At MozFest, Fighting Misinformation

It all began with a pancake breakfast in a Texan diner the morning after the US election. The founder of Mozilla Hive in Austin, Robert Friedman, and Sarah Morris, a librarian at the University of Texas at Austin and the co-founder/co-director of the Nucleus Learning Network, met to discuss the role technology played in American politics.

Discouraged by how warped access to information led to voting decisions, Sarah wanted to do something corrective. Brainstorming different possibilities, Robert gravitated towards her idea for a curriculum about fake news and misinformation. By the end of November, she started running with it. Sarah called the curriculum Mission:Information.

Fake news is not new. It has become increasingly common, however, and its manipulative distribution contributed to how the 2016 presidential race played out. As a librarian, Sarah has been wary of misinformation outside of a political context. She often helps people find and evaluate information from a standpoint of digital literacy training.

The curriculum has morphed and grown since that breakfast meeting. Sarah had initially thought to keep the curriculum small-scale and based on her prior teaching experiences. Working with a diverse team has broadened her thoughts on Mission:Information’s applications.

Mike Kanin and Ashley Fisher, two of Sarah’s teammates, work in journalism. Having insights into the media perspective of fake news — as a competitor, as a tarnish on their industry, as a spreading plague — has helped Sarah focus her lessons. Hannah Kane, a Mozilla advisor, and Chad Sansing, a Mozilla curriculum manager, have also worked on shaping the curriculum.

“For fake news, the solution won’t come just from one perspective,” Sarah said, praising her team’s edits and suggestions to her work.

Sarah has three complete lessons now: Legit-o-meter, Rewriting History, and Run the Presses. Students start by learning to identify misinformation, revise it, and roleplay editorial decision making. Sarah runs local trainings with librarians and high school teachers to establish her teaching kit. Her next steps will be to further develop the curriculum for young children and also add a computer science angle. But first, she’s going to MozFest.

Sarah is a MozFest first-timer. Her two workshops, “Fighting Fake News in the Library” and “Fighting Fake News with Literacy Skills,” will bring new voices in the web literacy space together to discuss even more ways the Mission:Information curriculum can grow and develop. She’ll also be taking ownership of the literacy track focus of MisinfoCon during MozFest House. We’re looking forward to seeing how Sarah’s work will continue to evolve.

Interested in chatting with Sarah? Get in touch here.