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.

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