2017 News Stories

‘The truth isn’t dead’ – Workshop on ‘fake news’ trend inspires teachers to educate students on media literacy

PolitiFact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman visited the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education to share with teachers from across the Tampa Bay region about the growing trend of fake news in the media and how they can increase the media literacy of their students.PolitiFact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman visited the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education to share with teachers from across the Tampa Bay region about the growing trend of fake news in the media and how they can increase the media literacy of their students.

by Abby Rinaldi

After winning PolitiFact's 2016 Lie of the Year award, fake news took the spotlight once again for "Fake News: What are the economic, social, historical, and political implications?," a free workshop for educators hosted by the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education.

The designation of fake news as the 2016 Lie of Year by PolitiFact was what originally inspired the creation of the workshop. The workshop, led by Deborah Kozdras, assistant director and chief creative officer at the Stavros Center, welcomed guest speakers Jodi Pushkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and PolitiFact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman to share with teachers from across the Tampa Bay region about the growing trend of fake news in the media and how they can increase the media literacy of their students.

For Elizabeth Shannon, a civics teacher at the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences, the workshop was a "hot topic issue" and a source of inspiration for her classroom's lesson plans, as it is directly related to her civics instruction.

"I think everybody in America on a certain level is talking about this," Shannon said.

Sharockman shared with the educators in the audience about the origin and goals of PolitiFact as an organization and about how PolitiFact chooses the facts they rate and the ratings they give them. Sharockman said he and his organization have had a busy couple of years, especially during the 2016 presidential election.

"2016 indeed was a remarkable year as a fact-checker," Sharockman said.

Sharockman said he feels society has been "post-fac"t for a while, going as far back in history as comments made by President Ronald Reagan. But, he said, this is why fact-checking matters.

Fact checking at PolitiFact involves asking the person who made the statement in question about where they received their information, and also includes a consultation of experts in various topic areas along with a thorough analysis of what the person meant when they made the original statement. After explaining the fact-checking process utilized by PolitiFact, Sharockman had attendees try out the team's methods for themselves.

The workshop also provided teachers with strategies for incorporating different media literacy exercises into their curriculum. Sharockman encouraged teachers to promote media literacy in their students by motivating them to look to other media sources, even if that search is through social media. Kozdras suggested teachers have their students complete case studies on fake news events to see how quickly "fake news" can become something much bigger, and lead to consequences.

"One lie to another lie, telephone goes really fast," Kozdras said.

Kozdras also suggested teachers use fake news to show the power of decision making in economics and the power of decision making in general — one of those decisions being whether or not to share the possibly fake news they come across, especially when on social media.

"What we want our kids to do is to slow down their thinking," Kozdras said.

Attendee Angel Danger, the math and science partnership coordinator for the Hillsborough Country Public Schools, said she feels it is important to be able to know the difference between real and fake news herself so she doesn't teach students the wrong thing.

"If I'm going to teach someone something, I want to be able to distinguish truth from fiction," Danger said. "... It's important for people to be able to figure out what's true and what's not."

About the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education:

The Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education works to advance the effective teaching and integration of free enterprise, financial literacy and economic education into the K-20 curricula. To learn more about upcoming workshops and events, please visit the Stavros Center website.