIIAS: Both of the bills that I have
passed have had bipartisan support. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican,
right or left, we want people to go into the voting booth educated and prepared to make
the best decision for our communities. And if people can't discern fake information
from real information, that really corrodes the basic institutions of our democracy. KAVITHA CARDOZA: The law in Washington state
encourages educators to develop policies around media literacy and to share resources. It also allows districts access to federal
technology funding. This new law in Washington is being used as
a model by about a dozen other states. Advocates want to see media literacy taught
in all 50 states. JAMES STEYER, Founder and CEO, Common Sense
Media: There's clearly growing momentum to pass this kind of legislation. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Jim Steyer founded Common
Sense, one of several organizations dedicated to media literacy. NARRATOR: Here are five ways to spot fake
news. KAVITHA CARDOZA: They have also worked with
Harvard University to create free lesson plans and online resources. JAMES STEYER: The essence of media literacy
is critical thinking. Every child in America needs those skills,
particularly when they live in this 24/7 media and technology world, where they're just bombarded
with information. Oftentimes, it's inaccurate. KAVITHA CARDOZA: These students are in Catherine
Sparks' English class at Edmonds-Woodway High School. STUDENT: It's crazy how many people actually
trust these sources. STUDENT: You can't distinguish the difference
anymore. STUDENT: It can get 1,000 retweets. It is not even true. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Sparks uses the play "Hamlet"
to talk about fake news. CATHERINE SPARKS, Teacher: It's about spying
and lying and how that creates a ripe environment for the proliferation of fake news. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Sparks has created untrue
stories based on the play. CATHERINE SPARKS: In act one, scene two, when
he says oh, but this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a
dew, sure, it could be a metaphor, but Hamlet has a shocking flesh-eating illness. (LAUGHTER) CATHERINE SPARKS: Could you actually support
that with evidence from the text? Good luck. Fake news is not news you disagree with. Fake news is fabricated news. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Sparks believes letting her
students create their own fake news will teach them how to critically think through some
of the information they receive. What words are used? Who benefits? Is there any truth to the story? STUDENT: It's got to be dramatic, like, absurd
things that you're like, what? CATHERINE SPARKS: This is a juicy story right
here. STUDENT: It's entirely fabricated. CATHERINE SPARKS: What would be the outcome
of producing this story? STUDENT: If the public saw this, they're like,
oh, my gosh, there's so much drama and scandal going on. CATHERINE SPARKS: What's been the most painful
about the proliferation of fake news in the media is to watch my students start to distrust
everything. KAVITHA CARDOZA: That's exactly why state
Senator Marko Liias says media literacy is so important. MARKO LIIAS: At its bedrock, when our founding
fathers created this country, the reason why they were so committed to public education
was to make sure that we had an educated citizenry. CATHERINE SPARKS: Anything that starts with
"share if you're outraged," that's a bad sign. And outrage is just the lifeblood of fake
news. KAVITHA CARDOZA: For the "PBS NewsHour" and
Education Week, I'm Kavitha Cardoza in Seattle, Washington.

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