For democracy to work, citizens need to be informed and engaged. The resources on this site are designed to help educators empower students under the voting age with the habits and skills of informed citizenship.Contact Us
As our online information environment has become increasingly polluted with false and misleading information, it has become challenging to distinguish reliable information from what is untrue, biased, or agenda-driven. When there is so much information out there, and so much of it is low quality, it can be overwhelming.
CIVIX digital information literacy initiative aims to support teachers in empowering students with the knowledge and skills required to locate the information they can trust. So students may make informed choices in the best interests of themselves and their communities.
Our vision is a world where students view themselves as citizens, care about what is true or credible, routinely evaluate sources and claims, and know where to look for reliable information.
There’s an idea that ‘digital natives’ are savvy enough with technology they don’t need to learn about it. But there’s a big difference between having an intuitive understanding of technology, and the digital literacy skills needed to determine if the information that comes through it is worth trusting.
The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) has conducted significant foundational research in this area. A 2016 study of 8,000 middle-school to college students showed consistent failure in such tasks as distinguishing news from advertising, identifying the source of a tweeted fact, or recognizing that a website was created for PR purposes. The authors described the result as “bleak.”
The good news is that there are solutions. And they are not that hard. SHEG and others have demonstrated that simple digital literacy skills as the best defence against information pollution.
The term for this set of skills is ‘lateral reading’ and the techniques involve leaving the page where you find the information — opening a new tab and doing a keyword search, or looking on Wikipedia to find context about an unknown person or group. This is what professional fact-checkers do to quickly and accurately assess new information. It may sound simple, but the strategies are powerful.
CTRL-F: Find the Facts is a verification module that teaches simple digital literacy skills students can use to determine the reliability of any piece of information. CTRL-F is the keyboard shortcut for ‘find’ and the idea is that we can all develop a habit of using quick strategies to investigate news and information to determine what to trust.
The module is built around three key skills: investigate the source, check the claim, and trace the information to find the original context.
To develop these tools and activities, we teamed up with digital literacy expert Mike Caulfield and Jane Lytvynenko, who covers disinformation as a senior reporter for BuzzFeed news.
The learning module itself combines a series of instructional videos with hands-on examples that allow users to apply the skills immediately to a variety of real-world cases. It is designed for students in Grades 7 and up, but can be modified for younger grades.
You can access the CTRL-F materials by visiting ctrl-f.ca.
CIVIX is a national registered charity dedicated to building the skills and habits of active and informed citizenship among young Canadians. CIVIX provides experiential learning opportunities to help young Canadians practice their rights and responsibilities as citizens and connect with their democratic institutions. Student Vote, the flagship program of CIVIX, is a parallel election for students under the voting age, which coincides with official elections. In the 2019 federal election, 1.2 million students cast ballots from over 8,000 schools.
80% of middle schoolers can’t tell the difference between paid sponsored content a news articleStanford History Education Group
57% of Canadians admit to believing something that was later proven to be falseCIRA
100% of fact-checkers were able to quickly separate information from credible vs agenda-driven sourcesStanford History Education Group