Presenting your students with online sources related to the content of your course can be a powerful way to integrate Civic Online Reasoning into your instruction. Finding these sources sometimes takes no effort at all—they might appear in your social media feeds. More often, they require you to search for them, and it might take you a good deal of time to find a fitting example. Below are tips for locating examples of online content to use for teaching.
Students should practice evaluating sources and evidence ranging in quality. As educators, we trust that you know where to find reliable sources of information about the subjects you teach. We’ve noticed that educators are often less sure of how to find dubious sources with questionable evidence. You know it’s out there—you see it when scrolling on social media, your students reference it, maybe a family member asks you about it—but locating it for classroom instruction can prove more challenging.
Over the past seven years, SHEG has learned a few strategies for finding sources. Here are some tips that we hope will help you find rich examples for your classroom.
- Fact-checking websites, such as Snopes, Politifact, and FactCheck.org, can be great places to find examples of problematic evidence used online. Some news outlets also have columns dedicated to fact-checking recent rumors and fake news. These include Washington Post Fact-Checker, AP Fact Check, AFP Fact Check, Reuters Fact Check, and BBC Reality Check. Even if you don’t use the exact content covered by these organizations, you can use the reported topics and sources as starting points. Take note of the “known offenders.” For example, you may learn that there is a lot of disinformation that circulates about pesticides, making it a promising topic for your search, or that the social media account OccupyDemocrats provides dozens of clickbait posts.
- Brainstorm topics related to your discipline that you know or expect there could be disinformation about online. Frequently these are topics with significant financial or political stakes. Others may be hoaxes for which economics and ideology play a smaller role.
- Search for sources from a variety of social media platforms to demonstrate the ubiquity of the problem and the relevance of the COR approach. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Twitch, YouTube, Tumblr, and Pinterest.
- Most content online is not stable. Social media posts are deleted, websites go offline, and URLs are re-routed. Once you find a source that you’d like to use in your classroom, be sure to save it. You can use a webpage archiver, such as the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine or Archive.today, to create an archived version of the webpage. Be sure to save the URL of the archived copy. You can also take screenshots of content. Some web browsers or third-party browser extensions allow you to create full-page screenshots.
- Be mindful of people’s privacy. Some content is clearly created for a wide audience. In other cases, a lay social media user may have less restrictive sharing settings but might expect that people who interact with their content will be from a close circle.
- Be mindful of what would be appropriate to share with students and how. In some cases, we’ve chosen to present students with static images of social media posts along with blurred out usernames rather than direct links to the live accounts.
- Prioritize students’ safety and wellness. There are many websites teeming with examples of junk evidence that are inappropriate to share with students.