My Information Literacy Instruction Goal: I want to grow teenagers into information literate human beings before they graduate and leave our orbit.
My Information Literacy Reality: We’ve done some good work and we’ve made some really good progress, but growing information literate human beings is really, really hard and we’re not getting students as far down the information literacy road as I’d like them to be. This year, all of our frosh and sophomores have been introduced the the main concepts and the practice of SIFT, lateral reading, and some basic fact checking.
Where We Find Ourselves: Like many of you we’ve embraced the shift in information literacy instruction to SIFT, lateral reading, and emphasizing context in the evaluation and use of sources of information.
My Plan at the Beginning of the School Year: After introducing SIFT, lateral reading, and emphasizing context in the evaluation and use of sources of information, we will produce short weekly videos that will revisit concepts and deepen students knowledge of skills, strategies, and techniques applicable to SIFT, lateral reading, and establishing/understanding a source’s context.
The Reality of My Plan in April: I, apparently, am a stupid, stupid man with little to no grasp of the reality of how much time, effort, and energy it takes to produce weekly videos on fact checking and lateral reading.
Yay for Free Stuff that’s Good!: Finding free stuff that’s good and does exactly what you need and want it to do is a beautiful thing! I recently came across a Youtube series from MediaWise, called, “Is It Legit?” The Is It Legit? formula is to take a viral social media claim of some kind and have a teenaged host talk through the process of how the claim might be fact checked and contextualized. MediaWise is a Google initiative and they’ve partnered with the Poynter Institute to develop the content. In addition to the Is it Legit? series, MediaWise has a full list of up-to-date available videos on the MediaWise channel homepage. From what I’ve seen, the videos fact check viral claims from both conservative and progressive viewpoints and they emphasize techniques and establishing context for fact checked claims.
There’s More to Information Literacy and Media Literacy than SIFT: I find that students take to the SIFT method very readily, but hey, there’s definitely more to being information literate than Stop, Investigate the source, Finding better sources, and Tracing quotes and claims. The News Literacy Project is a non-partisan educational non-profit that puts out great free material for educators interested supporting students’ information literacy growth. One of their initiatives, Rumor Guard, seemed like a perfect way for us to extend students’ understanding of “stuff to consider as you’re SIFT-ing.” In particular, Rumor Guard encourages students to consider The 5 Factors of a claim as they SIFT:
- Is it authentic?
- Has it been posted or confirmed by a credible source?
- Is there evidence that supports the claim?
- Is the context accurate?
- Is ti based on solid reasoning?
Again, we’re trying very hard to have teachers and students see The 5 Factors not as a new process for evaluating sources, but as “things to think about AS you are doing SIFT…” as we want to avoid the “the librarians keep changing what they’re teaching us” syndrome.
Making Sure that Media Literacy Instruction Happens without Teaching it All Ourselves: I’ve come to realize that literacies don’t develop as a result of specific lessons or units of study, but develop and emerge as a result of thousands of experiences and interactions with media over an extended time. To have any hope of the concepts of SIFT, lateral reading, and establishing/understanding a source’s context have any hope of becoming an integrated part of the way that our students effectively navigate their media drenched worlds, they need to be getting media literacy instruction in places other than the library. This spring, we’ve asked our social studies/humanities colleagues to help us pilot continued follow-up instruction on SIFT and lateral reading using videos from MediaWise alongside The 5 Factors from Rumor Guard.
In our effort to continue to deepen and expand on this basic introduction, we wanted to find a time friendly low stakes way for teachers to make thinking about good information literacy hygiene a regular, consistent, and persistent part of students’ everyday educational lives. We’ve begun curating just a single “MediaWise video of the Week” and asked our social studies and humanities teachers to find between 4-10 minutes of time during the week to show a selected MediaWise video in their classes (and hopefully have a short conversation with students about the fact check, but not required).
Hopes for the Future: We’re piloting this effort with our Social Studies/Humanities colleagues, but if we get good feedback from our stakeholder groups, we’d love to be able to curate STEM appropriate examples to have our science, math, and engineering colleagues join in on the effort.
We’ve just launched so we’re not sure what’ll happen just yet, but our teachers see that their students need the support so we’re hoping that providing teachers a simple, short, easily digested and easily scheduled option will help us make information literacy instruction a more regular part of students’ lives at school.