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According to Statista, an unbiased website with a trove of statistics, a March 2019 survey about whether U.S. adults have ever knowingly or unknowingly shared fake news or information online found that ten percent of respondents admitted to sharing a news story online which they knew was made up, and 49 percent of surveyed adults had shared news which they later found out to be false.
The Cambridge Dictionary describes fake news as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.” This type of misinformation can be seen as potentially dangerous, so learning how to avoid it can be beneficial.
Emily Moran, assistant professor and instructional services librarian at Lycoming College’s Snowden Library, recently guided two groups of students on how to find legitimate online articles and be aware of so-called “fake news.” These informational sessions were done as part of Snowden Library’s Instruction Program.
The two sessions were attended by the students of Business 244, “Management Organizational Behavior,” and Business 310, “Human Resource Management.” Both courses are taught by Elena Belogolovsky, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of business administration, who contacted Moran about setting up a library instruction for her students to properly assess news sources. “Professors don’t always have the time to include these workshops in their classes, so I really appreciate when I have these opportunities,” said Moran.
The library instruction included information and practice activities that offered students multiple ways to evaluate news sources. Moran had both business classes compare three news articles that were about the same story, and students evaluated the news articles for credibility and bias. In addition, she showed the students websites that help one determine a newspaper’s political bias. Altogether, these websites guide students along the process of being able to distinguish legitimate information from illegitimate or heavily biased information. “We want to teach our students to use tools that will help them think critically,” added Moran.
In addition to being useful for student research, Moran also believes the instruction has beneficial applications for real-life. “They were given the tools that they need to evaluate news sources, and not just for their classes, but in the real world, to identify what’s real from what’s fake,” said Moran. “They’re not just taking what they see at face value. They’re doing some critical thinking about what they’re finding on social media.”
Moran’s instructional session on evaluating news sources was made possible by the Snowden Library’s Instruction Program. This program supports the educational mission of Lycoming College to graduate information-literate adults through the integration of library instruction across the curriculum. Working together with faculty, the program promotes critical thinking and challenges learners to consider themselves as active participants in scholarly conversations. Through one-on-one appointments with librarians and in-class information literacy workshops, learners identify, select, evaluate, create, and ethically use information in their academic careers and in their personal lives, establishing themselves as lifelong learners in society.