Set the Stage
Have students move into their teams of 2-3 before getting started.Open the activity by giving students 5-10 minutesto discuss the following questions in their teams:
1. Why is it important to verify the truthfulness of articles, photos, memes or other digital material before posting them online?
2. Is it as important to check these same items if someone they follow online first posts it and they are simply reposting or liking it?
3. Does it make a difference when an item is posted by someone they actually know—a friend or family member?
Take a few minutes for teams to share their ideas with the entire class. It is likely they will say it’s less important to vet an item originally posted by someone else, especially if that person is someone they know.
If students recognize the importance of vetting everything they repost or like, congratulate them for having that knowledge.
Explain that in this activity, students will learn tips to use to check the reliability of digital materials before reposting or liking the items. Say that most people feel comfortable reposting items their friends and family members have posted without checking these items as carefully as they might otherwise. Mention that this is one way misinformation spreads quickly online.
Ask students which social media platforms they currently use. Make a list of these tools and query students in general terms about why they use these particular platforms, who they friend or follow, who friends and follows them, and how digital materials are shared. Also ask how people indicate they approve of something someone else has posted. Is there a way to like something? To repost something or make a comment on it? Ask if they carefully read and check out items they react to or if they blindly give their approval. If the latter, why? Remind them that social media and other platforms are hotbeds of counterknowledge because it’s so easy to pass misinformation along with a click or tap.
Tell students that during this activity they will work in pairs or trios to think about ways they already evaluate digital material they encounter online and then to review and apply tips for verifying items that appear in social media feeds and other media to ensure they are not passing along misinformation.
Distribute the Before You Share handout (hardcopy or digitally). Give students a few minutes to brainstorm and list strategies they already use to check online materials before passing them along to others. Share and discuss the following tips with the class.
1. Read the post and material that may be linked. In the case of a photo, look at it closely.
2. Check the source. Is the information published by a known, reliable person or institution?
3. Search to see who else is posting about this event or topic. Are those sources reliable?
4. Is the title or headline sensational? Does it accurately reflect the rest of the content?
5. Does the text, meme, or image seem to be too good to be true or is it designed to stir your emotions?
6. Use a fact checker like Snopes.com or FactCheck. Has the information already been evaluated by one or more of these sites?
This may seem like a lot of extra work, but if students are going to pass along information that someone else has posted, they need to be certain that whatever it is, the information is accurate. Ask students to list the strategies they will use to complete the next part of this activity. They need to choose five and they may come from their brainstorming list or from the tips you have provided.
You may want to walk students through the first main idea in the Articles section to model how you want them to approach this work. In this case, the article is not true despite the fact that many people believe that any member of Congress who serves one full term is eligible for a pension that consists of their full salary and free medical care for life. Have teams complete the remainder of the handout.
Possible Modification: Depending on your students’ skill levels and available time, you may decide to have teams work on just one of the exercises (articles, memes, or photographs) and then share answers in the class discussion.