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.

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Doing More With Twitter

A new semester of teaching Journalism 121: Advanced Writing and Reporting has begun with a crop of particularly talented students.  I’ll need to make sure they are appropriately challenged.  One of the things I’m twitter interface1rethinking this time is the Twitter assignments I give the students.  In JOUR 121, the students use Storify to curate stories, and I’m pretty happy with that.  But across all my journalism courses, they need to learn several things in regards to Twitter.

1.  Pitfalls in usage.  I still have students who are using accounts that are inappropriate as their public face. Even if they aren’t posting about getting drunk, students need to realize that if they’ve attached their full name to their account, their posts (including photos) need to be “scrutiny ready” by potential employers. What’s more, they should be aware of the ethical guidelines different media outlets are crafting for social media usage.
2. What to tweet.  Recently, I sent The Skyline View newspaper staff on a Twitter “scavenger hunt.”  I tweeted out directions through my @skylinejour account, things such as “Tweet a photo of one beautiful spot on campus and tell us where it is” or “Tweet one thing #skylinecollege students need to know right now.” What was interesting about the assignment is that we still have staffers resistant to using Twitter, even though it’s become de rigueur in journalism and connects so crucially with mobile reporting skills.  That’s a sign to me that I have to provide more instruction on and exposure to Twitter.
3. Full utilization.  If the students are only asking themselves what they should tweet, they haven’t tapped into Twitter at full strength.  When they think Twitter, they ought to be utilizing it for story ideas and contacts.  They should be considering new ways to report.  (Think @ACarvin.  Think Vine.) They should be on the look out for mentors and journalists whose work they admire. They should be following accounts that tweet scholarship, internship and job opportunities.  They should consider how they want to brand themselves online.

But first I need to convince them that Twitter is worth their while.  I’ll be thinking about this and experimenting with different ways to get them on board this semester.  And as I do, I hope to keep track of my progress here.

My Changing Social Media Habits

My social media habits have undergone an interesting change in the past few weeks. I’ve only been on Facebook a year, and while I haven’t become a prolific poster, I do check my account throughout the day and will post several times a week. It’s become a regular source of information for me, be it information about my friends or information about the world.

But just as I celebrated my first Facebook anniversary, I recommitted to my Twitter account. Over the period of two or three weeks, I’ve followed scores of new people and posted perhaps five times as often as I would have in the past. I’ve learned how to use lists. I’ve boned up on Twitter etiquette. I’ve researched how best to use Twitter.  My reward?  Enough invaluable information to make my head explode.  I’ve bookmarked site after site, blogger after blogger, all based on leads I’ve found through Twitter.

And suddenly, I’ve become bored with my Facebook account.  Facebook seems too slow, too irrelevant (these are my friends I’m talking about!), too limited.  Sure, I still check Facebook daily.  But no longer am I obsessively scrolling through all of the updates. Worse yet,  I’m dodging my inbox.

This may just be a phase.  But I have a feeling the Andy Borowitz quote (presumably) making the rounds on Twitter (where else?) has nailed it:  “I worry that children raised on Twitter won’t have the attention span for Facebook.”