The idea of the fact-checking activity in the Digital Polarization Initiative is simple: civic education as public work.
The education piece is simple: students learn how to tell truth from fiction on the web through checking our claims and investigating questions. We have a short textbook on that that they can read in a week. They can then apply those skills to political questions or questions within their discipline.
The public work piece is important though as well. It’s not enough for students to tell truth from fiction on the web (a personal skill). They should also use that skill to make the world a better place for others. So we encourage students to contribute the results of their investigations to a public wiki. Some of the answers our students have provided on various issues already rank near the top of Google queries for related questions.
This is digital public work, not just in the sense it is publicly available, but in the sense that it contributes to a public commons to advance a public good. In this case, that public good is to collectively improve the information environment of the web.
How much tech do you need to know or master to participate? Here’s the thing: outside what you’ll need to learn about fact-checking (Google features, checking sources, following links) you need to know almost nothing.
If you want your class to make the world a better place, the current “Digipo” process is to talk to me. I’ll set your class up a directory in Google Docs that is pre-connected to the wiki generation code. Students edit the documents in that directory and they automatically get changed to wiki pages. The video below shows it in action.
That’s it. I can’t begin to tell you what a pain in the butt it was to set this up. But the pain is behind us now, and there really is no excuse for not participating. The learning curve for contribution is a flat line, which will let you concentrate on the fact-checking parts. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to participate.