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Four Moves and a Habit to share with your middle and high school learners

I’ve never been a fan of evaluation checklists. They require serious cognitive lift, perhaps more lift than some content actually deserves. I am a big fan of what Mike Caufield calls moves, some sticky strategies we can all use to get closer to the truth.

Caufield, of Washington State University Vancouver, leads the Digital Polarization Initiative (DigiPo), the American Democracy Project’s national effort to build student civic, information and web literacy by having students participate in a broad, cross-institutional project to fact-check, annotate, and provide context to the different news stories that show up in our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Inspired by Caufield’s work, the group hopes to change the way we teach information literacy in higher education and is currently piloting his fact-checking framework across ten university campuses.

Mike Caufield’s highly practical ebook, Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers and Other People who Care is refreshing approach that challenges the conventional pedagogical approaches and attempts to bust a few long-standing myths (described in greater detail in the video above):

  1. The problem is that our students are gullible. In fact, the greater risk is cynicism.
  2. Critical thinking will save us. In fact, it might do harm. In the case of disinformation, the goal is to capture attention. When you engage with a bad actor, you allow them to steal your attention to better treatments of an issue.
  3. There is a crisis of truth. In fact, it’s a crisis of reputation. Today expertise is undervalued. A curriculum around how to quickly assess reputation is essential.

When confronted with a claim that may not be 100% true, Caufield suggests the following four moves to get closer to the truth:

  • Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  • Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  • Read laterally: Read laterally. Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network. [See the SHEG study listed below.]
  • Circle back: If you get lost, hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

And there’s also a habit, Check your emotions.

When you feel strong emotion–-happiness, anger, pride, vindication–-and that emotion pushes you to share a “fact” with others, STOP. Above all, these are the claims that you must fact-check.

Why? Because you’re already likely to check things you know are important to get right, and you’re predisposed to analyze things that put you an intellectual frame of mind. But things that make you angry or overjoyed, well… our record as humans are not good with these things.

You may also be interested in the very relevant SHEG study that challenges the way many universities and K12 schools teach evaluation through close vertical reading of an article:

Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2017). Lateral Reading and the Nature of Expertise: Reading less and learning more when evaluating digital information

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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