Education Standards

Digital Survival Skills Module 3: Fact-Checking

Digital Survival Skills Module 3: Fact-Checking

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Title image by ijmaki from Pixabay

General Overview

The information revolution of the 21st century is as significant and transformative as the industrial revolution of the 19th century. In this unit, students – and by proxy their families – will learn about the challenges of our current information landscape and how to navigate them.

This unit is split into four modules. These modules can be done sequentially or stand on their own, depending on students’ needs and teachers’ timeframes. The modules culminate in a Digital Survival Skills Workshop hosted by students where they teach these skills to their community. If you plan to complete the culminating project, we suggest introducing it briefly at the beginning of Module 1 so students know what the end goal is. See Module 4 for introduction materials.

In this module (3 of 4), students learn fact-checking skills using the SIFT model (Stop, Investigate, Find better coverage, Trace claims to their original source) that they can employ to verify questionable information and sources online. 

WA Educational Technology Learning Standards

Digital Citizen - Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

Knowledge Constructor - Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

Enduring Understandings

The best way to know whether to trust a source or claim is to investigate what other trustworthy sources say about it. This investigation can often be done quickly – in less than a minute – with a few key strategies. 

Supporting Questions

  1. How do you know if a source is trustworthy or not?
  2. What makes an online claim worthy of investigation?
  3. What are the most efficient methods for fact-checking questionable claims and sources?

Learning Targets

Students will be able to…

  • Determine whether sources are trustworthy or not
  • Use trustworthy sources to verify questionable information online
  • Trace online claims to their original source
  • Explain how to use Wikipedia as a fact-checking tool


  1. Investigate the source
  2. Using Wikipedia
  3. Find better coverage
  4. Trace claims and media back to their original context 
  5. Show your fact-checking skills


Task 1: Investigate the Source

*If you have skipped Module 1: My Media Environment, we highly recommend that students complete the My Media Environment assignment from that module. This will give you a greater understanding of what media your students are consuming and allow you to tailor these lessons to them and engage in richer conversations around evaluating information.

Students learn strategies to investigate unfamiliar sources.

Materials: Student Handout | List of Sources

*Note: All videos in this task are from the online course Ctrl+F from CIVIX featuring Mike Caulfield and Jane Lytvynenko. In some classrooms, it may be a good fit for students to work through this full course online. The full course takes an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

1. Students write on the Student Handout and/or turn and talk about the following question, then share out responses. The teacher or a student may want to track responses on the board or in a collaborative document to compare them with the strategies students will learn in this lesson.

  • What do you do when you want to figure out if a specific website is a credible source?

2. Teacher introduces SIFT, a fact-checking process developed by Mike Caulfield, digital literacy expert and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University Vancouver:

  • Stop
  • Investigate the Source
  • Find Trusted Coverage
  • Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media back to their original context

3. Teacher prompts students to use their knowledge of confirmation bias and recommendation algorithms to respond on the Student Handout about why the first step – STOP before liking or sharing information online, especially if you have a strong emotional response to it – is important.

4. Students watch the videos "Investigate the Source" (1:34) and "Just Add Wikipedia" (3:54)  to learn about the second step in the process and record what did and did not suprise them. The first video likely aligns with what they've been previously taught about evaluating information - always check the source. The second video may contradict what they've been told by teachers in the past about Wikipedia. Students share out repsonses. If students are skeptical of using Wikipedia, tell them you'll be discussing how to use Wikipedia in the next lesson.

5. Students try out the strategy "Just Add Wikipedia" to investigate the reputations of David Icke and, then share out responses.

6. Students learn another strategy for investigating the repuation of a source: a -site: search. This search returns results for all the websites talking about the site in question while removing any results from the site itself. Teacher demonstrates a -site: search with the Natural News example above [Google:] Point out that -site: searches don't remove the website's social media accounts from the search results, but that these should be skipped (because we want to know what others say about the source, not what the source says about itself). 

7. Students try out the -site: search with two new examples – and – and share out responses. Note: The Babylon Bee is satire. If students are unfamiliar with satire, this is a good time to define it.

8. The class is given the List of Sources and asked to place them on spectrum (drawn on the board) from most to least trustworthy, based on what they can learn about their reputations. In pairs, students choose three sources from the list to investigate using Wikipedia and -site: searches. Based on their investigation, they decide where to place the source on the spectrum. They mark the place with a post-it that includes the name of the source, a brief explanation of the placement, and group names.

9. When all students are done, teacher chooses some post-its and asks the groups who placed them to explain their reasoning to the class.

10. Students complete Exit Ticket on Student Handout: Why is it better to leave an unfamiliar website to find out more about it?

Task 2: Using Wikipedia

Students learn the ins and outs of Wikipedia so they can use it in an effective way.

Materials: Student Handout

1. Students write about their current impressions and use of Wikipedia on the Student Handout. Teacher or student leads share out of responses.

2. Students watch episode five of the Crash Course series Navigating Digital Information called "Using Wikipedia" (14:15), then answer the questions on the Student Handout and share out responses.

  • Who can edit Wikipedia pages?
  • What are Wikipedia's three rules for adding content?
  • What should you look out for when determining the quality of a Wikipedia article?

3. Individually or in pairs, students explore the features of one to two Wikpedia articles of their choice and respond to the following questions on the Student Handout:

  • What's the article title?
  • Is there a warning box at the top?
    • What does it say? 
    • How will it affect how you read the article?
  • Is the article locked?
    • What level of protection is it given - who is able to edit it?
  • Does the article include a table of contents?
    • Which section looks most interesting to you?
  • How many references does the article cite? 
  • Look at the references. About what percentage of the sources do you recognize? Give an example of two sources you recognize (if available).
  • Skim the whole article or, if it's long, read the parts that you're most interested in.
    • What's the most interesting thing you learned?
    • What source is cited for that piece of information? Is the source credible? How do you know?

4. Some students share out about their Wikipedia article, using the presentation station to walk the class through it if possible.

5. Students complete the Exit Ticket on the Student Handout: When do you think Wikipedia should be used as a source of information?

Task 3: Find Better Coverage

Students learn strategies to investigate claims online. They can use these when they can't find information about the original source or care more about whether the validity of the information than the credibility of the source.

Materials: Student Handout

*Note: The videos in this task are from the online course Ctrl+F from CIVIX featuring Mike Caulfield and Jane Lytvynenko

1. Students are shown four social media posts on the Student Handout and write about which they would feel the need to fact-check, which they would accept as true at face value, and why.

2. Students share out responses. A teacher or student tracks the reasons for fact-checking information. Some reasons may include: because the information sounded too good or bad to be true (it didn't seem plausible) or because the information did not include a familiar source. Remind students that confirmation bias can get in the way of their reasoning about plausibility (if they see a post about a celebrity they hate being mean, they're likely to believe it even though it may be misleading).

3. Students watch the videos "Check the Claim" (2:41) and "Skill: Find Better Coverage" (4:27) to learn about the third step in the process and use the Student Handout to write about what new information they learned from the videos that isn't already included in their own process for fact-checking claims. Students share out repsonses. 

4. Individually or in pairs, students try out the strategy "Find Better Coverage" by googling keywords from three of the four posts included in the lesson opener and looking for fact checks from known fact-checking sites or news sites. They record their findings on the Student Handout.

5. Students share out responses.


Task 4: Trace claims and media back to their original context

Students learn how to find the original source of information and photographs online.

Materials: Student Handout

*Note: The videos in this task are from the online course Ctrl+F from CIVIX featuring Mike Caulfield and Jane Lytvynenko

1. Students watch the videos "Trace the Information" (1:46), "Skill: Click Through and Find" (5:02), and "Skill: Check the Date" (1:37) to learn about the last step in the SIFT process. They use the Student Handout to answer the question: why is it important to find the original source of information posted online?

2. Students use the Student Handout to practice "Click through and find" by determining the original source of the following articles: 

3. Students choose one article and read both the original source and the re-reporting. On the Student Handout, they explain whether they think the re-reporting stayed faithful to the original source, which source they would share on social media, and why. They share out responses.

4. Students watch the video "Skill: Search the History of an Image" (4:13) and try out a Google Image Search or Tineye on the following photos. They record their findings on the Student Handout and share out.

Task 5: Show your fact-checking skills

Students demonstrate the fact-checking skills they learned in this module by investigating an questionable piece of information found in the wild.

Materials: Show Your Skills assignment sheet

1. Students read the Show Your Skills assignment sheet.

2. Students watch examples of teens fact-checking viral posts from the @MediaWise Instagram account to see what they'll be expected to do. [Teacher should a few current examples to showcase beforehand]. Note: if students are interested in doing more of this work, they can apply to be part of MediaWise's Teen Fact-Checking Network. Application rounds are announced on MediaWise's social media accounts. Learn more about MediaWise here.

3. Students choose a questionable piece of information to investigate. They can find something on their own social media, on websites they frequent, or use something they were told by friends or family.

4. Students fact-check the information, using techniques from at least two of the SIFT steps learned in the previous lessons (Investigate the Source, Find Better Coverage, or Trace to Their Orginial Context). They can create a @MediaWise-style video to showcase their work or create a slideshow with screenshots and text explanations of their process.

5. Students present projects to the class or explore each other's projects after they are posted to an LMS (Schoology, Google Classroom, etc.)