Think Like a Fact-checker: A New Approach to Information Literacy

Workshop Session 2

Brief Abstract

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 citizens confront daily: evauating 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. This session will walk participants through a sampling of the actual techniques professional fact-checkers use, as well as introduce some research that shows why current approaches to information literacy may be making matters worse.

Extended Abstract

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 citizens 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. This session will walk participants through a sampling of the actual techniques professional fact-checkers use, as well as introduce some research that shows why current approaches to information literacy may be making matters worse. 
 
Participants will leave the session with:

  • An introductory knowledge of how fact-checkers approach truth on the web. We will show how lateral reading and sourcing techniques are key to web investigations, and demonstrate how such techniques can be integrated into information literacy pedagogy. 
  • Competence in a number of techniques fact-checkers use. Simple techniques to find out whether sites are trustworthy or images have been altered will be taught. While this is no way near a full course on fact-checking, knowledge and ability to execute these techniques will provide a firm foundation for future independent study.
  • An ability to explain the current disinformation environment to students. We will introduce current research on the disinformation space, and talk about how to introduce disinformation topics to students without fostering cynicism or disengagement.

The structure of the session is very much based on “detective work”, where participants will use newly taught skills to determine the credibility of real online sources, both individually and in groups. Many of the activities have a bit of a “treasure hunt” vibe. Larger group discussions will focus on current attitudes of students about online media, news, and partisan politics, and how to meet our students where they are with what they need.
 
Since the workshop is based on online detective work and laptops are required for this session. Tablets with a keyboard may be adequate. Chromebooks are great. Phones will not work. Please attend the session with your laptop or tablet fully charged as power supply may be limited.