Fact or Fiction Sharpens Students’ New Literacy Skills

This week students gathered on Zoom to sharpen their literacy skills at an event called Fact or Fiction, put on by the McGrath Library staff. Melissa Laidman, Hilbert’s reference librarian, created an event that lets you compete against your friends and other students to win the title of Ultimate News Fact- Checker. Laidman sat down with The Scribe to discuss the game and how she thinks it helps students learn to evaluate good and accurate information and separate it from unreliable information.

The Scribe: What is the main premise of the event and what are you looking to achieve?​

Melissa Laidman: The main premise is for students to be able to identify accurate and inaccurate news and information, from a variety of sources. We do it as a competition. First to answer correctly gets points for each question.  The catch is, students can’t just say “I think this is real” or “I think this is fake”, they need to find supporting evidence online. 

As far as what we are looking to achieve, my hope is that it will help students gain skills and tools to be able to notice when something’s not quite right when they read something online. There’s a lot of different ways we teach students to evaluate information, but it has been shown that taking the approach of “fact-checking”, or “lateral reading” is one of the most successful ways to ensure what you are reading is accurate. There is SO much misinformation out there online and even really smart people get fooled by it regularly. 

TS: Do you believe that these types of events are successful with students?

ML: I ran a similar event at another college, and it was pretty successful! The students who attended all indicated that they had a lot of fun and many asked for more events like it in the future. Most indicated that they learned something new as well. 

TS: How has zoom events been with Covid-19? Do you believe that more students are comfortable or less comfortable?

ML: Zoom and other online events can be really tough. My main inspiration for making this a game format instead of just an informational session or workshop, is because I really feel like so many students are just burned out on zoom and virtual classes right now. I have run some workshops on library research and the attendance has been pretty low, but the turnout for this type of program has been higher. 
As far as the student’s comfort level, it’s hard to tell. This type of event, interaction is required, but during classes and workshops students will just be there with cameras off and not say anything. But maybe they wouldn’t say anything in person either.  Another challenge is getting the word out to students, especially those who don’t necessarily come to campus or visit the library. 

TS: Do you believe that students are coming more on zoom or less? 

ML: I’m not sure on this one. Probably less, but I think it depends more on the type of event and how well it lends itself to being online. 

Hilbert encourages you to get out and get involved with the Hilbert Community, especially with zoom events. It is not the same as in person but Hilbert tries to keep it as normal as possible and keep the fun.

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