I’ve had the misfortune of a couple of days of man-flu this week. Consequently I’ve been stuck at home, often with the radio on in the background. During Adrian Childs programme on Radio 5 live on Monday morning there was an interesting discussion on the recent phenomenon of fake news, looking at what it is (and isn’t), how people react to it and how it can be filtered from real news.
What struck me is that this has serious and potentially far reaching implications for how we teach internet safety in the classroom, particularly in KS2. I use the SMART rules as a framework in KS2. Of the five rules, the ‘R’ for reliable has arguably been the least significant, focussing mainly on the accuracy of information you seek to find on the internet, using Wikipedia as the classic example of a site which needs verification from other sources. Whilst this is important, it’s easy to make a case for the other rules being more so, such as keeping personal information private and not agreeing to meet people online.
However, fake news means we have to revisit these priorities. Children now need to understand that not only should they check the reliability of sources, but now they should question virtually anything they see online, and it can appear in the blink of an eye. The very nature of social media means information flows quickly and judgements on validity and relevance are made on the spot. This offers us the opportunity to have some really interesting discussions – what is fake news? What could motivate people to create or share it? How can you discern what is fake and what is real?
These issues are really important and recent global events have brought this sharply into focus. When you see the President of the United States of America in an open Twitter war with established newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, you can see how important it is that the next generation of voters have the critical thinking skills to make their own judgements. In terms of life skills, it doesn’t really get more important than that.
I recently blogged that the growth in physical computing is blurring the lines between DT and Computing. Arguably fake news is doing the same with PSHE. Whilst it’s obvious links to internet safety place it firmly within the Computing curriculum, the scale of this problem makes it much more important than that alone.