U-M Course Aims To Help Students Spot ‘Fake News’

ANN ARBOR (WWJ) — As President Donald Trump continues to target journalists for what he calls “fake news,” the University of Michigan is preparing to offer a course to help students determine what is truth.

The mini course will be offered in the fall in conjunction with the University of Michigan Library. Associate Librarian Laurie Alexander said it will teach students how to examine what they read, especially on social media.

“Whether you call it fake news, misinformation or disinformation or biased information, propaganda, satire — how do you think about these things and how do you think about how you’re digesting that information and how you’re evaluating that information,” Alexander said.

The course, titled Fake News, Lies, and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction, will run seven weeks and offer one credit.

Trump held a press conference Thursday afternoon, where he repeatedly called members of the media “fake news” as he took questions about his campaign’s ties with Russia.

“Libraries have a long-standing commitment to helping users build skills to locate, evaluate and effectively use information,” Alexander said. “In this increasingly complex and dynamic information environment, we hope to further promote and advance information literacy so that students learn to approach information with a critical and questioning mind.”

One of the course designers, Doreen Bradley, director of learning programs and initiatives at the U-M Library, says misinformation, disinformation, half-truths and propaganda have always been around, but are these days so readily sharable that students encounter a much greater volume than ever before.

Students taking the class will:

  • Learn how to find trusted sources of statistics.
  • Be challenged to confront their own biases.
  • Consider how their opinions, and the opinions of others, can affect the interpretation of news items.
  • Practice dissecting a news graph in order to understand the message that graph is trying to convey.
  • Assess how their social media feeds influence their views, and make a plan to adjust those feeds to improve their understanding of the world around them.

“We want students to develop their own personal strategies for evaluating all of the types of information they encounter,” Bradley said. “Knowing how to fact-check statements and claims is a valuable skill that will last them a lifetime.”

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