Student using Checkology

Teachers share how they used Checkology in challenging year


The 2020-21 school year has been anything but routine for teachers and students all over the world. Unpredictability led to a mixture of remote, hybrid and in-person learning environments — with some classrooms experiencing all three. At the same time, demand grew for resources to teach students how to separate fact from fiction and identify and combat dangerous misinformation. The Checkology® virtual classroom was an ideal resource to meet that demand across learning environments.  

The News Literacy Project (NLP) set out to better understand educators’ experiences teaching news literacy. We asked several teachers to record short videos answering the question, “How did you use Checkology this past year?” Check out their responses below. 

K.C. Boyd, library media specialist 

Jefferson Middle School Academy, Washington, D.C. 

Boyd used The Sift®, NLP’s free weekly newsletter for educators, to “jump start” her news literacy lessons. When the jury delivered its verdict convicting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, Boyd discussed the five core values of journalism with students in her “Media Studies” class. “I knew that day that my students were going to be inundated with a tremendous amount of information and, unfortunately, misinformation. So, I was looking for a lot of material that would help remind them to seek out credible sources,” she says. “This platform has been a tremendous support and help in my instructional program.”  

Her lesson, inspired by The Sift, focused on preparing students to actively seek out credible information concerning the trial and verdict.  

Referenced lessons and resources to check out: 

These two issues of The Sift are most relevant to Boyd’s lesson planning regarding the Chauvin trial: 

Maia Hawthorne, AP English and speech instructor 

Twin Lakes High School, Monticello, Indiana 

Hawthorne presented a four-day intensive news literacy mini-unit that featured lessons from Checkology, followed by news literacy “moments” throughout the year. She began by having students take the “How news-literate are you?” quiz. The results were “eye-opening” for her students, she says. They “are shocked to find out how little they actually know about how news works.” Afterward, “[students] consistently tell me that they love Checkology because it’s a chance to practice what they’ve been hearing, it’s hands on, it resembles things that they see when they go online and also it gives them a break from listening to me so much.” She taught mostly in-person during the 2020-21 school year.  

Referenced lessons and resources to check out:  

  • The Sift – NLP’s free weekly newsletter for educators — delivered during the school year — explores timely examples of misinformation, addresses media and press freedom topics and discusses social media trends and issues. 
  • Check Center Missions – Hawthorne’s students “especially love[d] the Check Center missions where they feel like detectives.” Missions are fact-checking activities in which students get to the bottom of a piece of information using digital verification tools and skills they learn about in the Check Center. 

Patricia Russac, library director and history teacher 

Buckley Country Day School, Roslyn, New York 

Russac taught in a hybrid learning environment this year and says the act of “teaching out and teaching in” was not easy. She used Checkology with sixth- and seventh-graders  to build their news literacy skills and noted that Checkology worked well “because the resources are so accessible to remote learners as well as to students in the room.” After each lesson segment, Russac gave students the opportunity to ask questions and participate in class discussions. “The students had plenty to share about what they heard, saw and viewed online,” she says. “It was a powerful reminder as to why news literacy education should be part of every grade level and across subjects. It is not enough to teach it just in the humanities. Math and science need news literacy education as well. Data matters.” 

Referenced lessons and resources to check out:  

Russac’s students completed four Checkology lessons to develop their news literacy skills. Of the four, the students’ favorite lesson was “Conspiratorial Thinking.” Use the demo links below to preview the lessons. To learn how to assign lessons to students, check out our “Quick guide to assigning a course.” Here are the Checkology lessons Russac taught:  

  • “InfoZones”– Categorize information into one of six “zones:” news, opinion, entertainment, advertising, propaganda or raw information. 
  • “Misinformation” – Learn to understand different types of misinformation and the ways that it can damage democracy. 
  • “Understanding Bias” – Develop a nuanced understanding of news media bias by learning about five types of bias and five ways it can manifest itself, as well as methods for minimizing it. 
  • “Conspiratorial Thinking” – Discover why people are drawn to conspiracy theories and how our cognitive biases can trick us into believing they’re real. 

Lauren Walton, library media specialist 

North Reading Middle School, North Reading, Massachusetts 

Walton created a brand-new digital literacy curriculum and used Checkology in a hybrid learning environment. “The interactive format of Checkology and my ability to see each individual student’s answers and progress kept students engaged and helped me assess students’ understanding and mastery of skills,” she says. Her middle school students particularly enjoyed the lesson “Arguments and Evidence,” because of their passion for debate. Using Checkology to support her digital literacy curriculum, Walton was able to help students “go from blindly accepting everything they read online to critically examining each piece of information to determine its author, purpose, and credibility.” 

Referenced lessons and resources to check out: 

You can find and assign Walton’s digital literacy course to your own class. Just select “Change course” in the course management area and assign “Digital literacy (by educator Lauren Walton)” under the preset course options that appear. Here are the core lessons featured in her course: 

  • “Introduction to Algorithms” 
  • “InfoZones” 
  • “Arguments & Evidence” 
  • “Understanding Bias” 

Walton’s course also featured exercises, challenges and Check Center missions to help reinforce and extend student learning, which she found valuable. “I recommend that educators who are thinking about implementing Checkology into their classrooms use the Check Center…and show students the videos on fact-checking skills.” 

Diana Montague, professor of communication and department chair 

University of Findlay, Findlay, Ohio 

Montague noticed that “students, like many adults, really struggle to distinguish news from opinions.” That’s why, in her “Principles of Speech” course, she asked students to choose a current event or issue and find a news article and an opinion piece relating to it. Her students then fact-checked and sourced both pieces of information. “Checkology was an excellent tool to introduce our speech students to some of the categories of mediated information and give them a vocabulary to identify and distinguish news from opinion, news from propaganda or advertisements, and curated, verified news from raw information,” Montague says. “Checkology also helped [students] look for red flags to identify misinformation and it gave students some insight into how conspiracy theories are started and disseminated in the media.” 

Her university experienced a variety of learning environments (in-person, fully remote and hybrid), and she credited “the asynchronous platform of Checkology” as providing “a stable set of exercises no matter where students were at any given time.” She enhanced her students’ learning by connecting lessons to what was unfolding in the news. “If you are planning on using Checkology, I would encourage you to reinforce the lessons by pulling in the day’s news, opinions or trending topics on social media feeds. This encourages students to apply what they learned from the exercises to breaking news,” she says. 

Referenced lessons and resources to check out:  

Montague assigned three core Checkology lessons to develop students’ news and media literacy. Use the demo links below to preview the lessons. To learn how to assign lessons to students, check out our “Quick guide to assigning a course.” 

  • “InfoZones” – Categorize information into one of six “zones”: news, opinion, entertainment, advertising, propaganda or raw information. 
  • “Misinformation” – Learn to understand different types of misinformation and the ways that misinformation can damage democracy. 
  • “Conspiratorial Thinking” – Discover why people are drawn to conspiracy theories and how our cognitive biases can trick us into believing they’re real. 

Liz Norell, political science professor 

Chattanooga State Community College, Chattanooga, Tennessee 

This spring, Norell taught fully remote classes, and offered students course credit to complete some or all Checkology assignments and write a short reflection on what they learned. She knew that Checkology content would align well with her course focus “on how to become a competent citizen, how to evaluate information and how to have civil conversations across political differences.” It became clear to Norell after reading student reflections that “they thought they would be really good at determining what information was trustworthy or not and they really learned a lot.” Based on her experience, she encourages other educators to use the platform. “I hope that others will jump on board because I think [Checkology is] exactly what our students need at this moment in our history and in this political sphere,” she says. 

Referenced lessons and resources to check out:  

To replicate Norell’s student-choice-driven use of Checkology, simply assign the “All lessons” preset course to your class and then turn off the “Course Lock” setting. This will allow your students to see all available Checkology lessons and begin them in any order. 

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