Why Technology Can't Win the Fight Against Fake News On Its Own

With fake internet news and hacked political campaigns in the headlines, teachers, educators, and technology gurus are pondering new pedagogical questions: How will kids discern fact from fiction in the digital age? What is opinion and what is advertising? Is messaging manipulation?

Digital literacy doesn’t guarantee media literacy; coding has nothing to do with decoding content. Just because kids are growing up with technology doesn’t mean they understand its more nefarious uses.

Let’s be clear: When I say fake news I’m not talking about different viewpoints, left versus right or Republican versus Democrat. What I mean are people who create fake stories on purpose—not as satire, either. When someone writes the sun is blowing up next week, that’s not a news story or even a polemic about climate change. That’s a fake article.

Unfortunately, because of the ease of creating what appears to be credible digital content, all sorts of nonsense often gets accepted as gospel by content consumers, especially the young. One favorite title used by fake news creators is The Denver Guardian. I live in Denver, and can tell you there is no such news outlet.

The focus in Silicon Valley these days seems to be on developing software to police the problem. But when it comes to teaching how to know truth from lies in all that students’ read, hear, and see online, are we asking too much of machines and not enough of schools, even if kids are learning differently these days and often independently, outside of the classroom?

How can we teach kids research and credibility-testing skills? How can we help them develop deeper thoughts about what it is that they’re looking for and what it means?

Being an education policy wonk, rather than a technologist, I asked an expert, Jaime Casap, the chief education evangelist for Google, about the issue. Jaime has been part of the Google for Education effort, which includes launching GSuite and Chromebooks into classrooms all over the world, since they launched the effort 10 years ago. He has been looking at a recent Stanford study that researched why kids believe fake news.

The piece originally appeared in MarketWatch. To read the entire piece, click here

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Scott Laband