What We’re Reading: SIFT and Teaching Critical Digital Literacy

illustration by Clare Reid

Our ongoing shift to remote learning as well as the current political landscape has made it more important than ever that we help our students become more critical readers of the news, helping them spot misinformation and stop them from sharing or spreading it.  I want to share a couple of resources today that were created especially for educators looking to incorporate critical digital literacy skills into their courses.

These resources were created by Michael Caulfield, the Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University Vancouver, and head of the Digital Polarization Initiative of the American Democracy Project. He is a passionate advocate for digital literacy, and has worked tirelessly to provide resources for instructors. 

Caulfield came up with the SIFT strategy, four moves that we can all practice when we see a piece of information or news item on the web: Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, and Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context. He goes into even more depth on how students can practice these four moves in an open-access textbook, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. Each section provides both definitions and a number of exercises that put the moves into practice. 

For those who would like to more fully integrate his lessons into your course, Caulfield created a series of corresponding digital literacy modules, called the Check Please! Starter Course. Each module has explainer videos, examples, exercises, and other resources to make it as simple as possible to integrate into an existing course. There are five lessons in total, with each taking about 30 minutes to complete. As Caulfield describes it, the course “is suitable homework for the first week of a college-level module on disinformation or online information literacy, or the first few weeks of a course if assigned with other discipline-focused homework.”

I strongly recommend checking out these two resources to better understand how misinformation online works and what you can do to help stop it. As instructors, it is important that we at least have that basic knowledge ourselves so that we can help our students become better digital citizens.