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DeAngelo Bill to Educate Students on How to Spot 'Fake News'

Legislation Would Create K-12 Curriculum to Develop Information Literacy Skills

(TRENTON) - With the growing concern over the influence of so-called "fake news" and questions on how to determine if news is legitimate, Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex) today unveiled a bill he drafted aimed at educating students on how to decipher information appropriately. The measure would require public schools to create curriculum on information literacy for student in grades kindergarten through 12. Information literacy is considered a skill-set that enables an individual to recognize when information is needed to locate, evaluate, and how to use it effectively. This information can come in the form of digital, visual, media, textual, and technological platforms. "Older generations never doubted whether or not the news programs that their families watched were biased or focused on salacious partisan bickering," said DeAngelo. They trusted that the person behind the news desk had checked their facts to ensure that the American people were appropriately informed. "Unfortunately, it has become too difficult to decipher whether or not the news we see on television or read online is fact-based or simply biased rhetoric. We need to ensure that our children are able to critically think about the information they are taking in and tell for themselves whether it is factual news or fake news," DeAngelo added. According to the American Association of School Librarians, 83 percent of students find information available online overwhelming. Digital technologies make it harder for 60 percent of students to find and use credible sources of information while it discourages 71 percent of students from finding and using a wide-range of sources. The Association also found that 94 percent of students say they are "very likely" to use Google as a source in researching an assignment. Approximately 75 percent of students similarly say they use Wikipedia for the same purpose. Course curriculum would be developed at an appropriate level, and taught in a class, relative to the understanding of the class grade and age of students. The state commissioner of education would work in conjunction with the state librarian to develop thorough and comprehensive curriculum that would be reviewed annually to reflect the most current details available on the identity, analysis, retrieval, evaluation and navigation of information. The sequential course of study would include, but not be limited to:

  • Knowledge of the research process and ways in which information is created and produced;

  • Skills in using information resources and critical thinking about those resources;

  • Development of the ability to evaluate information critically and completely in order to recognize relevant primary and secondary information and to distinguish among facts, points of view, and opinions;

  • Access information and associated tools through instruction learning strategies, and practice; and

  • Create an understanding of economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and how to use it ethically and legally.

"In this age of 'fake news' becoming more and more prevalent, it is imperative that students learn the basic skills of researching, reasoning, and realizing what is real and what is phony," said DeAngelo. "Information literacy skills will stay with an individual throughout the rest of their life and will help shape how they take in news around them and how they may choose to put that news back out into the world." The curriculum would apply to the first full school year after the date of the measure's enactment. Finally, the bill further allows school districts to provide in-service training of teachers and educational staff including school library media specialists. Regionally-accredited institutions of higher education that offer programs for a New Jersey instructional certificate, as well as the state's alternate route teaching program, shall incorporate programming in information literacy. This programming would include such areas as the inquiry-based research skills necessary to access, collect and evaluate information credibly, accurately and ethically. DeAngelo will introduce the bill at the next Assembly Quorum Call on May 11, 2017.

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