January 29th, 2021

Read Sideways

I recently encountered the idea of reading like a fact-checker, that is, horizontally, by cross-checking a source with other sources (opening additional tabs to do so, thus, "horizontally") rather than vertically in an attempt to determine a source's credibility using only information offered by the source itself. This has now informed how I now teach source assessment to the high school students at my school.

I share vetted sources via class resource pages, a la Libguides, and try to include a brief explanation as to how I concluded such-and-such a source seems credible. I also create brief video tutorials where I think aloud as I assess a particular source and come to a conclusion.

In all this, I try to project an aura of intellectual rigor and distance--I'm looking for the best information, regardless of what my political self might wish were true--leavened with some humor. My hope is to defuse some of the reflexive anger such vetting can stir up, as well as identify how human nature, in the form of, for example, confirmation bias, can unconsciously sabotage our best efforts to become better informed about the world.

Tags: Alternative facts, Disinformation, Fake news, information literacy, media literacy, Verification

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Comments (2)

Comments (2)

I strongly agree with this point. The term I've seen is "reading laterally" and it should be a centerpiece of our instructional programs. In this regard I recommend two resources:

1. For discussion of "reading laterally", see Breakstone, J., & et al. (2019). Students’ Civic Online Reasoning: A National Portrait. Stanford University. https://purl.stanford.edu/gf151tb4868 Here's a quotation:
"We observed Stanford freshmen, university
professors from four different institutions,
and fact checkers from the country’s leading
news outlets as they navigated unfamiliar sites
(Wineburg, 2018a; Wineburg & McGrew, 2019). The
fact checkers’ approach differed markedly from
the undergraduates and professors. When they
landed on an unknown website, fact checkers
left it quickly and opened new browser tabs to
search for information about the trustworthiness
of the original source. We refer to this approach
as lateral reading. In contrast, the students, as
well as the academics, typically read vertically,
spending minutes examining the original site’s
prose, references, About page, and top-level
domain (e.g., .com vs. .org)—features that are all
easy to manipulate. Landing on an unfamiliar
site, fact checkers learned about it, paradoxically,
by leaving it. They read less, learned more, and
reached better conclusions in less time." (p. 5)

2. An academic library instructional module I like a lot comes from the University of Louisville. See "Lateral Reading" at https://library.louisville.edu/citizen-literacy/lateral

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HI Tripp:

I love that you include info about why you think a source is credible, and that do it with humor. Both are sorely missing from public discourse these days!

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