Teaching "Digital Skills for Democracy" - Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Rachel Collishaw. I’m a teacher and education specialist at Elections Canada. In this video, I’ll be showing you how you can teach “Digital Skills for Democracy.”

How can we find out if information about elections or political issues is something we can trust? That’s the inquiry question that students explore in Digital Skills for Democracy. They work together to use five digital strategies to figure out if they have trustworthy information on a political or electoral issue. 

One of the really great things about this lesson is that students learn online skills in a totally offline way. 

We start with the Minds On, the first part of the three-part lesson structure that guides all of our activities. These first 5 minutes help students to connect their own experiences to the big idea of the lesson. 

In this Minds On, we start with a list of statements, and we ask students to say if they think they are true or false. Students can work individually, or read them aloud together. If you read them aloud, make sure you say each fact with a sense of authority and truth.

Don’t worry, the Teacher’s Guide has the answers! They are tricky on purpose!

Ask your students how well they did at guessing? Was there any way to tell the true facts from the false ones? Sometimes doing more research is the only way to know whether something is trustworthy, especially online. 

You can introduce these two terms to help students understand different kinds of false information online, especially in social media. The difference is really about intent. Did the person sharing intend to share false information, or did they just not do their research?

I don’t know about your students, but mine are not always super- excited about research. 

This lesson is going to show them five simple ways to avoid being tricked by false and misleading information online, and they will be able to use these strategies right away in their online world.

To start, organize your students into small groups and make sure every group has a copy of the graphic organizer to record their thinking. 

You’ll want to have a graphic organizer copied on both sides of the handout for the two rounds of the activity. You will be doing two rounds of fact-checking scenarios: one set is fictional; the other deals with real-life situations.

We’ll start with round one. Each group will get their own fact-checking scenario to investigate. When you order the kit, you’ll get enough for one classroom working in small groups. 
If you need more materials, everything is also available to download and print from our website. 

Students read the cards aloud one at a time, and record on the graphic organizer how trustworthy they think the information is, starting with the Scenario Card (A).

Next, students read cards B, C and D which show an example of how you can use one of the five digital strategies to find out more. The strategy is on the front, and the steps you could take online are on the back.

You can give each group one card at a time - they are labeled A through E to help you stay organized. Or you can assign one student to be the card-master, who is responsible for flipping the cards once the thinking is done at each stage. 

You can assign the other students to be a reader, scribe or reporter. You know what strategy will work best with your students. 

However you give out the cards, students need to track their thinking on the graphic organizer. They are always thinking about the initial scenario and how the new information might change their understanding of its trustworthiness. 

Once they’ve read all the “clues,” then they can read aloud the Answer card. Their final conclusion is not that important, but we do want them to share how they got there and to focus on the decision-making processes using the Five Digital Strategies. 

Some groups might finish before others. You can extend their thinking by asking some more questions.

Have each group read their scenario aloud to the class and share. To help you guide the discussion, we made a teacher summary of all of the scenarios and strategies used. 

The scenarios in round one are imaginary, but realistic. They were drawn from real life to better introduce the five digital strategies. In round two, we used real-life examples. It works just like the first, but the cards are a little bigger, and we’ve included visuals from real life. As an extension, your students can actually look up all of these scenarios to find out more about them. 

At the end of round two, have students again read their scenario aloud, give their final trustworthiness ranking and share which strategy they found the most helpful.

Just like in round one, some students might finish before others, and you can extend their thinking with the consolidation questions to keep them engaged.

Give students a few minutes in their group to discuss these questions before sharing back. 

If you designated a reporter, they should share some of the group’s thoughts with the class. It’s important to have students discuss their ideas in their small group first; this is where the important learning conversations happen and it gives all students the chance to be heard. They might not need to use all five strategies all of the time. One is usually enough when they know a trustworthy source like Elections Canada. This is also a great chance to make sure that all students know that liking and sharing false and misleading information can make the problem worse, and that it’s especially important to be aware during an election period.

Lastly, the lesson concludes with an exit card so that students can think about what they’ve learned, and you can see what they might need to learn next. You might have noticed that many of our exit cards are written in sentence stems. This is more invitational than a question and can help reluctant writers engage. It’s also a really effective strategy to support the language learners in your classroom.

I think one of the greatest things about this lesson, is that it engages students in totally offline, face-to-face conversations about their thinking to prepare them effectively to engage more thoughtfully in their online communities. 

More of the scenarios are more trustworthy than not. This is because research shows that younger people tend to be too skeptical and not trust anything. By giving them concrete strategies and real-life examples, you can show your future voters that there are trustworthy sources of information, like Elections Canada. And that there are ways that they can find out what’s really going on online.

We want to know if your students liked the activity. Share your experience and photos on our Twitter and Facebook accounts!