“Everything is true and nothing is true”

slipperyslopeWhen I was reading the New Yorker article Obama Reckons with a Trump Presidency, I was struck by the following quote “The new media ecosystem ‘means everything is true and nothing is true’.  Actually this ecosystem is nothing new.  Educators have been struggling with reliable sources for years.  Before the Internet, librarians helped to make sure students had access to reliable sources.  Newscasters like Walter Cronkite gave us the facts, not an opinion of the facts.  I am a big fan of technology, but we have created a “don’t make me think” society as well as a society that does not trust the media. I’m guessing we all are guilty of believing something we read without checking the source. The trend for getting news from social media is increasing (News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016).  So how do we help our students with this slippery slope?  We can no longer restrict the evaluation of information to research.  Whether we are researching, reading a news article, or reading a friend’s post on Facebook, we need to question what we read.  Below are some suggestions and helpful links.

  • A few years ago, I taught a 9th grade technology class.  One of my favorite lessons was to challenge students to find something on the web that was false but looked true.  They then had to use the information on the site to convince the rest of the class that this was not a reliable source as well as find other sources (online and off-line) that provided correct information and were reliable.  This was a challenge for many students.  I recommend it not only for students but as an interesting professional development workshop for teachers.  Often we give our students and teachers a rubric for determining if a site is reliable.  This exercise helps students develop their own method for evaluating sources.
  • If you haven’t heard of Snopes, check it out.  While you still should check other resources, Snopes does do a lot of fact checking and can help clear up some postings that are nothing more than a rumor, urban legend, etc.
  • Libraries and librarians still exist!!  Encourage students to go to the library (both online and off-line) for information and do so yourself!  In my opinion, schools should require all students to have a public library card.  A public library card can be used online to access digitized reference materials.  Not sure which library website to use?  Click to see a list of the top 100 online libraries by traffic.
  • Take a look at Evaluating Websites as Information Sources and Flocabulary Source Evaluation.
  • Most importantly, be a good role model.  Question everything you read and think before you post.