Twitter, Blogs and Credibility: How Are You Teaching It?

I admit, there are times when I am standing in front (or at the back) of a classroom and I mention the name of a database that I don’t wonder if 20 pairs of eyes glaze over just a little bit. I worry that I have become that database lady, instead of someone who teaches information literacy.

So, my goal for this year was to do things differently. And it has been working out beautifully.  We have instituted the personal librarian program for 9th graders, which I will get into later in the year when I have more data.  We have also instituted a campaign of joy, which is just something I personally feel is needed on a campus filled with stressed out students and teachers. I have also begun looking at former lessons and trying to make them more interactive. Here is what I did with my Honors Government Crossfire Debate Project. Let me know what you think.

Honors Government Crossfire Debate

In prior years, I would talk about twitter credibility and the verified checkmark.  We would look at a twitter account and talk about credibility.  Then I talk about where they could find good blogs and how to verify an author.  I would end with a tour of the Libguide and the databases they should explore.

boston_marathon

This photo was sent four minutes after the bomb blast. It is from a report analyzing fake content on the Boston bombing. (Source: http://precog.iiitd.edu.in/Publications_files/ecrs2013_ag_hl_pk.pdf)

This year, however, I started with the Boston Marathon Bombing.

After asking the students if they remember the bombing, I talk about how fast the news is now and that breaking news is even faster and that news consumers need to be critical thinkers and evaluators of the news that they consume.  According to an independent report analyzing fake content on Twitter, the first tweet about the bombing occurred within three minutes of the blast and the first photo in four minutes.

According to the report, 29% of the content was rumors or fake content. That’s almost a third of the content.  And they found that people with high social reputation and verified accounts were responsible for spreading some of the fake content.  Now, is this the time to abandon Twitter? No, of course not.  But it is the time to check up on the source that you are using.

When did your source start tweeting?  The day of the bombing?  Are they asking you for money? Are they a charity created the day after the bombing? Do they have five followers or 50,000?

One reason it is important to check on when a twitter source joined and determine how many followers they have and do they post tweets regularly is because during the Boston bombing over 6,000 malicious Twitter accounts were created and later suspended by Twitter.

Why does this happen? Because there are bad people wanting to take advantage of the kindness of good people.  So, check your sources.

boston_marathon_1

Photo from the Analyzing Fake Twitter Report which is an example of why you should always check your sources for length on twitter and focus of tweets.

If you take a look at my prezi you can see how I laid out my talking points.  That’s when we get to the verified accounts at twitter.

boston_1

Anderson Cooper’s verified personal Twitter account can be found by looking for the blue check after his name. (Source: Twitter.)

The key point to a verified account is that even though you are verified, you may not be credible.  For instance, it may be the real, verified Kim Kardashian, but she isn’t credible on topics of science.  She may or may not be for fashion.  I won’t judge.

The other point on a verified account is that a very small minority of people have verified accounts.  That leaves plenty of credible people out there with no verified check mark but plenty of credibility for you to find.  All you need to do is look for them.  Case in point: Mexico Drug War.

deciding

With this search, I just typed in Mexico drug war and the top two people were Sylvia and @puzzleshifter.  Of course, not having a name is a problem in and of itself, which we discussed as a class.  I have the class decide on which person to go look at and they usually choose Sylvia as the more professional of the two.

longmire0

With this photo, I am asking them to look and think about what other information can they glean from the site?  They should be looking for how many followers she has, for when she joined.  They should notice that her website is listed and that she is a regular tweeter.  If they are really good, someone might mention that her followers might be mined for other sources of information. Then we follow the website to find out more info on her.

longmire1

After clicking on the about page, I have them scan the page to see if her credentials match the subject in which she claims expertise.  If so, then we have a credible expert.

longmire2

Then we move on to blogging.

For blogging, we reinforce what we have talked about with Twitter, but we expand it for the blogs.  One source that I found exceptionally helpful in preparing this lesson was: Measuring Social Media Credibility: A Study on a Measure of Blog Credibility.

In essence, I boil it down to

A blogger is considered credible when they are

  • knowledgeable
  • influential
  • passionate
  • transparent
  • reliable

Blog content is considered credible when it is:

  • authentic
  • insightful
  • informative
  • consistent
  • fair
  • focused
  • accurate
  • timely
  • popular

Now that they have an idea of how to think about credibility.  I give them an exercise. I have them get into their debate groups of four people and then I assign them to a group.  Each group has three blogs to evaluate.  They need to decide if the blog would be a good credible expert, someone to use as a primary source (a hobbyist) or is too biased to use.  They have 10 minutes and each group comes to the front to discuss in front of the class and we deconstruct their reasons why.

And what do you know?  They were engaged, enthusiastic and their analysis was spot on (with a couple of exceptions 8-).  I even learned a few things.

If you would like to see the exercise and my liguide, go to Crossfire Debate Libguide  Let me know what you are doing or if you have helpful tips or ideas below or email me.

 

Additional resources that were helpful in constructing this lesson:

Heidi Cohen’s Can you separate real from fake content blog post (Oct. 29, 2013)

Heidi Cohen’s 7 Actionable Twitter Tips to build your following (May 30, 2013)

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2 Responses to Twitter, Blogs and Credibility: How Are You Teaching It?

  1. David Wee says:

    Thank you for this great stuff, CD! There is much here to mine for future project-lessons. I’ve noticed that from time to time, NPR’s On The Media program tweets different versions of 1 page, succinct visual “Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook” editions (Active Shooter edition, Political Polls edition, etc.). Your post finally made me get around to see if I could find them all in one place. The “Active Shooter edition” is, I think particularly good. Thought you might be interested! I dream of having kids come up with their own editions for their peers to use…Nutrition Edition, etc. LOL! http://www.wnyc.org/shows/otm/handbooks

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