On Monday, March 2, 2020, a group of University of Utah Honors College students will launch a campus and communitywide campaign to raise awareness of media literacy and disinformation. After spending the fall semester researching manipulated video, false information, social media policies and more, students have developed three main goals:
- Pledge for election integrity: The students have written a pledge challenging the 10 announced candidates for Utah governor to refrain from using disinformation in their campaigns and to encourage their supports to as well.
- Middle school educational campaign: Students are developing a five-module course with lesson plans for middle school teachers to incorporate into their curriculum. These modules will be made available to Utah teachers through the class website and the Utah Education Network.
- Student awareness campaign: Throughout the month, the class will run three contests related to digital news literacy by offering prizes for various crossword puzzles and quizzes. This will help them gather data on media literacy among their campus peers. Join the challenge, here.
“In our everyday lives, the issues of misinformation and disinformation are incredibly prevalent over social media and they are only exacerbated by our 24-hour news cycle,” said Kate Button, an Honors student in the class. “Given that 2020 is an election year, we were concerned with the fact that many students may be voting for their first time and they may be unaware of the current misinformation epidemic and its role in modern politics—we are also targeting middle school students in order to start this education early. With our project, we aim to educate students and increase general media literacy surrounding misinformation in order to create a political atmosphere that is characterized by an informed citizenry and responsible political leaders.”
The project is part of an Honors College Praxis Lab called "Truth, Deception and Information Disorder." Each fall since 2005, Honors students have had the opportunity to apply to one of several Praxis Labs. This unique community engaged learning experience draws students from all disciplines to collaborate on innovative, project-based solutions to pressing societal challenges.
Topics vary each year but generally fall into three themes: health, energy/environment and human rights/social justice. For the 2019-20 school year, the four Praxis Labs include:
The Praxis Lab classes meet once a week for three hours. Students receive a $1,000 scholarship for participating and must be at least a sophomore to be considered. Applications for the upcoming academic year are now open and due by March 17, 2020.
Morgan Aguilarcommunications specialist, University of Utah Communications