NewseumED Pilots Fake News Class at Palo Alto High School

Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, Calif.

Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, Calif.

NewseumED curriculum developers will be at Palo Alto High School in California on Tuesday, May 16, to pilot their newest media literacy class, “Fighting Fake News: How to Outsmart Trolls and Troublemakers.” The class was launched at the Newseum in March in response to the “fake news” phenomenon that garnered national attention during the 2016 presidential election, and continues to be a major global concern.

Students of Esther Wojcicki, a journalism teacher at Palo Alto, provided input to NewseumED staff as they developed the class as well as a flow chart helping students determine whether a story is worth sharing by text, tweet or email.

The Newseum’s education department has been teaching media literacy for more than 20 years. The free class and flow chart are part of a yearlong roll-out of critical thinking tools to help students analyze information as the concern over fake news rises.

With more than 400,000 students visiting the museum each year and 26,000 of them taking a class, NewseumED staff noticed many students struggling to understand basic concepts of media ethics, information sources and bias. At the same time, teachers worldwide began requesting resources and information on how they could best address the “fake news” issue in their classrooms.

The visit to Palo Alto High School is part of NewseumED’s commitment to engaging students and using their unique insights to develop its educational content. Rather than a top-down approach, the NewseumED team gathers input from its Student Advisory Team and other students about their views and media consumption habits.

“Plenty of organizations are telling children how to consume news,” said Barbara McCormack, vice president of education at the Newseum. “What makes us different is that we’re going into the classrooms and listening to what students have to say, and then we’re building our curriculum around the information we learn from them.”

In NewseumED’s “Fighting Fake News” class, students dive into the complexity of digital citizenship, examining their active role in the flow of information. They peruse case studies that highlight the challenges of today’s media landscape, and explore what “fake news” means, why they should care about it, and how to consider motivations behind stories. Students leave the class as savvier news consumers.

The classes at Palo Alto High School will be held from 8:15-9:45 a.m. and 12:15-1:45 p.m. PT on Tuesday, May 16. A virtual version of this class will be available starting this fall.

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