Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
Research and top intelligence experts have verified that the Russian government and perhaps other nations have been intentionally interjecting false information into the US social media world in an effort to undermine our political process. With the proliferation of new and constantly changing information on the Internet and social media it is becoming increasingly more difficult for many people to differentiate between truth and fiction. That is, it has become a real challenge to know what is a valid source of information versus what is merely propaganda.
This is especially the case when it comes to seeking out information within the political realm. During midterm and general elections it has become common practice for candidates to put out misinformation about their opponents and downplay their own mistakes with misleading articles. What is the best way to fight against a culture where misinformation is the order of the day? One way to combat this is to develop a skill set that can allow us to be skeptical of information until we have put it through a vetting process that involves ensuring that it comes from a valid and reputable source.
The Teaching Tolerance organization has developed an article entitled Evaluating Reliable Sources that helps students understand how important it is to identify reliable sources when reading and working in an online environment. The article contains a lesson plan that teachers can use to help students develop the skills to evaluate sources and know the difference between reliable and unreliable sources. Here are some questions the article asks us to consider when trying to determine whether a source is valid or not:
Who wrote this source?
What was the purpose of the author who wrote this source?
What other sources does this source reference?
Does this source say the same things as other sources?
Does this source echo what I know from personal experience?
NPR has provided a resource entitled Comic: Fake News Can Be Deadly. Here’s How To Spot It. The resource offers ways to identify misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some other educational resources and lesson plans on the topic of finding reliable sources.
Evaluating Legitimate Sources
Choosing Reliable Sources
Identifying Reliable Sources and Citing Them
Teaching Adolescents How to Evaluate the Quality of Online Information
Lesson Plan: Evaluating sources — What’s a ‘reliable’ source?
The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Source Credibility
Reliable Sources Lesson Plan
Evaluating Online Sources Lesson Plan: Is Everything on the Internet True?