Resources to Help Identify Fake News & Misleading Websites

Fake news isn't a new concept, but over the year it has been getting a lot more "press." So much attention, that the term 'fake news' is becoming a common household phrase. Fake news is considered a type of propaganda that deliberately sets out to share misinformation with the public, whether it be in print or online. 

In addition, hoax websites exist containing information on completely made up topics. There are also websites designed by people to completely mislead the public on a topic by providing unsubstantiated and/or one-sided information.

While the United States was built upon the notion of freedom of speech, we also need to educate ourselves that not everything we read is valid or true. Do the vast majority of people know a fake news story or misleading website when they encounter one? Or are people reading articles/websites, interpreting them as true, and unintentionally spreading misleading or false information to friends and family?

What Makes a Site Credible
I won't lie that it takes work to determine the validity of a website. But the work definitely pays off. While some educators and students use strategies, such as the C.R.A.A.P. method, I personally ask myself the following questions:
  1. Who is the author and source of the information? 
  2. What date was the website created and when was the last time information was updated?
  3. What type of domain is the website? Is it a .com, .org., or .net that can be purchased by individuals? Is it a .edu that is reserved for colleges and universities? Is it a .gov that is reserved for government websites?
  4. Does the website cite reliable sources?
  5. Is the website well-designed and professional looking?
  6. What is the writing style of the website and is it free from spelling and grammatical errors?
  7. Does the website contain any disclaimers about the validity of the information? Check out the Federalist Tribune disclaimer. It states 'All the information on this website is published in good faith, entertainment and for general information purpose only. federalisttribune.com does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.' If the website can not confirm its reliability, then this is not a website I want to use as factual information. 

Know the Author
It is important to do your research to learn about the owner and author of a website/news article in order to better understand the purpose of the information. 

With news articles, if the author's name is not readily available, then that is a huge red flag. And if the author's name is available, is it a credible source. Conducting a quick search usually gives you some insight to the author. 

With websites, sometimes you can't find the name of the registrant, so using resources such as whois.domaintools.com or easywhois makes it easy to find the information. Conducting a quick search using these sites will provide you with information, such as the registrant's name, organization (if applicable), date the website was created, location of registrant, and more. After you have the registrants name and/or organization, you can do a quick search to gain more information about the person. 

One of my favorite websites to have people conduct a domain search on is martinlutherking.org. We are often told that we can trust websites that end in .org, but in some cases it can be owned by a non-profit organization with a hidden agenda. Use the steps below to find out more on who owns and operates the martinlutherking.org website. Follow these steps to conduct the search:
  1. Go to whois.domaintools.com 
  2. Enter martinlutherking.org in ‘Enter a domain or IP address’ field.
  3. Make note of the Registrant’s Name and Organization
  4. Conduct a search to find out more information about the the registrant
After you do the search and discover the owner of the site, check your research against this information to see if you uncovered the real truth. Were you surprised by who owns and operates the website? Does the information change your view regarding the validity of the website? How can you use this exercise with students? If your district blocks the martinlutherking.org website, as mine does, you can demonstrate the domain search tools using this site for the students and then have them research about the author. Then have them conduct their own domain search using another chosen website. 

Resources Identifying Fake News Sources
Below are sources which contain lists of websites that have been tagged as being fake or satirical news.

In addition, here are some known hoax websites that can be used to practice website evaluation skills:
Chrome Extensions
Chrome extensions, found in the webstore, are small programs that add additional functionality to your Chrome web browser experience. The following extensions can be used to help initially identify whether or not a website has been tagged as poor or misleading information. 

WOT (Web of Trust)everyday users rate websites based on trustworthiness and child safety. When you click on a website that has been rated poor or very poor, you will receive a pop-up warning. Here is a link to a previous blog post with more information. 



StackUp - notifies you of a possible fake news (misleading information) website through a 'Be a Critical Thinker' header pop-up. Here is a link to a previous blog post with more information. 


  

Game Play
Factitious is an online game that tests your ability to identify a real vs. fake news story. The game can be played independently or the teacher can project the articles and have students work in partners to discuss the article. Have them use different colored sheets of paper to denote whether they believe the story to be real or fake. While the game alone won't educate us, we can use it as a way start identifying common characteristics of fake news stories. A nice feature of the game is the ability see the source of the article. Knowing the source of an article can play a key role in helping us determine the validity of the information. 

 



Breaking News Headline Generator

Class Tools Breaking News Headline Generator is fun creative way for students to showcase understanding on a given concept. The tool has nine different background images (see choices below) or you can upload your own image. 

I love Will Farrell, so of course I had to choose his background for my breaking news headline. 



Think of an upcoming unit and incorporate this tool as a way for students to check their understanding. Students can create a headline on:

  • a story they wrote
  • a characters perspective or mood on a topic
  • an event in a historical figures life
  • a national event 
  • understanding of a given prompt
  • opposing headlines from different political parties over the same event
  • and so much more...
Here are the existing background choices:




Design Virtual Trips with Google Tour Builder

Tour Builder, a free Google tool, that allows users to build virtual trips showcasing text, images, and videos. Here is an example for the book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. 

Here are a few suggestions for using the tool:

  • their community
  • path taken by a historical figure or event
  • locations from a book
  • highlighting math in the world
  • various landforms or biomes 


Check out my tutorial for more information:





Google Classroom Tutorial with Teacher and Student Views

Here is my Google Classroom tutorial that has both a teacher and student view. I am constantly adding and changing the views based on Google updates, so check back regularly. 



Click here to view resource in full screen.


10 Ways Students Can Use Instagram in the Classroom (with templates)

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media tools out there. Below is a chart from The Statistics Portal on the growth of users over the last few years. 

Many of the users are the students in our classrooms. I work at a high school and the two applications I see used the most by students are Snapchat and Instagram. Images are their world. They can tell full stories just with emojis alone. Below are 10 ways students can use Instagram (or a template) to showcase information: 

Image
Text Included
Selfie
Introduce self to the class, including likes and dislikes
Historical figure
His/her response to a modern day event/issue
Character from novel
Bio or his/her perspective on an issue
Math/Science concept in the world
How it feels about being used in the world
Cover of a book
Summary of a chapter or entire novel
Personal artwork
Artist statement showcasing written description of the work
Reenactment of historical event
Explanation of historical event depicted in image
Science experiment
Documenting the process taking place in an experiment
Selfie
His/her opinion on a given topic, event, book, movie, etc.
Random image
Create a 6-10 word story about image


If you are using Instagram, make sure that you give them a classroom hashtag to tag their posts. This will make it easier for you to review their work. If you have students who don't have Instagram or don't want to use it for class, here are Google Slides Instagram templates you can use. You will need to be logged into your Google account to access and it will force you to make a copy. 





Google Classroom Question Feature - Instant Small Group Instruction Groupings


In Google Classroom, create a multiple choice question for the students to answer. Design the answer choices based on common misconceptions. Post the question for students to answer during the first or last few minutes of class. Using the sort feature, get a list of students for each answer choice. Use this list to instantly have the small groups you need to pull.

Steps:
  • Click on the title of the question posted to view the student answers page.  
  • Click on ‘sort by status’ and select ‘sort by answer.’
  • This will create headers for each of the answer choices with a list of students under each one.


StackUp Chrome Extension: Fake News Warning, Web Page Reading Level, and More

I just recently learned about the StackUp Chrome Extension and highly recommend it for any teacher and/or student.  

Purpose of the Chrome Extension:
  • Tracks your online reading time


  • Notifies you of a possible fake news (misleading information) website through a 'Be a Critical Thinker' header pop-up. 
  • Measures the reading Level of any webpage


  • See the average reading level of the websites you visit (on your Dashboard)




Installation:


  • Agree to the terms by clicking on 'Add extension'



  • Keep the extension enabled as you visit websites. 

After the extension is installed, use the American News website, which is known to be fake news, to view the 'Be a Critical Thinker' header. When the header appears on a website it doesn't identify the misleading information, but informs you as a reader to be mindful of the credibility of the source. 



Checkmark Chrome Extension - Feedback Tool for Student Writing


Check out the new Checkmark Chrome extension from the EdTechTeam. It allows teachers, or peer editors, to provide feedback to a student's document, without telling them exactly how to change the writing. Instead it alerts the student of a potential error and puts the correction back on the student.

The Checkmark Chrome extension allows a teacher, or peer, to provide feedback to a student’s writing quickly and easily.

Access the above image here

Steps for using the extension:
  1. Install the Chrome extension
  2. Enable it on your bookmark bar  
  3. Open a document you have editing or commenting rights to
  4. Highlight a word, phrase, or sentence on the document
  5. Use the toolbar to provide appropriate feedback. 
  6. The feedback will be displayed as a comment for the students. 





Secondary Math Card Sorts with Desmos

Card sorts are a good way for students to interact with their learning by grouping concepts that relate to one another, such as vocabulary, geometric figures, graphs, functions, etc. In addition to the sort, it is always best to add high-order questions to engage the students into explaining their reasoning for the groupings. 

Desmos, which started as an online graphing calculator, has advanced into interactive activities, with already made content for: conics, exponential, expressions, functions, inequalities, linear, linear systems, modeling, quadratics, and transformations. 

In the past, I have made all of my card sorts using Google Slides and I will continue for non-math related content. For math, however, I will use the card sorting feature in Desmos, which I learned about from an amazing colleague, Meghan Hill.

Here is a quick video from Desmos that shows how it works. 








Cropping YouTube (Or Google Drive) Videos in Google Slides

Google Slides has video options available, so when you put in a YouTube or Google Drive video you have the ability to have only a select portion of that video play. Here is a quick two minute tutorial on how to make it happen. 

Video was made quickly...so no judgement. ;-)




Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are a great way to discover how students are feeling about a lesson and what concepts they understand or still struggle understanding. Here are three different Google Form exit ticket templates you can use with your students. 

Template #1: Make a Copy Here

Template #2: Make a Copy Here


Template #3: Make a Copy Here



Creative Expression Ideas for Writing

Writing doesn't always mean full essays or research papers. In fact, writing should be taking place in all content areas and should surface in many different forms. Here are some fun creative expression ideas students can use to showcase their learning. 





If you have additional ideas, include them in the comments. 

Graphic Organizers with Templates

There are various types of graphic organizers that students can and should be using to process information. The organizer teachers select, or students select themselves, depends on the type of processing expected to take place.  

Here is a non-exhaustive list of different graphic organizer types with templates you can make a copy of and use with students.



Type & Description
Possible uses
Organizer Templates
Brainstorming - processing information prior to or just after learning
  • identify prior knowledge
Cause and Effect -
shows the relationship between two or more ideas, concepts, topics, etc.
  • addressing cause and effect
  • analyze characters or events
  • analyze stories
  • identify the impact on an event or experiment.
Compare/Contrast - identify the similarities and differences between two or more concepts.
  • comparing and contrasting stories, characters, topics, concepts, terms, etc.
Concept Map - central idea with corresponding characteristics.
  • brainstorming
  • identifying relationships
  • making connections
Flow Diagram or Sequence Chart - shows a series of events or steps in an order.
  • outlining key events,
  • procedures
  • timelines


Main Idea and Details - shows relationship between major concept and supporting elements
  • identifying main central idea and supporting details of a reading or movie.
  • summarizing


Semantic - shows relationships between words and meanings - shows relationships between words and meanings
  • identifying meaning of a vocabulary word
  • connecting words, meanings, and visual representations.