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Newsela Commits to Helping Students Decipher ‘Fake News’

Newsela Commits to Helping Students Decipher ‘Fake News’

Educational technology company Newsela is committed to helping schools nurture media literate students.

By providing teachers with primary sources and articles available in five adaptive reading levels, Newsela helps engage students in current events to keep them informed and empower them to find their voice within the classroom and beyond.

Thanks to partnerships with renowned content providers like the Washington Post, Scientific American, the Guardian and Tribune Content Agency, Newsela is able to provide students with some of the most reliable content available.

But the people of Newsela have acknowledged that outside of their trusted content—students are going to be exposed to "fake news."

Fake news has become a focal point of this election season after millions of people fell prey to manufactured content via sensational headlines that were easily shared through social media channels. Fake news became so widely circulated, in fact, that it’s estimated fake news stories out-circulated real news in the final months of the election. 

And just last week, Stanford University released the results of a study of 8,000 U.S. students that determined "many students are unaware of basic conventions for indicating verified digital information."

To address concerns like these, Newsela announced a partnership with the American Press Institute to teach the next generation of media consumers how to spot bias, inaccuracy and overall unreliability when fake news starts trending.

Newsela is now integrating the six basic questions that the American Press Institute believes every young reader should begin asking when they encounter news:

  1. Type: What kind of content is this—news, opinion, advertising or something else? 
  2. Source: Who and what are the sources cited, and why should I believe them? 
  3. Evidence: What’s the evidence and how was it vetted? 
  4. Interpretation: Is the main point of the piece backed up by the evidence?
  5. Completeness: What’s missing? 
  6. Knowledge: Is there an issue here that I want to learn more about, and where can I do that?

To help students ask these questions and therefore critically think while reading, Newsela has developed a Media Literacy Toolkit that helps teachers direct meaningful discussions about things like what kind of impact an image in an article has and why an author chooses specific details, quotes and language in his or her article. 

The toolkit also encourages teachers to let students act as journalists and write a news story to understand the importance of distinguishing between fact and opinion in their own writing.

"These resources ensure that any student, no matter his or her reading level, is equipped with the necessary tools to analyze the media and its messages," said Katie Kutsko, the American Press Institute’s primary coordinator of youth news literacy programs, in a statement.

"And once students are better able to evaluate media based on reliability and accuracy, they’ll be able to apply these skills beyond the classroom for years to come," she said.

In accompaniment of these tools, Newsela has articles available on its site for students to read that specifically address the “fake news” phenomenon, like the one titled "Facebook, Google strike back against websites pushing false information” created by the Washington Post and adapted by the Newsela team. According to the Newsela team, more related news items are coming later this week.

Find out more about Newsela’s efforts to help teachers teach students media literacy here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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