Five Resources to Help Students Recognize Fact vs. Fiction in Online Media

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a few of my students about TikTok’s possible sale and or possible ban in the U.S. The course of the conversation brought up a lot of “I’ve heard X” and “I’ve read X” statements from my students. I ended up spending a lot of time helping discern fact from rumors and opinions. That experience prompted me to show them this short video.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to mine, here are some good resources to help students develop their skills in discerning good information from bad in online media.


Factitious is a game that is designed to help students practice identifying real and fake news stories. The 2020 version of the game features stories about COVID-19. To play Factitious simply go to the site and select start. You’ll then see an article appear on the screen. Read through the article, click the source listed at the bottom, and then select either the green check mark or red X to indicate whether or not you think the article is a real news story. After you make your selection you’ll get instant feedback and an explanation of how you can tell if the article was a real or fake news story.

Bad News

Bad News is a website that offers simulations that show visitors how misinformation is spread through social media. In Bad News players work through a simulation in which they attempt to build a Twitter following by spreading misleading news stories. (I must emphasize that there are no real Tweets sent and you don’t have to even have a Twitter account to play Bad News). Through the simulation players learn how headlines, memes, and Tweets are designed to manipulate people and prompt reactions from them. The simulation also shows players how Twitter bots are used.


Checkology is a service that is designed to help students develop those skills. Checkology offers interactive modules for students to complete. Each of the modules is comprised of between twenty and forty-seven instructional video clips and interactive comprehension checks. The four of the modules are titled Info Zones, Democracy’s Watchdog, Practicing Quality Journalism, and Misinformation. As you might expect, the contents of the modules gets progressively more difficult as each section is completed.

Spot the Troll

Spot the Troll is a quiz game that was developed by Clemson University’s Media Forensics Lab as a way to educate people about deceptive social media accounts. Spot the Troll presents players with eight social media profiles. Based on the clues in the profiles players have to decide if the social media profile is genuine or a fake designed to spread misinformation. Players get instant feedback after making a guess at whether each account is real or fake. Whether or not the player is correct or incorrect Spot the Troll provides an explanation the signs that the account was real or fake.

Before you have your students play Spot the Troll you should play the game yourself. Some of the profiles include content that might not be appropriate for your students. I definitely would not have kids younger than high school age play the game.

Spot the Problem With These Headlines

Can You Spot the Problem With These Headlines? is a TED-Ed lesson that walks students through the dissection of a couple of hypothetical news headlines. By watching the video students can begin to understand how headlines are written to entice readers and how misleading headlines are created.

Online Professional Development This Week!

Tomorrow at 4pm ET I’m hosting A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video. I offered this at the end of August and a bunch of people have asked me to host it again, so I am. Join us! If you can’t make it for the live session, sign up and a recording will be sent to you.

My popular Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know webinar is now available on-demand. You can access that webinar right here.