Fake news is all over the place – you’ve probably got at least a few people in your Facebook feed that share it. Even some of our elected officials Tweet it out.

But across the nation, educators are ramping up efforts to teach students how to discern real the information from what’s fake. Librarians are at the forefront of that fight for media literacy in schools, colleges and beyond.

Julie Todaro is the dean of library services at Austin Community College and the president of the American Library Association.

She says it’s always been in a librarian’s wheelhouse to teach media literacy and critical thinking. It’s something that is needed across disciplines, she says.

“We have a longstanding set of actual standards and guidelines for how to teach people,” Todaro says. “Things are very different today.”

At her school, librarians use something called the CRAAP test – Currency Relevance Authority Accuracy and Purpose.

The test is for both teachers and students to learn how to recognize fake information.

But what has changed dramatically, Todaro says, is the Authority part of the test.

“We really have to flip this conversation,” she says. “We have to talk about authority today and we have to have them not make the authority decision without the set of other facts like accuracy and currency.”

People are seeking out this information in different ways, Todaro says. Their website had over 1 million hits last year, and their training modules got over 15,000 hits.

“We’re approaching this two ways,” she says. “One, we’re trying to attract the audience themselves with different marketing, different techniques. And two: we work extremely closely with classroom faculty.”

Todaro says they get people to care about how fake information could affect them through individual life decisions and then showing how it affects people on a mass scale.

“If you can take something as simple as buying a used car – if in taking one news source and seeing a car advertised and then comparing to another news source or ad or piece of information or story,” she says, “and then you show people how the incorrect information can lead you to a decision that is costly and incorrect and ultimately a bad life decision for you.”

Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

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  • Megan Cooper February 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Great story, thanks for sharing what we do every day. Just one clarification for anyone wondering with the interviewer about whether or not students still visit the library: my high school library averages about 300 student visits a day!

  • R. Henderson February 15, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Todaro, and the American Library Association, should get the Educator Award of the Year. “Critical Thinking” skills and Fake News were made for each other, unfortunately Texas public schools, to a lesser degree Texas private schools, have long ignored the “critical’ in developing thinking skills.

  • Gisela February 15, 2017 at 10:16 am

    This is very comforting to know that there are sources that one can trust. Teaching how to think and not what to think it paramount to a good balanced critical assessment of what is served up

  • Betsy Crosby February 15, 2017 at 2:15 am

    I am a retired school librarian. We taught students how to distinguish fact from fiction. I wrote Lamar Smith that I would not take his advice to get my facts from Trump!