Media Landscape Concept Formation vs Fact Check Habit Formation
Mike Caulfield's SIFT Process Advocacy
Media literacy expert Mike Caulfield has advocated that teachers base their curricula (knowledge and skill coverage) only on what fact-checkers actually do in response to being presented with a new piece of information, rather than prepare students to undertake an extensive analysis.
Rather than have students learn the CRAAP Test, Caulfield presents four “moves” (see below):
Stop (engage System 2)
Investigate the source (check for online reputation)
Find better coverage
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.
Caulfield has developed a 3-hour college-level training module to teach this process. His argument (teach what the experts do) has obvious merit and is easier for students to internalize than the CRAAP Test or the NAMLE Key Questions.
However, SIFT’s brevity may be deceptive. The "IFT" steps draw on background knowledge most high school students have not yet developed:
Investigate the source requires web media literacy
Find better coverage requires news media literacy
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context requires web and information literacy
The media literacy background assumed by professional fact checkers underpins the more elaborated questions asked by CRAAP and NAMLE. When building a conceptual foundation for analyzing and evaluating found sources, adults bring years and years of adult reading and thinking to our encounters with media artifacts that middle and high school students do not.
SIFT is "a short list of things to do when looking at a source, and hook each of those things to one or two highly effective web techniques. The four moves:
Investigate the source
Find better coverage
Trace the original context.
The Limitations of SIFT (a take)
Today's students have spent lots of time reading online, and have a wealth of experience to draw on. However, a learners' experience becomes conscious (and accessible by System 2 thinking) only after there are labels for it, and cognitive maps in which to situate it.
Media Literacy teachers should scaffold students' abilities to notice details and form hypotheses (hunches) about what experience with a given digital artifact signifies. That is what CRAAP and NAMLE inventories are good for, and is the approach taken by Fake News Fitness. After labels are attached to experiences and situated within a cognitive map, students are much more likely to intuit hunches about what they see (and "Stop"). Once they "Stop" they can then validate with appropriate media analysis (like SIFT).
Sherlock Holmes read the clues in his environment because he knew what to look for, and what they likely meant. Despite his fictional declarations about "deduction", Sherlock used Abduction - see graphic below.
This distinction supports the argument being made here: we cannot tell that whether a page should be trusted based on the top-level domain (like .org or .com) nor by the business model (like ads, subscriptions, or donations) but we might predict that a story on a .com news site which does not display ads to subscribers might be more reliable (given steady income to pay reporters) than a story on a donation-funded .org news site or an ad-funded .com site with no subscription option.
After media literacy training, students will more likely recognize significant details (like a .com.co mimicking a .com domain name) not because they have some checklist they go through each time they "fact check" a source, but because that type of detail touches a conscious distinction. Reading clues requires a rich map of the world that takes time to build -- not a cheat sheet.