© 2018 by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics

Students explore their identities and communities, identify civic issues that matter to them, and consider how they might use digital media for civic participation.

Students work to understand and analyze civic information online, and consider what information they

can trust.

Students navigate diverse perspectives and exchange ideas about civic issues in our inter-connected world .

Students consider how, when and to what end they can create, remix and otherwise re-purpose content that they share with others in online spaces.

Students consider a broad range of tactics and strategies for acting on civic issues. 

INVESTIGATE

UNDERSTAND AND ANALYZE
CIVIC INFORMATION ONLINE, 
CONSIDER WHAT INFORMATION YOU CAN TRUST

Helping young people navigate the sea of information online today is exciting and daunting. There is more news and information at young people’s fingertips than ever before. However, at the same time, there is an array of misinformation. And it feels like the stakes keep getting higher and higher as the complexities of finding good sources of information, identifying “fake news,” and judging credibility increase. A 2016 research study by the Stanford Education Research Group showed that many youth (not unlike adults) can’t tell the difference between a real news story and “sponsored content” (or an advertisement) (Wineberg & McGrew, 2016).  

 

In addition, young people report that they want help learning how to investigate news and information in the digital age. In fact, 84% of youth surveyed nationally said they thought that they and their friends would benefit from instruction in how to tell if a given source of online news was trustworthy (Cohen et al., 2012).

               

The resources in this module engage students in thinking about how to understand and judge the credibility of online civic information. In this module you will find:

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  • A conversation starter to help you and your students get started thinking about news in the digital age.

  • A collection of activity ideas focused on the following four questions:

    • Why is credibility important? How can I judge the credibility of civic information online?

    • How can I reflect on my biases when investigating civic issues?

    • How do I understand & analyze visual forms of civic information online?

    • How do I investigate a topic and present what I have learned?

  • A closing reflection and additional resources that you may want to access.

conversation starter:

what news have you experienced lately - and how?

This conversation starter invites students to ask one another about a piece of news they have engaged with recently, and how they received the information.  (20 min)  >

QUESTION 1:

Why is credibility important? How can I judge the credibility of civic information online? 

Young people report that they want help learning how to investigate information today. Eighty-four percent of youth surveyed nationally reported they and their friends would benefit from instruction in how to tell if an online news source was trustworthy (Cohen et al., 2012). The following activities will support you and your students in exploring why credibility is important and how to begin to think about the credibility of civic news and information online (i.e. news and information about community issues or problems).

QUESTION 2:

How can I reflect on my bias

when investigating civic issues?

In the digital age, we have seen a rise in misinformation and “fake news” due to the lack of vetting of online information, the ease with which information can be circulated, and the growing numbers of people who get their news from social media. Another important factor is the increase of partisanship that can bias our judgment about the credibility and accuracy of civic and political information. Having strongly held partisan beliefs can lead you to be less critical of political claims that match up with your own perspective -- whether they are conservative or liberal. The following activities help students understand and reflect on their own bias. 

QUESTION 3:

How do I understand & analyze

visual forms of civic information online?

Infographics are an increasingly common type of visual information in the digital age used to display and explain information or data. They are often used to help people understand complex civic and political issues. The following lesson plans were written by a teacher named Nicole Edwards in Oakland, CA as a part of the Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age Initiative in order to aid students in understanding and analyzing infographics.

QUESTION 4:

How do I investigate a topic

and present what I have learned? 

If you would like to engage your students in a hands-on research project where they put these ideas into practice, you could draw ideas from the following lesson plans written by Lisa Rothbard. Lisa was a teacher in Oakland, CA who participated in the Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age Initiative.

CLOSING

REFLECTION

This section asks students to loop back to

the broad questions that they explored in this module

as a way of reviewing what they covered

related to credibility in the digital age.

teacher background

This section includes links to articles, blogs, videos, and further resources that informed the creation of this module and may be useful to educators who want to dig deeper.