Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Using Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers in Class – Part 1

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

So I have an assignment for my digital literacies class where students will work in groups to read parts of Mike Caulfield’s book, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, and present it to their colleagues in 15 mins or so with an activity to demonstrate the skill(s) they’ve presented. Earlier in the class, like our second class, I showed them the doctored video of Trump/Mecca (see my blogpost on that)  and they easily found out it was a hoax and the original, but we all wondered why someone would do that.

Before students go off and do the reading, I thought I’d let them try a tricky search (which I hadn’t myself tried first) and see how they feel … and I gave them feedback without going through Mike’s steps. So Mike’s latest blogpost recommended a few climate-related questions. And it was a really interesting exercise, because, as I was reflecting on the activity with a colleague today, I realized what I already knew about the importance of discipline and domain knowledge is essential here.

For example:

  1. Many students found the Daily Mail. A few of them knew or figured out this was a UK newspaper. They did not know it was not a very serious newspaper on par with The Guardian, The Independent or the Times. I’d never buy it when I was in the UK unless it was the Sunday version and it came with a cool free gift. Seriously.
  2. A student found a site called ClimateDepot.com and went deeper to discover more about the site, who owned/founded it, etc. As that student dug deeper, no alarm bells rang for him when he discovered the connection of the founder with Rush Limbaugh. For me, it was immediate: Republican person, affiliated with Rush Limbaugh, probably a climate change denier, probably not very accurate science. (no offense to anyone about my bias here…)
  3. A student did something really smart and checked out if there was any info on NASA. The problem is, when she found stuff on NASA website, she could not understand a thing. It was so far outside her domain of knowledge, she could not understand what the website was saying.
  4. Later, when I got home, and I searched, I ended up finding out pretty quickly about a Russian mathematician who made a claim that made some people misunderstand and publish the exaggerated claims, but they retracted it later and…. and I discovered of course something about ClimateDepot.com on one of those fact-checking website (Snopes I think) and confirmed my bias is probably on the right track (as we like to hear about our biases – I got lucky with this one, but I don’t get lucky every time). Sorry I didn’t chronicle my process in detail as I would want my students to do… I’m just highlighting how my search process was different from my students’ because I was more aware of US politics and quality of certain sites by experience.

Next up, students will work in groups of 3-4 to present to the rest of the class different chapters of Mike’s book (all of them should read chapter 1 so they should get the general idea of all the skills/steps)… I’ll post more when we get there.

I’m still wondering if it’s too late for my students to participate in answering difficult questions that Mike had curated, or if they can come up with their own… and whether they’ll want to do stuff on Wikipedia for example (possible immediate gratification) or something else…

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