Thursday, July 13, 2023

6 Ways to Help Student’s Verify & Use AI-Generated Content

The infographic from AI, data, and digital policy expert, Aleksandr Tiulkanov helps us think about the process for using AI-generated content. Essentially, it says that if we are using AI generated content, we must know how to verify and take responsibility for the output. That means fact-checking, cross-referencing, and validating the content is essential. Innovative educators understand that they must know how to do this for ourselves as well as teach our students how to take full-responsibility for the outputs they share. 

Infographic asking if it is safe to use AI generated content. Answer is only if you know how to verify results.

Here are some ways innovative educators can support students in developing the expertise to verify the accuracy of the content produced by generative AI. 

Understand the Capabilities and Limitations of AI

Generative AI models are powerful but they don't 'understand' information or 'know' facts in the same way humans do. They generate text based on patterns they have learned from vast amounts of data and can't access real-time or updated information. This means they might produce information that is out of date, incorrect, and inconsistent.

Realize the Output May not Be Current

An AI's training data defines its knowledge. When assessing the validity of the information provided by an AI, take into account its last training data update. For example, as of now, a tool like ChatGPT is trained on a diverse range of digital text through 2021. While that will certainly change in the future, for now, it is important to be aware this affects the output we will see and how we interact with this tool. For example, you wouldn’t want to ask it about rapidly evolving topics like today’s news or current events. 

Cross-reference with Reliable Sources

When looking at any content, it’s important to cross-reference information with credible sources. This is especially true when it comes to AI-generated content. If an AI produces a piece of information, especially something critical or unexpected, it's good practice to verify this information with trusted news outlets, scientific journals, or websites you’ve come to trust. Use critical thinking skills and digital literacy to discern credible sources from less reliable ones.

Use Fact-Checking Tools

There are many online tools that can help with fact-checking. Websites like Snopes,, and Politifact have made it their mission to verify claims and debunk misinformation. Utilize these resources to confirm the veracity of the information AI provides.  

Scrutinize for Bias

While AI models are designed to be neutral, they can sometimes reflect biases present in their training data. They may overrepresent certain viewpoints or under represent others, depending on the sources they were trained on. It's crucial to remain critical of the information you're consuming and consider whether it might be presenting a skewed perspective. 

Teach Students Using Lessons & Tools

Common Sense Education has curated lessons and tools to help teach students about artificial intelligence. They've also put together guidance on how to handle artificial intelligence in schools. Become familiar with these lessons, tools, and guidance to build your comfort with supporting students in using artificial intelligence.

While generative AI has revolutionized the way we engage with digital content, they are tools, not infallible oracles. As users and educators, we must remain vigilant in helping our students understand how to cultivate their digital literacy skills and critically engage with AI-generated content. 

By understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI, identifying the source of the information, cross-referencing with reliable sources, scrutinizing for bias, and using fact-checking tools, we can help students responsibly navigate this new era of AI content generation. This way, we ensure that we are supporting students in utilizing AI as a helpful tool in our quest for knowledge, rather than becoming passive consumers of AI-generated information. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Empower Students with Lateral Reading: A Crucial Skill for the Digital Age

A report released by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) showed many students struggled to discern which information was legitimate pointing to the need to teach students how to verify the reliability of sources. The report outlines how three different groups of “expert” readers – fact checkers, historians and Stanford undergraduates – fared when tasked with evaluating information online.

The fact checkers proved to be fastest and most accurate, while historians and students were easily deceived by unreliable sources.

What was the difference in how the fact checkers approached discerning information? A technique called lateral reading. This is a useful tool to help students validate and verify information. 

What is Lateral Reading?

The term "lateral reading" describes a method where an individual checks the credibility of an online source by consulting other resources outside of the original one. Unlike "vertical reading," where one stays on the website and checks its own content, lateral reading encourages users to perform quick searches to cross-verify information (Wineburg & McGrew, 2017).

Why is Lateral Reading Important?

Teaching lateral reading is crucial for several reasons.

  • It promotes critical thinking, urging students to question the accuracy and reliability of the information they consume. 
  • It develops digital literacy, which includes understanding the way the web functions and how information is distributed and manipulated online. 
  • It cultivates responsible citizenship by equipping students to engage wisely and meaningfully in digital environments, consequently building a more informed society.

How Do You Read Laterally?

Lateral reading includes: 
  • Opening new tabs in a browser to research website authors or organizations
  • Looking for bias or messaging associated with organizations
  • Looking for hyperlinks or citations to other sources and organizations and researching the hyperlinked organizations/sources for bias
  • Locating several trusted sources to verify all information
  • Using fact checking sites like Politifact,Snopes, and seeing what Wikipedia (and the sources therein) say
An infographic outlining the lateral reading method. Original is at

As a way to help lateral reading evaluation, Mike Caulfield at Washington State University created a method called SIFT. SIFT stands for StopInvestigate the source; Find better coverage; and Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context. 

Integrating Lateral Reading into the Classroom

Here are some ways to introduce lateral reading in the classroom:

Model lateral reading:

Show students how you, as an educator, use lateral reading when encountering new information. Display your thought process out loud, demonstrating how to quickly open new tabs to cross-verify information.

Practice with real examples:

Use current news articles, blog posts, or social media updates to practice lateral reading. Encourage students to identify reliable sources and critically analyze the information.

Engage in collaborative exercises:

Let students work in groups to evaluate a website or an article. This encourages collective problem-solving and promotes peer learning.

Reflect and discuss:

Allow time for students to reflect on what they've learned and discuss the process. This can deepen understanding and enhance retention of these skills.

Ongoing reinforcement:

You can start with this lesson from Common Sense Education about lateral reading. However, do not restrict lateral reading to a single lesson. Reinforce it as an ongoing practice and incorporate it into various assignments and projects.

Innovative educators can equip our students with the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the digital world. Teaching lateral reading fosters not only critical thinking but also prepares students for an information-laden future. By including lateral reading in our curriculum, we empower students to become responsible digital citizens and lifelong learners.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Digital Detectives: Teaching Students to Verify Online Information

Detective with magnifying glass inspecting a computer screen
Innovative educators know it is important to help students understand how to verify information and determine what sources are credible and reliable. To help with that, organizations like Common Sense Education are doing their part by empowering students with strategies and techniques to examine the legitimacy of online content.

One of their notable methods involves the critical engagement with media through a set of thoughtful questions. This strategy is known as the "5 Questions to Ask about Media". This technique encourages students to delve beyond the surface level of any given piece of information, asking questions like:

1. Who is the creator of this content? 

Understanding the source of the content can often provide insight into its credibility. Reliable sources usually have a track record of providing accurate, unbiased information.

2. Why was this content created?

Determining the purpose or intent of the content helps understand if it is meant to inform, persuade, or entertain. This can shed light on possible biases present in the content.

3. Who is financing this content?

The entity financing the content might influence the presented perspective. Fully funded independent research, for example, tends to have less bias than content paid for by a company with vested interests.

4. How and why is this content trying to capture my attention?

Sensational headlines, emotionally charged language, or celebrity endorsements might be used to draw attention. Recognizing these tactics can help students gauge the objectivity of the content.

5. Whose viewpoints are represented and whose are absent?

Identifying the represented viewpoints can reveal biases or omissions. Diverse perspectives enrich the discussion and contribute to a more balanced understanding.

By promoting critical thinking skills and fostering an atmosphere of inquiry, innovative educators can help students effectively navigate the vast digital seas of information. Armed with these critical evaluation skills, students will be better equipped to question, analyze, and assess the credibility of the content they encounter daily on the internet. This worksheet can be helpful in supporting our students in becoming savvy digital explorers who can uncover the truth and verify information amidst the online information deluge.