Media Literacy

In its glossary, Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy defines news literacy as:

The ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports, whether they come via print, television or the Internet.

How we teach everyday civics is becoming more and more important for student consumption of news.  With the topic of ‘fake news’ as a popular debate,  how do we evaluate what is good news. Statistics show that high school students are not prepared for critical evaluation of the media, let alone understand their own worldview, and how that changes ones perspective.

Here is a good TedEd video by Damon Brown sharing the process of choosing news worthy items.

Fake news can be fabricated stories to get more clicks (click bait)  or hoax sites, satirical sites made by teachers or students, and edited images to remix reality.  How reporters share information can be seen as biased based on pressures of a deadline and a particular worldview.  How do we encourage our students to evaluate all media including social media like tweets?  Take a look at your social media accounts.  Do you follow people you do not agree with?  Our own biases and experiences shape the information we consume.  How do we encourage our students to evaluate what is truth?  What does God say about truth?  Is truth relative i.e.does it change depending on one’s perspective? Are opinions relative?  What do you think the phrase, “all truth is God’s truth” means?

Facebook and MediaSmarts also have some tips for you to check Fake News.  Watch this video here.  Lesson plans from MediaSmarts for verifying online news.

Finding Information:  Search Engines and Algorithms.

Watch this video!


Algorithms tell the search engine what to show you. They look at:

  • What they know about you. Search engines will personalize your results based on things like your location and your past search history.

  • The number of times search keywords and phrases appear on the page and their location on the page (e.g., is the search term in the headline?)

  • The number of times other websites link to the webpage

  • The authority or importance of those websites that link to that page (the website of a government agency gets more weight than a personal blog)

  • The number of links, shares, and social media mentions that the webpage has

  • The amount of time the webpage has been up

Searching Using Social Media

Many of us get our news from social media and your social media will shape the information you see in your feeds.

Some of the main factors that social media algorithms look at include:

  • Relevance: Does it match the type of content you typically click on?

  • Engagement: How many likes, clicks, comments, and shares has the post received? How often has it been hidden? How much time do people spend looking at the post?

  • Who Shared It: Is it a close friend or family member, or a company? Do you look at the sharer’s profile or engage with their posts more often than others in your feed?

Effective Search

Use good keywords and quotation marks to refine your questions.

Be aware of adverts on the website page as this might indicate a paid site.

Check the source URL for relevancy (gov. etc)

Do you select sources that challenge or confirm your existing perspective?

Evaluating Sources Online!

Rules to follow when identifying credible sources:

  • Does this writing seem too good to be true?  You may wonder at its validity.  Ask these questions:  Does this article seem unbelievable?  Does it conflict with something you already know to be true?  Is it greatly exaggerated?
  • Who wrote this information?  Identifying the author can help you determine the credibility and truth of your source.  Determine the author’s education, training, or experience/knowledge on the topic?  Does she or she have a professional title, belong to an established and respected organization, and can you take extra steps to find out more about the author ie an about me page.  Who owns the website?  Sometimes the owner and author may be different.  To find the owner search the URL on
  • What type of website is this?  A political organization?  A non-profit.  A social media celebrity?  Check the URL.  Read the About section or profile bio.  Do another search for more information about the source.
  • Who else links to the site and why?  What is their reputation?  Do they stand to gain anything by attacking or supporting a point? Type the website link into your search engine with quotation marks and see what reviews show up.
  • When was this article written?  How old is the information on the website?  This will determine its reliability and accuracy.  There should be a date when the information was written and links included on the site should be updated and be working.  Check on the bottom of the website to see the last update.
  • Can the information be verified?  To check the accuracy of an article or website we might want to look at the sources used in the article, whether they are listed in the article, and is there a good bibliography or other links to provide additional sources of information.  Can you find other sources which share identical information?
  • How does the tone of the writing reflect credibility?  The way an article is written will reveal clues about the credibility.  Check for good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style of language.  Is the language demanding, critical, or over emotional?  Is the writing too informal and more colloquial?  Does it only share one point of view?  If you can notice a bias what facts does it use to back it up?  Does it appear to make people angry or try and manipulate people?
  • Why does the author write this information?  Every author comes from a particular worldview or perspective.  Some people will write articles to contribute to unreliability, bias and untruth.  That does not discount argumentative essays or passion/opinion pieces.  However use your judgement and the clues as shared above about credibility before using this as a reliable source.

Lesson plans!

Website Evaluation

Teach your students the following lessons shared here:

GCSC Library tutorial from Youtube.


Videos from Learn 360 subscription and ed tech tools.  If you are using databases like Explora you can save all your citations using My Folder.  There are lots of great tools on Explora sharing the research process and how to cite.

Learn how to use copyright in Canada by studying this UBC Creative Commons Guide.
Copyright video (American base)
Plagiarism video
Duplichecker– free plagiarism checker
Plagiarism Checker- ideal for teachers checking plagiarism
Google Search tools :  How to Google proof your search.  This document outlines the citing sources and Google Scholar as well as how use the research tool in Google docs.  Please note bibliography format in Canada is MLA.
Citations video
EasyBib- free citation generator
Photos for Class- Images come with citations
Creative Commons – still need to cite  likewise Google IMAGE  search with the free to reuse search term as your parameter


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