This is the latest installment of a weekly feature on this blog — lessons from the nonprofit News Literacy Project, which aims to teach students how to distinguish between what is real and what is not in an age of digital communication in which President Trump routinely denounces real news as “fake.”

The material comes from the project’s newsletter, the Sift, which takes the most recent viral rumors, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and journalistic ethics issues and turns them into timely lessons with discussion prompts and links. The Sift, which is published weekly during the school year, has more than 10,000 subscribers, most of them educators.

The News Literacy Project also offers a program called Checkology, a browser-based platform designed for students in grades 6 through 12 that helps prepare the next generation to easily identify misinformation. Checkology is available free to educators, students, school districts and parents. Since 2016, more than 29,000 educators and parents in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have registered to use the platform. Since August, more than 1,000 educators and parents and more than 34,000 students have actively used Checkology.

You can learn more about the News Literacy Project and all of the educational resources it provides, in this piece, but here is a rundown:

Founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Los Angeles Times, the News Literacy Project is the leading provider of news literacy education.

It creates digital curriculums and other resources and works with educators and journalists to teach middle and high school students how to recognize news and information to trust — and it provides them with the tools they need to be informed and engaged participants in a democracy. It uses the standards of high-quality journalism as an aspirational yardstick against which to measure all news and information. Just as important, it provides the next generation with an appreciation of the First Amendment and the role of a free press.

Here’s material from the Dec. 14 edition:

The state of press freedoms

In a year dominated by history-making news — a global pandemic, the renewed movement for racial justice, a divisive U.S. presidential election — it can be easy to overlook the risks journalists face in doing their jobs. A report (PDF) by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) serves as a reminder of these dangers, highlighting that 42 journalists have been killed in 2020 so far in crossfire, bombings and other violence in 15 countries. (IFJ reported that 49 journalists were killed in 2019.) In addition, at least 235 journalists are currently imprisoned in connection with their work, the Dec. 10 report noted. Since 1990, when IFJ, the world’s largest organization of journalists, began publishing its yearly tally, 2,658 journalists have been killed. “The untold story,” according to IFJ, is that the majority of journalists murdered over the last three decades were local beat reporters, not war correspondents. They were often targeted, kidnapped and killed, sometimes near their offices or homes. And around the world, killers of journalists mostly go free; in 90 percent of journalist murder cases, “there has been little or no prosecution,” the report said.

Note: For the fourth time in five years, Mexico has been the deadliest country for journalists with 13 killings in 2020, the report said. Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists, with 67 behind bars.

Related:

Idea: Have groups of students use the Committee to Protect Journalists’ database of attacks on the press to search for journalists killed in 2020. Ask the students to research some of the journalists in the database and share what they found. What stories were the journalists working on? Why do students think the journalists were targeted?

Resource: “Press Freedoms Around the World” (NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom).

Viral rumor rundown

NO: Two people who took the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine during a trial did not die as a result of the injections.

YES: The two trial participants died from other causes (one from a heart attack about two months after the second dose, and another from “baseline obesity and pre-existing arteriosclerosis,” or hardening of the arteries).

Note: According to the PolitiFact fact-check linked above, a total of six of the 43,448 people who participated in Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine trial died, including the two mentioned above and four participants who were given a placebo. None of the deaths has been attributed to the vaccine.

YES: The video in this Facebook post includes out-of-context clips of an interview — originally broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network talk show The 700 Club on May 22 — with Jay Walker of ApiJect Systems Corp., a medical technology company.

YES: In the interview, Walker described an emergency tracking feature on the exterior of a syringe the company developed with government backing to expedite delivery of the coronavirus vaccine.

NO: The optional Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip on the syringes would not track patients’ personal location.

YES: It is designed to track vaccine expiration and the location of delivery, and to combat counterfeiting of the vaccine.

YES: The headline on the original story on The 700 Club website is also misleading.

YES: This same video clip has been used to spread misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine before.

NOTE: Baseless claims about injectable microchips are common in anti-vaccination propaganda and “New World Order” conspiracy theories.

NO: There is no evidence connecting leukemia in children with the trace amounts of formaldehyde in vaccines.

YES: Formaldehyde is an organic compound that occurs naturally in the human body.

NO: Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna coronavirus vaccine contains a preservative.

YES: False claims about formaldehyde in vaccines have circulated for years and resurfaced as coronavirus vaccines were in development