One student wanted to know why so many nurses were spreading vaccine misinformation.
Other participants drew parallels to popular crime-fighting myths found in shows like “Criminal Minds.”
But most of the college students who participated in a fact-checking workshop from MediaWise, the social-first digital media literacy initiative of the nonprofit Poynter Institute, were simply happy to report feeling more digitally savvy after the hour they spent learning to spot fact from fiction online.
MediaWise and its Campus Correspondents have been working since 2020 to slow the spread of online misinformation. In 2022, the goal is to train at 100 diverse colleges and universities, and availability is now opening up for another 25 workshops.
Since 2020, thanks to support from Meta, this dynamic group of college and graduate students has led more than 100 free virtual and in-person workshops in college classrooms. They’ve taught more than 2,000 of their peers how to be more critical consumers of what they see and share on the internet. The MediaWise Campus Correspondents demonstrate simple techniques to identify misinformation, find trusted sources, verify photos and videos, spot red flags and more. By the end of each session, trainees are empowered to debunk falsehoods on their favorite social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
“As ‘fact-checking’ becomes more and more a part of our shared vocabulary, we want educators to have the latest tools to empower students to tell fact from fiction online,” said Barbara Allen, director of college programming at Poynter. “The overwhelming number of requests for this peer-to-peer training makes us think we’ve created something special and valuable in the crowded space of digital media literacy.”
Instructors from all walks of academia have applied to participate in the 2022 program including those in journalism, mass communications, philosophy, general education and humanities. To meet the program’s demand, this year’s small but mighty team of 11 Campus Correspondents took the most crucial lessons from their live workshops and produced one masterclass video.
“The internet is getting out of hand,” said correspondent Kobe McCloud, a senior at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. “But tools like our masterclass are out there to help people feel empowered to take back control of their online experience.”
In less than 20 minutes, five of the Campus Correspondents guide viewers through comprehensive exercises that, when consistently practiced, prevent misinformation’s real-world consequences for generations.
“We’re seeing a trend of old propaganda tactics coming back and adjusted for modern times to deliberately target vulnerable populations using technology and social media. This is a big deal,” said McCloud. “The internet is being used for various nefarious activities across the seas. People are getting hurt. International relations and globalization as we know it are at risk. Democracies are at risk. And we’re going to repeat history if we don’t get some sort of grip on misinformation now.”
Each chapter of the masterclass shows how the audience can become their own fact-checkers and be a part of the solution to squelch misleading claims, conspiracy theories and viral hoaxes online.
“The masterclass is a diverse, transparent, neutral way of educating anyone who’s interested in media literacy or even learning what exactly is mis- and disinformation,” said McCloud. “If you’re passionate about anything that relates to how we exchange information, it’s important to know that where you’re getting it from matters at the end of the day.”
Now, everyone who wants digital media literacy training can access this educational resource at no cost. Enter your contact information here to have the complete masterclass sent straight to your inbox today.
MediaWise is a social-first digital media literacy initiative of the nonprofit Poynter Institute. The program teaches people of all ages and backgrounds how to responsibly engage with online content in the age of information overload. The fact-checking enterprise was created in 2018 to empower citizens to find trusted sources and make sense of the vast amount of information at their fingertips. We bring simple yet effective digital media literacy tools to people where they are — whether they’re on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or TikTok or in one of the five countries where MediaWise operates — and walk them through every step to determine what’s real and what’s not on the internet. Through MediaWise, everyone can do their part to reduce the spread of misinformation and elevate the truth. Follow MediaWise on social media to learn how to debunk viral claims and be more critical consumers of online information. Explore programs and be part of the solution at poynter.org/mediawise.