Lincoln Public Schools teaches students how to tell fact from fiction online

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Everyday, millions of posts circulate the web, but it’s no secret that not all of them are true.

Just this week, a state senator fell prey to believing something on Facebook about schoolkids identifying as animals that turned out not to be true.

“They meow and they bark, and they interact with their teachers in this fashion,” Sen. Bruce Bostelman said on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature. “And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?”

He retracted his statement, but it shined a light on an issue many people face: Coming across an article online that looks true but isn’t.

Right down the street from the Capitol, students at McPhee Elementary School are learning at a young age how to decipher fact from fiction.

“We need to give students tools for today’s media environment, which, again, is looking at multiple sources, looking for those pieces of author credibility and really just equipping them for the environment that they are living in,” McPhee librarian Alexandra Ball said.

Ball teaches media literacy to kids from kindergarten all the way to fifth grade. The class provides them with what they need to know when reading an article or viewing a post online.

As technology has evolved over the years, it’s created more hoops to jump through for fact-checking.

“We were given checklist, and we were told if anything that had .org was immediately trustworthy, and that’s just not really the case anymore,” Ball said. “Those types of checklists, the way we used to teach media literacy, doesn’t really work in today’s media environment.”

That’s why Ball gets the students engaged, having them look up sources and double- or even triple-check what they’ve found.

To prepare them for when they start sharing pictures and articles online, she ends every lesson with the same question: What is our responsibility to others for the things we share?

“It’s our responsibility as consumers and creators of media to make sure it is true to the best of our knowledge and ability,” Ball said.

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