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The Fake News Experiment

We began a unique honors experiment in Fall 2017. 


Twenty students were admitted and given an in depth experience including:

  • lunches with the college president,
  • attending high level campus events, and
  • discussio-based classes and research projects that spanned politics, history, communications and critical thinking.

These students are a challenge to keep up with and the highlight of my days.  That first fall we talked about informed citizenship.  Did my students read the news?  Did they skim the headlines? Did they really read the news? While I was challenging them to read the news and be informed, they asked me several critical questions.  “Do you correct fake news on social media?  Do you expect your “friends” to be accurate and responsible?”  That question stopped me in my tracks, I hadn’t been correcting friends.  And when challenged by students to do the right thing, I did.


I began the experiment in class, showing things that popped up on my feed and my attempts at correcting the news. I began by posting comments with “it’s fake” and a link proving it.  The first few months, I received a lot of apologies or was simply ignored.  As the months went by, I saw comments like, “I’m sure Sherri will correct me” and received private messages from people saying, “I’m so glad you did that, I don’t like calling people out.” Did the social experiment work?  Yes, to a degree, I saw peoples' shares change.   Did it change my classroom?  Definitely.


No matter what course I’m teaching, we now discuss fake news and social media, and we generate news.  Students need  pushing to read news articles and they need the experience of writing the news.  The balance between correct information, detailed reporting and word limits is a fine line. Concise, accurate reporting that provides a balanced viewpoint is difficult.  Helping students understand the constraints and assigning mini assignments around the news makes all the difference.   There are a variety of resources that can help faculty teach and test students on the news.  Below are some of my favorites.


  • Voila “Factitous” is a swipe quiz that works great with cell phones. The quiz has several difficulty levels.
  • Fake It to Make It is an educational game to illustrate how money is made with fake news and to students understand the process.
  • The Fake News Generator is a website that allows students to see how easy it is to create fake news and has an online template, so they can create their own.
  • Classroom Twitter – one of my best assignments is to have students “Tweet” within a Wiki about a topic. Their tweets must meet the character guideline and be accurate.  It’s harder than you think sometimes.

How do you address fake news?  Share your assignments and tips below.


I tried out the "Fake News Generator". It was surprisingly easy to create a little shareable image. I used a piece of incorrect information that was widely believed for a long time (I hope no one thinks this is true now): that B.F. Skinner raised his children in a "Skinner Box" (he used a heated crib that was commonly used in his day):





Might be interesting to have students create one of these and post it in the social media feeds to see how many clicks their fake news generates and how many of their friends challenge them on it.

Valued Contributor

Great article, @SherriSinger! And, @michael_britt, this is an interesting social experiment indeed. 


We can definitely all do our part as educators to help students recognize false sources and choose the most academic ones for us in their classroom assignments. 



My students tell me they get their news from reading posts on Reddit.


Fun experiment! Since I teach computing classes, we could discuss fake news and how scientists have begun building new computer programs to help sort fake news from truth.

Valued Contributor

Very interesting, thanks for sharing. I will be checking this out.


Interesting and thanks for sharing.


This is an interesting exercise and tool!  Something to consider!!


Worth considering, for sure!


I enjoyed looking at some of the samples on the fake news generator - they all looked authentic, until one stopped and thought for just a second.... 

These days it seems like many students don't even read actual news - whether world or national (fake or otherwise!) - and have little idea of what's going on beyond social media 😞

Good question Tom. Where do students go when they want to get "news"....? Facebook?

Frequent Commenter

Fake News. I this day & age with all of the Political stuff (and other areas), I'm not sure what's Truth, what's Real vs Fake.