Our last Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme that sought to explore teaching methods for helping students learn in the post-truth era. An audience of approximately 15 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Becky Landsberg from the Department of Biology, Ryane Struas from the Department of Political Science, and Jay Kibby from the Neil Hellman Library.
Becky Landsberg started off the session with her presentation on “Teaching Science in a Post-Trust World.”Becky discussed how she aspires to teach her students “how to light their own fire in the dark while being blindfolded.” Due to the wide variations among what students believe, Becky wants her students to be able to see lies, wrong information, and know the difference between information that is real and not real. In order to do this, Becky uses aspects of the scientific method with a case study discussing an alternative fact– vaccinations cause Autism. In examining this case study, the students break into groups and analyze two separate pieces of data. One is a graph that shows Autism diagnosis rates and she asks her students, “what can you infer from the graph.” The second piece is a data table from the actual study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, the one who originally claimed vaccinations caused Autism. Becky then has her students vote on whether they would vaccinate their child and reasons why or why not. A third graph is then shown, which demonstrates with the decline of vaccinations there is an increase in the cases of measles. The final component of the case study asks the students to once again examine the data tables, but this time to look for flaws in the design. Becky ended with how she teaches her students that they need to visit the sources from where news is coming from and that just because it is said on TV does not make it true.
Next up was Ryane Straus who presented on “Fake News: How to spot it, Why it matters, and What to do about it.” Ryane began by discussing a new group project about democracy. Ryane begins by having her class define ‘democracy’ and then examine the U.S. as a case study, and asks her students, “do we meet the definition of democracy?” This project brought up discussions of the 2016 election and how fake news was an factor important in making the candidates look different than they really were. Ryane provided her class with three different readings that demonstrated how ‘fake news’ was getting more views than actual stories. In addition, she showed a video that demonstrated how to reconstruct a video to determine if it’s ‘real’ or not. In groups of three, students were asked to submit proposed topic, conduct a 10 minute presentation to cover 5 questions, and then the topics were shared by the students. Ryane explained how her students found commonalties among the presentation topics, which included poor grammar and typos, very short or overly long articles with picture, no author listed or no available information about the author, no verifiable facts, a lack of website credibility, and a lack specific details within the article. In sum, Ryane discussed how her students enjoyed the project, learned about how to identify fake news, and were going to apply what they learned to future news.
Last to present was Jay Kibby on “What can librarians do to help?” Jay spoke about vetting both scholarly and non-scholarly resources. There are typically five ways to determine the authenticity of sources, including:
- Authority- what credentials do they have and where was it published
- Accuracy- are there typo and spelling errors?
- Currency-is the information fresh?
- Agenda-what is the author trying to convey and what will he/she gain?
- Author’s sources- are there links to the actual sources?
- Peer reviewed or editor reviewed- is there evidence of review?
Jay stressed the point that just because there are editors, the information is not automatically deemed true. Information literacy instruction can be provided by the library and tailored to any individual or group need. Forms are available for any professor to request literacy instruction from the library for their students. At any time during hours of operation, students can access the reference desk, where there is always someone available to assist. Students can request 1:1 appointments with the library staff for assistance with information literacy or other related services. In addition, there is an option to request assistance via the web, as well as a FAQ forum for students to access. As part of the Community Service and Outreach program, Kate Moss coordinates student events, the social media presence, and therapy dogs within the library. Jay shared an example from CNN to demonstrate the strong influence that “fake news” can have as a political slur. Lastly, Jay provided the audience with a handout containing library contact information and two simple, yet effective methods for spotting fake news.