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Filtering fake news; how Maine schools are teaching kids

Students across the nation, and some in Maine, are learning how to filter "fake news." The curriculum is called Checkology. Middle school students in Damariscotta are learning how to tell what viral content is real, and what is fake. We put parents to the same test.

DAMARISCOTTA (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- "Fake news" is a phrase we’ve heard a lot in recent years. Facebook and other social media platforms are often brought up in conversations about it.

These digital platforms are where information, true or not, can spread fast. Apparently, the phenomenon is now shaping a new curriculum in the classroom.

“It used to be that you taught kids how to find information, and now you teach them how to filter it.”

John Cannon is a reading teacher at Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta.

“Now everyone can create news content. That’s come slamming into the reality that uh-oh now anyone can create news content. That’s irresponsible, biased, and even hateful or damaging.”

He was researching how to address all of this with his students, and Checkology popped up.

“It talks about viral content and how to spot viral content.”

Through online lessons and challenges, it's an experience that lets students be a virtual journalist.

Using what it calls seven quality journalism standards, students are quizzed on digital content: is it real? Or is it fake?

NEWS CENTER Maine went over the fact from fiction challenge with parents to see how they would do.

The task: review the following examples of viral content and indicate whether you think it’s fact or fiction.

“I know the fake news is out there," said Dave Domingos, a dad from South Portland. "Sometimes it’s very obvious, but sometimes it isn’t.”

Heather Kiersted is a mom to three teens. She says a course like this would help shape how her kids consume online information.

“They’re going to be able to look at it with a different set of eyes.”

Although Mr. Cannon’s students aren’t old enough to vote, he says they are practicing critical thinking: a constant in a world of change.

“We don’t know what jobs these kids are going to have in the future but we do know what kind of people we want them to be.”

According to the News Literacy Project, which created Checkology, there are more than 11,700 teachers in all 50 states and in 86 countries using the curriculum. In the past two years, 18 Maine teachers have used it in their classrooms.

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