Use this lesson plan to help students think critically about social media’s impact on how we interpret the news

The internet and social media give us international journal tools to find out what’s happening almost instantly — sometimes even in real time. But how much can we trust the breaking news we see online?

Anyone — from accredited journalists, citizen journalists, or even someone on the street with a smartphone — can shed light on injustices or important events that larger media outlets might struggle to cover, or not cover at all. While this can help break stories, the information in these posts and reports can spread without the fact-checking, editorial lens, or journalistic ethics used in traditional news reporting. Today, even established news outlets now compete for readers’ attention in social media feeds.

As a result, what’s trending isn’t always what’s most newsworthy; often it’s what’s best adapted to our click-and-share culture.

Things get even more complicated once politics come into play. Social media can be rife with misinformation, and even disinformation, especially in the run-up to an election.

Use this lesson plan to help your students consider the unique challenges social media presents to finding credible, accurate information.

Recommended for:
Grades: 8-12
Subjects: Digital citizenship, journalism, social studies, ELA

Prep for teachers
Preview the video, “Social Media: Is Your Breaking News Broken?,” and look over the discussion questions below.
Make a copy of the “Should We Trust Breaking News on Social Media?” Google Doc handout. (Tip: Before distributing to your students, customize the handout to your class’s needs.)
Review the Think, Puzzle, Explore thinking routine from Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Resources.

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