Issue Number 234 May 31, 2018

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, seven free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

Using LibGuide to Recognize Fake News

Lesley Farmer
Professor of Library Media
California State University (CSU) Long Beach

Fake News Is Now Ubiquitous

Fake news remains a hot topic, and this kind of information will continue to be created and read. One difference now is that fake news can become viral, especially through social media. Fake news often spreads faster than truth, and almost a quarter of Facebook users have shared fake news, sometimes unwittingly. According to Ipsos’ 2016 poll, 75% of people get fooled by fake news (Silverman & Siger-Vine, 12/6/2016).

Remember Pizzagate? What about the Vatican City getting sold? Was the moon landing a hoax?

Probably you recognize all of these “events” as fake news. Some fake news is harder to discern: Has Pluto been officially reclassified as a planet? Did the NFL admit to rigging games?  Going back in time a bit, think about an 1835 newspaper article about mammals living on the moon.

The best “vaccine” against fake news is education in information literacy and digital citizenship. Such education can start as early as preschool when parents can help their children tell the difference in TV ads between a toy that flies by itself or is held in the air by a person. History is filled with fake news, e.g., 1849 news that “California streams are lined with gold!” Teachers in their classes and parents at home can use these examples to foster student critical thinking. Pseudoscience can be examined by experiments. Misleading statistics can be analyzed in math classes. And librarians are especially good at detecting and revealing fake news.

I believe that all teachers at all levels have the responsibility of helping students learn to identify fake news and incorrect content that is being taught to them in and outside of school. But finding appropriate sources can be time-consuming. To that end, I have created a LibGuide on fake news (Farmer, n.d.). While the core audience is high school and college education, the website, which is available free under a Creative Commons License, can be used by all teachers and parents to help students learn how to detect and deal with fake news.

The LibGuide

The LibGuide links to articles, lessons, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and infographics that deal with fake news and related literacies: news literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and numeracy/data literacy. The home page shows a useful infographic about ten types of misleading news, from clickbait to propaganda. Among other related resources, the background page links to the Museum of Hoaxes, which includes fake news from the middle ages onward, as well as a gallery of photographic hoaxes. There are more than a dozen videos on fake news: how it spreads, why our brains love it, how to spot it, the role of media, and how to choose your news. One video is an interviewer with a creator of fake news, who is both compelling and horrifying. The website also links to several fact-checking tools, so students can learn how to become “professional” Fact Checkers (which sounds a lot more enticing than learning how to evaluate websites). Additionally, the linked handbook Web literacy for student fact-checkers teaches valuable critical thinking skills and habits.

The LibGuide contains links to twenty curricula about fake news and associated libraries. That section also includes a few PowerPoint presentations (including a “one-shot” lesson) and provides a more extensive fake news curriculum for high school/college. The section also includes advice about issues and strategies for teaching about fake news.

It is also possible to start with a single fake news learning activity like taking a quiz such as Factitious to test one’s ability to spot fake news (it’s harder than you think!) – and learn how the news was faked. Because fake news discernment incorporates several types of literacies (news, media, visual, digital, data), the guide offers learning activities about fake new, focusing on each literacy. For instance, Mind over Media shows different kinds of propaganda; the viewer can rate each item’s veracity and its impact – and compare ratings with other people’s.

Other sections deal with civic engagement and digital citizenship: how to address fake news. Interestingly, youth who use social media are more likely to be engaged civicly, so channeling their interest and building their public discourse skills – as well as critical analysis – can lead to positive social change. Among the civics education learning activities are interactive games such as iCivics and PolitiCraft. Also listed are websites for youth-generated civic initiatives such as TakingITGlobal and Students Voices Campaign.

More personally, education in recognizing fake news can be shared by friends and family. What does one do? There’s a section on combatting and fixing fake news. The short answer is: don’t point out the person’s errors, but rather give a counter story or example; expose the person to different perspectives. It can help break the filter bubble – or at least help people become aware that they might be in a filter bubble.

This LibGuide can be used in several ways: sharing the one-shot presentation for the academic community or one of its constituents, using or adapting the fake news curriculum as a stand-alone set of lessons or in collaboration with classroom teachers as a unit. The various single lessons can also be interspersed in existing curriculum; librarians can refer teachers to the lessons and LibGuide, or can collaborate with them as teachers are co-planning a learning activity with the librarian. The videos are also good attention getters, and the LibGuide lists most of them in one section, so they can be used in a faculty meeting or as a “teaser” on the library web portal.

Fake news crosses academic disciplines, so can be integrated into the curriculum in several ways: in science as pseudo-science discussions, in history as actual examples and consequences from the past, in health and PE to address body image and dangerous health advice, in math to discern misleading and false statistics, in art in terms of visual literacy and image editing, and in English lessons about rhetoric.

Learning about fake news can take as little as one hour, e.g., the one-shot fake news essentials PowerPoint, or a simple learning activity. On the other hand, a whole course can address fake news. Every election and every “discovery” is another opportunity to hone fake news skills. Frankly, news literacy is a lifelong learning activity as the news and formats change. This fake news LibGuide can serve as a reference source to inspire engaging and important learning.

References and Resources

Caulfield, M. (n.d.). Web literacy for student fact-checkers. PressBooks. Retrieved 4/19/2018 from

Farmer, L. (n.d.). Fake News LibGuide. Retrieved 4/19/2018 from

Silverman, S., & Singer-Vine, J. (12/6/2016). Most Americans who see fake news believe it, new survey says. BussFeed News. Retrieved 4/19/2018 from

A final quote from Lesley Farmer: “Lest the Fake News LibGuide become its own filter bubble, here are some good related resources in the IAE Newsletter.”

Editor's Note

I (David Moursund) just could not resist adding my personal Fake News tidbit to this IAE Newsletter. The April 1988 issue of The Computing Teacher (a periodical that I started in 1973 and edited for many years) contained my editorial that was actually an April Fool’s joke. It discussed a new, highly secret computer system being used by the U.S. military. The last paragraph of the article says:

Next, I asked about some of the technical specifications of the hardware and I asked what programming language was being used to develop the software. I guess that the general standing there rather intimidated the technical person, as the response was quite guarded. But I was told that the hardware is called the All Purpose Relatively Intelligent Learner (APRIL) computer since it makes extensive use of recent advances in artificial intelligence. The language used to write the software is called the First Operational Optical Language (FOOL).

Here is a Retrospective Comment I published in the April 2002 The Computing Teacher:

This editorial was first published in the April 1988 issue of The Computing Teacher. This was my first attempt to write an April Fool's editorial. Several of my students read only part of it, and then quoted it in assignments that they turned in to me. I heard stories that others had done the same thing. They completely missed the point that it was a joke, and so quoted it as representing what exists right now. A number of other people noted that the ideas in the article were really not very far into the future. My conclusion was that I should probably give up on writing April Fool's editorials.

Moursund, D. (April, 1988). A report on the all purpose relatively intelligent learner computer. The Computing Teacher. Retrieved 4/19/2018 from

About the Author

Dr. Lesley Farmer, Professor at California State University (CSU) Long Beach, coordinates the Librarianship program, and was named as the university’s Outstanding Professor. She also manages the CSU ICT Literacy Project. She earned her M.S. in Library Science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and received her doctorate in Adult Education from Temple University. Dr. Farmer chaired the IFLA’s School Libraries Section, and is a Fulbright scholar. A frequent presenter and writer for the profession, she won American Library Association’s Phi Beta Mu Award for library education, the AASL Distinguished Services Award, and the International Association of School Librarianship Commendation Award. Dr. Farmer’s research interests include digital citizenship, information literacy, and data analytics. Her most recent books are Library Improvement through Data Analytics (ALA, 2016) and Managing the Successful School Library (ALA, 2017).

Reader Comments

We are using the Disqus commenting system to facilitate comments and discussions pertaining to this newsletter. To use Disqus, please click the Login link below and sign in. If you have questions about how to use Disqus, please refer to this help page.

Readers may also send comments via email directly to

About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at, a Website containing free books and articles at, a Blog at, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at and all back issues of the Newsletter at