By Mike Caulfield, ADP Civic Fellow and Director of Blended and Networked Learning, WSU Vancouver
The Digital Polarization Initiative is happy to release two new resources to help students in your class better navigate the civic discourse on the web.
The first is a new mini-textbook we’ve created called Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. We summarize the need for this book in the introduction:
Much web literacy we’ve seen either asks students to look at web pages and think about them, or teaches them to publish and produce things on the web. While both these activities are valuable, neither addresses a set of real problems students confront daily: evaluating the information that reaches them through their social media streams. For these daily tasks, student don’t need long lists of questions to think about while gazing at web documents. They need concrete strategies and tactics for tracing claims to sources and for analyzing the nature and reliability of those sources.
We go on in the book to supply these concrete strategies, showing how to formulate web searches that will tell you more about the site you are looking at, how to use features like “reverse image search” to track down the origin of viral photos, and more generally how to execute a short search strategy that traces a claim to a source and then evaluates that source quickly.
We’ll be adding more chapters going forward, on things like verifying the identity of people on Twitter, using the Wayback Machine to recover deleted pages, and finding out the true publication date of a webpage (even when the webpage is lying).
The name of the book, with its reference to “student fact-checkers” is meant to highlight the fact that all our students should be learning how to check facts on the web. With significant expansion, the text could form the core of a one-credit course, but we’re just as interested to see it incorporated into other courses.
For this reason, we’ve kept the core of the book short – the entire core is appropriately sized for a week’s worth of reading in an average course. As time goes on we’ll build out the field guide at the back of the work, which should allow instructors to expand or focus the materials as necessary with additional articles
Go visit it on the web, or, if you wish, download it in any of the formats here. If you do download it, keep in mind that we are continually updating it, so periodically grab a new copy.
News Analysis Project
The textbook contains some simple exercises that can be done in class in an afternoon. For people looking for a meatier project, the News Analysis Project puts your student’s fact-checking and analysis skills to use.
We have the whole assignment laid out for students in an assignment handout, complete with rubric, that you can download, modify, and distribute. It can be done as an individual project or a group project. The time required depends on the level of analysis you want from the students and the complexity of the claims that they will analyze, but you should be able to scope it as a one to two week project for complex claims and a classroom activity for simple claims.
We had initially envisioned having many students working on the Digipo wiki posting their work in a Wikipedia-like fashion, but for most instructors this was too much to wedge into a class (wiki instruction and fact-checking instruction at same time is a bit of a stretch).
Instead, for the current project we are asking most faculty to consider having their students complete the project using the Google Docs/Word template and mail it to them. You can then forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org (please zip them up if multiple) for posting on the site.
Students who wish to sign up for the site are welcome to do so of course – all it takes is a .edu email address.
If you have any questions, let us know!