Social Media and Verification Tools

It should be obvious from this blog that I’ve been learning right alongside my students. I’ve had fun chronicling my failures and successes with teaching digital journalism. One thing I’m feeling like I can put into the (moderate) success column: I just added a section on verification.

verficiatonLet me back up a moment. For the past several years, my students have built social media stories in Storify. They’ve also used or identified how to use social media to find sources and stories. But one thing I had not yet deliberately built into the process was verification. Sure, we’ve talked about the basics of making sure sources are credible–after all, these are my more advanced students–but we haven’t talked about specific methodologies for making sure particular tweets, photos or videos are authentic. Even just typing that sentence, it feels so obvious that that needs to be explicitly taught, but, well, perhaps I’m late to the party.

The realization that I needed to do this came after I had already completed this semester’s schedule. Nonetheless, I found a way to designate two class sessions to this. Was that enough? Probably not. But at least they have an introduction to the subject.

On the first day, I had them identify what prior knowledge they brought to the topic. They easily identified the strengths (we’ve covered this before) and the weaknesses of using social media. I was pleased that they innately knew the risks of relying on social media information. But what especially made me happy was that they were able to brainstorm several solid ways to verify information on social media.

I followed this up with readings from the following:

Once the students had done the reading, I uploaded different social media posts to an online class forum and had the students analyze the posts and figure out how they would go about verifying each.

So, again, I put this in the “success” column. Perhaps this will work itself into a larger unit at some point, but for now, I’m happy to have initiated some training on this. How are you teaching or doing verification of social media postings?

Update on April 30, 2015: This article by Anthony De Rosa is also a worthwhile read: How to Be a Good Internet Citizen During Breaking News.