Look Wonder Discover presents an introduction to digital literacy as defined by the American Library Association.

Objective: An exploration of intentional and knowledgeable
engagement in digital media utilizing inquiry, synthesis, and dissemination. 

Let’s begin with the basics! What is the definition of digital literacy?

“Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” 

“Like information literacy, digital literacy requires skills in locating and using information and in critical thinking. Beyond that, however, digital literacy involves knowing digital tools and using them in communicative, collaborative ways through social engagement.”

Source: American Library Association –Digital Literacy 

“Perhaps most importantly, use social media sparingly, like any other addictive, toxic substance, and invest in more real-life community building conversations. Listen to real people, real stories and real opinions, and build from there.” Jeanna Matthews, Full Professor, Computer Science, Clarkson University via The Conversation

Resources for Independent Study

1. Watch a Video Series: Learn with PBS

PBS Digital Studios Crash Course Navigating Digital Information

Learning objectives of the series: In 10 episodes, John Green will teach you how to navigate the internet! We’ve partnered with MediaWise, The Poynter Institute, and The Stanford History Education Group to develop this curriculum of hands-on skills to help you evaluate the information you read online.

  •  Examine information using the same skills and questions as fact-checkers 
  •  Read laterally to learn more about the authority and perspective of sources 
  •  Evaluate different types of evidence, from videos to infographics 
  •  Understand how search engines and social media feeds work 
  •  Break bad internet habits like impatience and passivity, and build better ones

Source: Crash Course Navigating Digital Information

“Better information leads to better decision-making, which leads to a better world.” John Green

YA Author and Crash Course Content Creator John Green suggests three questions for vetting information:

Who is behind the information?
Why are they sharing the information?
What types of claims are being made? Are those claims backed up by reliable evidence and what do others say about the claims?

2. Use Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit

(T)he kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these tools:

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result. For more visit the complete article.

Source: via Maria Papova’s Brain Pickings The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking 

3. Learn Civic Online Reasoning 

Take a free online course from Harvard and Stanford from EdX.

Sorting Truth From Fiction: Civic Online Reasoning 

Course Description: Fake news and misinformation pose an urgent challenge to citizens across the globe. Multiple studies have shined a light on people’s difficulty in distinguishing truth from fiction, reliable information from sham. As we approach the November 2020 election, we can expect our screens to be flooded, even more so, with digital content that plays fast and loose with the truth. 

With educators from around the world and faculty from MIT and Stanford University, you will learn quick and effective practices for evaluating online information that you can bring back to your classroom. The Stanford History Education Group has distilled these practices from observations with professional fact-checkers from the nation’s most prestigious media outlets from across the political spectrum. Using a combination of readings, classroom practice lessons, and assignments, you will learn how to teach the critical thinking skills needed for making wise judgments about web sources.

At the end of the course, you will be better able to help students find reliable sources at a time when we need it most. 

The purpose of the Civic Online Reasoning Course

“The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) is a research and development group based in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. In 2014, we set out to develop short assessments to gauge young people’s ability to evaluate online content. Our work was supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Silver Giving Foundation.

Specifically, we sought to measure Civic Online Reasoning — the ability to effectively search for, evaluate, and verify social and political information online. We use this term to highlight the civic aims of this work. The ability to evaluate online content has become a prerequisite for thoughtful democratic participation.”

Source: Curriculum Index | Civic Online Reasoning

4. Learn to Call Bullshit

Two options for learning to call “bullshit”: read the book or take the free online course.

Our aim in this course is to teach you how to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences.
creators and authors Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West

Learning Objectives of Calling Bullshit Course,
from the website syllabus:

Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:

  • Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.
  • Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.
  • Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.
  • Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
  • Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.

“(Calling Bullshit is) a statistically challenging master class in the art of bullshit detection.” Kirkus Review

Read Calling Bullshit!
Find it at your local library, click here.
Find it at a local bookstore, click here.

Digital Literacy Glossary


1: a request for information
2 : a systematic investigation often of a matter of public interest
3 : examination into facts or principles.

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inquiry

Information Synthesis

is  the  process  of  analyzing  and evaluating   information   from   various sources,  making  connections  between  the information  found,  and  combining  the recently  acquired  information  with  prior knowledge  to  create  something  new.

Source: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1089165.pdf

Digital literacy 

is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

Source: https://literacy.ala.org/digital-literacy/

Lateral Search/Lateral Reading

a strategy for investigating who’s behind an unfamiliar online source by leaving the webpage and opening a new browser tab to see what trusted websites say about the unknown source.

Source: https://cor.stanford.edu/curriculum/lessons/intro-to-lateral-reading

Digital Commons

Mayo Fuster Morell proposed a definition of digital commons as “information and knowledge resources that are collectively created and owned or shared between or among a community and that tend to be non-exclusive, that is, be (generally freely) available to third parties. Thus, they are oriented to favor use and reuse, rather than to exchange as a commodity. Additionally, the community of people building them can intervene in the governing of their interaction processes and of their shared resources.”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_commons_(economics) 

Civic Online Reasoning

the ability to effectively search for, evaluate, and verify social and political information online. We use this term to highlight the civic aims of this work. The ability to evaluate online content has become a prerequisite for thoughtful democratic participation.

Source: https://cor.stanford.edu/about/

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I learn digital media basics, like basic, basic –how to use a computer basic– from a trusted source?

Your local library –check in with your library, ask what they offer. Need to find your local libaray, start with OCLC’s WorldCat.

“OCLC is a global library cooperative that provides shared technology services, original research and community programs for its membership and the library community at large. WorldCat is the manifestation of the creativity and innovation of the staff of OCLC and thousands of librarians. Unique in scale and unparalleled in data quality, WorldCat makes library collections findable and accessible around the world.”

No library nearby?
Explore an online resource
from the Public Library Association

DigitalLearn.org, is an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant-funded project to create an online hub for digital literacy support and training. The site launched in June 2013 and is intended to build upon and foster the work of libraries and community organizations as they work to increase digital literacy across the nation.

DigitalLearn.org was originally undertaken in partnership with ALA’s Office of Information Technology Policy and Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, along with representatives from national agencies, state libraries, public libraries, community organizations, and many others.”

What is a bot? How can I spot?
MIT Technology Review can help you through:
How to tell if you’re talking to a bot: The five best ways to detect fake social-media accounts.”

User profile
The most common way to tell if an account is fake is to check out the profile. The most rudimentary bots lack a photo, a link, or any bio. More sophisticated ones might use a photo stolen from the web, or an automatically generated account name.

(Post) syntax
Using human language is still incredibly hard for machines. A bot’s (posts) may reveal its algorithmic logic: they may be formulaic or repetitive, or use responses common in chatbot programs. Missing an obvious joke and rapidly changing the subject are other telltale traits (unfortunately, they are also quite common among human Twitter users).

(Post) semantics
Bots are usually created with a particular end in mind, so they may be overly obsessed with a particular topic, perhaps reposting the same link again and again or tweeting about little else.

Temporal behavior
Looking at (posts) over time can also be revealing. If an account tweets at an impossible rate, at unlikely times, or even too regularly, that can be a good sign that it’s fake. Researchers also found that fake accounts often betray an inconsistent attitude toward topics over time.

Network features
Network dynamics aren’t visible to most users, but they can reveal a lot about an account. Bots may follow only a few accounts or be followed by many other bots. The tone of a bot’s tweets may also be incongruous with those of its connections, suggesting a lack of any real social interaction.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/07/18/141414/how-to-tell-if-youre-talking-to-a-bot/

“In online communities, antisocial behavior such as trolling disrupts constructive discussion. While prior work suggests that trolling behavior is confined to a vocal and antisocial minority, we demonstrate that ordinary people can engage in such behavior as well. We propose two primary trigger mechanisms: the individual’s mood, and the surrounding context of a discussion (e.g., exposure to prior trolling behavior).”
Anyone Can Become a Troll: Causes of Trolling Behavior in Online Discussions 

What about a troll, what is a troll?
Excerpt from “Don’t Feed the Trolls How to Deal with Hate on Social Media

“It is a basic behavioural response to wish to correct someone we believe is wrong. But that instinctual response must be overcome because engaging with erroneous material and allegations legitimises that views and lends it credibility it does not deserve.

There is a swathe of research in political psychology, the study of radicalisation and epistemology that shows the difficulties in trying to dissuade someone who is wedded to a worldview may, in some cases, even entrench that view. The mere act of repeating a claim to refute it can entrench it.

As one study explains: “attempting to quash rumors through direct refutation may facilitate their diffusion by increasing fluency… merely repeating a rumor increases its power.” We need instead to stop legitimating troll propaganda by engaging with them and raising their salience in the overall debate –thus increasing both the exposure people have to hate-filled trolls’ arguments and their ability to persuade.

Any solution must centre on minimising harm by reducing exposure and the spread of misinformation and lies that underlies hate.”

Source: Don’t Feed the Trolls How to Deal with Hate on Social Media

What do I do if my friend or acquaintance says something offensive on social media?

Learn more in this podcast from Note to Self, click to listen and incredible mind and content creator Manoush Zomorodi.

Click here to listen:  Your Facebook Friend Said Something Racist. Now What? | Note to Self 

Keep this handy chart nearby to help figure out how to engage in difficult conversations.

Look Wonder Discover is talking about being critical of sources, how can I trust LWD?

Great question. At Look Wonder Discover we are essentially disseminating information from trusted sources. 

How do we trust sources? LWD values science and data and the institutions and organizations that openly share our mission and values. We only share work that has been strongly vetted and recognized as trustworthy with the help of many of the resources highlighted in Explore: Digital Literacy.

All of our work/information/research with regard to Digital Literacy comes from these vetted and trusted institutions/sources. 

Please note: this document is constantly being edited and updated —please let us know if you need help or have ideas, questions, or insights into more empowered digital literacy.
Updated: 7/8/2023