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Checkology Virtual Classroom
Pros: Unique site allows for exploration of multiple lessons, while the check tool allows students to evaluate credibility of news.
Cons: Lessons can be a bit too long and repetitive at times.
Bottom Line: With "fake news" a pressing concern, Checkology's literacy lessons offer essential, if not totally comprehensive, skills to help students evaluate sources.
The media landscape has never been more daunting to navigate, and students need help separating fact from fiction. With Checkology, teachers can give students some critical tools to evaluate the credibility of information they come across and determine where it's from. Teachers can either curate examples of media (articles, political debates, campaign ads, social media posts) for students to unpack or have students bring in examples. Then, in conjunction with the Checkology lessons, students can apply critical techniques to the curated media to gain a better understanding of their credibility and provenance. School subscribers are also given credits to use to bring media professionals into their schools, virtually or in person.
In terms of the lessons themselves, teachers can choose either to guide students through lessons and modules as a class or have students explore modules independently. As students progress through the lessons, teachers should facilitate discussions of the content in conjunction with diving into timely case studies of concrete and relatable media examples. Teachers also can have students use the "check tool" to evaluate a source's credibility before writing a paper or researching a topic. Take note that the News Literacy Project and Checkology offer professional development opportunities for teachers, as well as lesson transcripts and teacher materials. Students are also offered workshops (in addition to the Checkology curriculum), which can be found on the News Literacy Project's website.
Checkology is a news and media literacy learning platform created by the News Literacy Project. Checkology's aim is to help students more critically navigate today's ever-changing media and digital landscape. The site includes four free modules, with more available for subscribers, each containing lessons, student challenges, and discussions. The lessons' panelists are journalists from the New York Times, Buzzfeed, and the Washington Post, to name a few. There's also a "check tool" that allows students to evaluate the credibility of any piece of news they may be uncertain of, following the news literacy principles they've learned throughout Checkology's lessons.
There are two versions teachers can use: The first is a basic version designed to be projected in front of the class and directed by the teacher. The second, a premium version (free for the 2020-2021 school year), is more student-direct, allowing students to log in, self-pace, and save work. This premium version also offers some learning management system (LMS) functions where teachers can use a dashboard to monitor student progress and give feedback.
Disclosure: Common Sense Education has a free curriculum that addresses news literacy topics similar to Checkology's; however, Common Sense's reviews strive to be independent and unbiased. Reviewers and editorial staff have independent oversight over the content of the reviews and their ratings.
As one of the few media literacy-focused digital platforms, Checkology occupies a useful niche. The lessons use real-world news examples to help students navigate and learn about four key ideas: filtering news and information, exercising civic freedoms, navigating today's information landscape, and knowing what to believe. By using the "check tool," students will become expert critical thinkers and expert evaluators of a source's credibility. Checkology will expose kids to videos on today's pressing issues, particularly how to determine fake news from real news and how to evaluate the credibility of sources. The lessons are interesting and the videos are relevant, but at times the work can seem monotonous or repetitive for students. There's also a growing critique of checklist-style evaluation of sources that is, in part, a component of the Checkology modules. While this model can be helpful to get kids on their way to being media literate, ultimately the web requires a new way of reading -- "lateral reading" -- that goes beyond the source in question.