When educational content goes digital, there is a tendency to pick up and adapt processes that were used for print.
Often that works well, but shifts in thinking are usually needed. When it comes to fact checking print products, for example, we assumed that if a fact was correct when published, it would not be considered an egregious error two years later. People assumed it would be updated in the next edition. But our standards have to change, because people expect digital programs to be updated continuously.
One approach is to avoid facts altogether! But that is hard to do given the recent trend toward authentic learning.
Here are some tips on adapting fact-checking procedures for digital products. For more detail, see the Fact-Checking Guidelines that follow.
5 Tips for Fact-Checking
1. Dig inside the interactives.
In a digital program, a fact can be buried in a hint or an interactive graph. Interactive digital products tend to be nonlinear, so just finding the facts can be time-consuming. And when data change interactively, the number of facts can be rather large.
One way to expedite fact checking is to track facts using metadata. This saves time for everyone because all the information is in one place.
2. Allow the student to be an active learner.
In a digital program, we can do so much more than just feed content to the student. Students can take a more active role when an activity requires them to research current data. This has a cost benefit, because the publisher provides fewer facts. Surely the money saved on fact checking is better spent on developing digital research tools that students can use again and again.
3. Use multiple independent sources.
A reliable source does not need independent confirmation, but you won’t always find a reliable source. If you use only one source, and it is unreliable, you may perpetuate an error. If two unreliable sources agree, then your probability of an error is greatly reduced.
However, if your first unreliable source cites your second source, you really only have one source. Independent sources will likely have some variance, so when you see the exact same numbers in two sources, that’s a red flag that the sources may not be independent.
4. Err on the side of qualification.
Will your fact still be valid in five years? It will be if you qualified the fact with a date and words such as “approximately” or “estimated.” For example:
Unqualified: Currently there are 2400 otters living along the California coast.
Qualified: In 1996, scientists estimated that 2400 otters lived along the California coast.
5. Get agreement up front on fact-checking sources and guidelines.
Each project is different. Even with the benefits of technology tools, fact checking takes time. Reduce the amount of re-work needed by getting very explicit guidelines at the start of each project.
Victory’s Fact-Checking Guidelines