12 Apr 2017

Fake news is an Oxymoron and a LibGuide won’t cut it - review

Guest post by Siobhan McGuiness. Siobhan is part of team @uklibchat & @rudai23 for 2017. Siobhan has recently been appointed Chair of SLA Europe Digital Communications
Photo by Siobhan McGuinness 
Fake news is an Oxymoron and a LibGuide won’t cut it, was the title of Alan Carbery’s very popular talk recently held in the Royal Irish Academy. The talk was organised by the Library Association of Ireland
Alan began his inspirational talk about the many changes, good and bad, he has seen happen in Ireland over the last few years. His place in a liberal arts college in the U.S. allows him to keep abreast of issues such as homelessness, the marriage referendum, and abortion.

In a world where all these serious issues are at the forefront of every country, I have questions, for instance; What information is the next generation absorbing? How can teachers and librarians make sure these kids are getting the right information and a are getting a balanced view on these issues? Is the technology we are all using doing more harm than good? 

In a world where the President of the United States uses tweets to inform the world, tweets that are in so many ways contradictory, how are these kids meant to know what is true, false or even fake?

Teaching students today about credible sources needs to be more than about how to search numerous databases. Teaching students today should be about illustrating that credible and popular are two very different things. Get the student to think, are the authors credentials making it a credible source. In the same way, because it is a popular source is it a credible source? Each student should be given the tools to critically analyse the source and to be able to make that decision. Alan states that we could make Information Literacy meaningful and genuine by placing it within a real-world context. We can take our library tools and real world knowledge and use the two for good IL practice. 

So, let’s look at those real-world problems. Alan shows archival documents dating back to a time where the language used in policy documents surrounding the topic of immigration was discriminatory. He then points out how in today’s world with “a Muslim ban” being enforced in the U.S., how policy documents today are also showing this same discrimination. Showing this important information to students and allowing this conversation to take place is how we teach our students information literacy in the era of fake news.

However archival documents are not enough today. We also need to look at social media  tools like Twitter - a force / source of information that spreads ideas and knowledge - to see how we can use these tools to look at information relating to issues such as gender inequality. 

Alan sees that students want to talk about the issues that surround them. For example, explaining to students how the Spanish version of the White House website was removed soon after President Trump came to power shows them a live relevant information literacy topic in action. It shows a real-world issue of how one ethnic group is being treated in the U.S.Other examples like this can be found to teach students information literacy.

Again, students are challenged with technology. With filter bubbles they only see what the search engine thinks they want to see. This gives a narrow unchallenged view of the world. We all need to see all sides of an argument before we decide where we sit. If students are getting most of this information from the internet then how are they making informed decisions based on that information?     

The onus is on teachers, librarians, educators to bring the real world and critical information literacy together to teach our students how to make informed decisions about the information they are seeing and the issues surrounding their society.

Photo taken by @ibelle

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