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Fake News & the Importance of Information Literacy

 “If you have a society where people can’t agree on basic facts,
how do you have a functioning democracy?”
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron

ProQuest recently surveyed 217 librarians from university, community college, high school and public libraries in North America for their views and insights on information literacy. While 83% of librarians surveyed agree that information literacy affects college graduation rates and 97% believe that it contributes to success in the workforce, only 21% think that their users recognize information literacy’s effect on lifelong success, and 44% believe that their library does not support information literacy instruction as much as it should. Read a report on the full results of ProQuest’s 2016 Information Literacy Survey.

 What Is Fake News?

Although there are many definitions of fake news, the main characteristic is that it is created with an intent to deceive or mislead. Many fake news items are either largely or completely fictitious, and deliberately so. These stories imitate the look and style of real news articles, and they are published on sites designed to imitate established newspaper websites or political blogs, often with closely-related, similar or slightly misspelled domain names.

Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable. She tags the sites by category–false, misleading, unreliable, clickbait, satire, bias, hate, conspiracy theories, junk science, or sometimes a combination of several categories.

How Does Fake News Spread?

Most web publishers define their success by the amount of traffic their sites receive. They use this information to attract and bill advertisers based on the numbers of “clicks” or “hits” their site generates. Sometimes, the factual information or foundation of the article is not as important as the number of page views, because these can be used to generate more revenue from potential advertisers.

News sharing has become popular because people affirm their identities and affiliations by posting links to articles that reflect and support their own existing opinions and beliefs, and fake news stories are often strongly biased. Sometimes a story that was intended as satire circulates as factual information, or false information can originate when regular people who are misinformed post on social media sites. Web site owners can also pay a fee to have their site’s search results shown in top placement on the results page of different search engines.

Sharing fake news articles pushes them higher up in search result pages, causing others to come across them quickly and trust the content. This is supported by a study conducted at Northwestern University, where 102 college students went online to answer questions about topics relevant to them. How did the students assess the credibility of online content? When using a search engine, many students clicked on the first search result. They ignored the sponsoring organization and the article’s author, blindly trusting the search engine to put the most reliable results first.

Why Is Fake News Harmful?

Prior to the internet age, people relied on information in printed form–newspapers, magazines, journals, books, encyclopedias–or they watched the nightly television news. Doing any type of extensive research usually required a trip to the library to find the resources needed. The internet and social media have made it far easier for powerful entities to directly and quickly spread false or misleading information far and wide. One of the most troubling and dangerous aspects of fake news is the prevalence of private groups pushing their own agendas under the appearance of seemingly unbiased news.

An analysis by the digital media powerhouse BuzzFeed News found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook during the final three months of the 2016 presidential election campaign than reports from 19 major news outlets (including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News) combined.

The recent rise in fake news sites underscores the importance of teaching students independent research and critical thinking skills. It’s not enough to tell them to only use the school’s databases–they must learn how to evaluate the sources they find in the collective media sphere, including both print and digital sources. In its position statement on media literacy, the National Council for the Social Studies, an organization that supports social studies education in U.S. K-12 and higher education, argues that it’s important that students be able to “ask key questions, compare competing claims, assess credibility, and reflect on one’s own process of reasoning,” whether they are reading a printed book, a newspaper article or a Facebook post.

Are your students equipped with the information literacy skills to identify fake news? ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Mauritius

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

The new Mauritius report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Mauritius:

  • The dodo—a flightless bird native to Mauritius—became extinct in the 17th century. The dodo only existed in Mauritius.
  • Mauritius Island is around 8 million years old, which is rather young in geological time.
  • Several different types of giant tortoise used to live in Mauritius but have now become extinct.
  • Mauritian ships are sometimes attacked by modern-day pirates in the Indian Ocean; Mauritius began holding court trials for pirates in 2013.

Read about Mauritian séga music and explore the fascinating history of Mauritius in this new report.

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: National Poverty in America Awareness Month

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson introduced War on Poverty legislation in his annual State of the Union address. He emphasized improved education as one of the foundations of the program. On August 20, 1964, he signed a $947.5 million antipoverty bill that was intended to help more than 30 million U.S. citizens.

Signing of the EOA

LBJ Signing Economic Opportunity Act of 1964
By US Government (LBJ Library) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Poverty in America Awareness Month promotes knowledge and understanding of the realities of poverty in the United States. According to the U. S. Census Bureau in 2015, more than 43 million Americans–13.5 percent of the population–lived in poverty. Reasons are complex and multifaceted and the effects on the nation are immense.

Building in Odessa, Minnesota

Building in Odessa, Minnesota
Photo by Greg Gjerdingen via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

January’s Discoverer Spotlight of the Month explores the issue poverty in the United States. Use this month as an opportunity to examine poverty and perhaps even get involved in local anti-poverty campaigns. Direct your students to featured articles, images and websites to understand the many causes and ramifications of poverty. Dig deeper by researching the devastating Great Depression and the current impact of poverty on youth and families. Explore the Pro/Con Leading Issues: Poverty page as it highlights content for young researchers.

For more in-depth information:
Poverty USA
National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)
Talk Poverty

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: New Caledonia

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of New Caledonia via CultureGrams

The new New Caledonia report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about New Caledonia:

  • British Captain James Cook named New Caledonia after the Latin name for Scotland.
  • New Caledonia has a quarter of the world’s nickel, which is used in cell phones, kitchen tools, medical equipment, and buildings.
  • For 40 years, the capital city of Nouméa was a penal colony (place to exile prisoners). It also served as a U.S. military headquarters in the South Pacific during World War II.
  • New Caledonia is home to the largest species of tree fern in the world. They are so large they look like palm trees.

Read about the native Kanak people, traditional foods, and games and sports, all in this colorful new report.

Top Trending Pro/Con Leading Issues of 2016

2016. What a year. Let’s take a look at some of the pro/con Leading Issues that dominated SIRS Issues Researcher’s featured trending list in 2016.

In 2017, ProQuest editors will continue to create new Leading Issues and update existing ones.

As always, we thank you for your support, and we look forward to serving you and your students in 2017 and beyond.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher? Request a free trial.

Fake News: Teaching Students to Evaluate Sources

In an era where students search for information online via search engines and social media, they need the ability to identify and distinguish reputable sources from deceptive sources. In other words, they need to be able to tell the difference between real and fake news. A November 2016 study from Stanford researchers has concluded that students are not prepared.

Our “digital natives” may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped.--“Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning,” Stanford History Education Group

Source Evaluation Aid Available in ProQuest Research Companion

Source Evaluation Aid Available in ProQuest Research Companion

ProQuest Research Companion is here to help. Equip students with information literacy skills through self-paced learning modules, assessments, and tools such as the Source Evaluation Aid. The embedded video above is an example of the material available in the evaluating sources learning module.

ProQuest’s Guided Research products such as CultureGrams, eLibrary, and SIRS Issues Researcher offer authoritative content that is vetted and packaged for middle and high school students. Besides reliable information and tools, you can also find supplementary handouts to guide students step by step such as the SIRS Issues Researcher: Research Guide for the Critical Thinker.

Don’t have ProQuest Research Companion or other Guided Research products? Request a Free Trial!

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Comoros

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

comoros-flag

Flag of Comoros via CultureGrams

The new Comoros report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Comoros:

  • Comoros is one of the top two producers of vanilla in the world (second to Madagascar).
  • The name Comoros came from the Arabic word qamar, meaning “moon”
  • Arab slave traders used Comoros as a base for transporting African slaves as early as the 16th century.
  • Comoros has one of the largest populations of the coelacanth fish, once called a “living fossil” because it was thought to have become extinct more than 65 million years ago, until it was rediscovered in the 20th century.

Read about local Comorian games and sports, as well as musical instruments and styles, all in this colorful new report.

CultureGrams: New Kosovo Interviews Added!

kosovointerviews

In November, we added interviews from Kosovo to our CultureGrams Interviews collection! There are four interviews, and each captures different viewpoints about life in Kosovo from people of various ages living in diverse parts of the country:

These interviews by country natives are not only interesting and fun to read, but they also give students insider knowledge into what life and culture in the country are really like.

Here’s an example from the interview with Blerona, in which she talks about what being a citizen of Kozovo means to her:

kosovobleronaBeing a citizen of my country means that I belong somewhere. I’m from Kosovo, a country that has suffered a lot from wars and poverty. There is a lot to fix here. I still believe that one day I will be truly proud of my country. For the moment, there is a lot of corruption here, and the youth have problems finding jobs. As a future student, I want my studies to not be worthless, and I want to be able to have good work prospects.

Find more interviews from countries all over the world in the CultureGrams Interviews gallery!

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: São Tomé and Príncipe

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

F;ag of São Tomé and Príncipe via CultureGrams

Flag of São Tomé and Príncipe via CultureGrams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new São Tomé and Príncipe report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some fascinating Did You Knows about São Tomé and Príncipe:

  • São Tomé and Príncipe is Africa’s second-smallest country by population.
  • The country’s islands are actually extinct (not active) volcanoes.
  • The island of São Tomé is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of the island of Príncipe.
  • São Tomé and Príncipe was one of the first African countries to grow cocoa, which was introduced by the Portuguese in the 18th century.

Find out about popular children’s games on the islands, read about traditional street plays, and discover what life is like as a kid, all in this colorful new report.

Training for Your ProQuest Resources

Libraries see surge in e-book demandDon’t forget that ProQuest provides free training.  Our Training and Consulting Partners team is available at any time to meet with you via a privately scheduled webinar.  Just email us to make an inquiry.  We also provide regularly scheduled public webinars.  You can contact our team to discuss your questions about ProQuest resources, and we are also happy to focus privately scheduled sessions on topic areas of particular interest to you. 

This is just one of the many benefits you derive from licensure to your ProQuest resources!

 

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