Teaching Tools

Using the Library during COVID-19

Most of UC Berkeley’s library buildings are open. To stay up to date on the Library’s policies and services during the pandemic, visit the Library’s COVID-19 webpage.

Content from the Level Up site may be freely reused for educational purposes, and has been designed in a modular fashion to help teachers plug-and-play content in their classroom (online and off). See below for more information on how to find instructional support, including ideas for assignments and teaching digital literacy topics.

Skip to section:  Student Activities | Teaching Modules | Surveillance Self-Defense | Recommended Student Readings

The Research 101 workshop series is designed for students in R&C courses with a research component, but can be helpful for any Cal student learning to use the Library and conduct research. Research 101 Workshops are offered virtually on set dates and times throughout the semester. Berkeley librarians will guide students through using the UC Berkeley Library strategically and help them hone their research skills. Students will leave feeling empowered and prepared to take on research assignments with new skills and perspectives.  

Digital Literacy: Student Activities

The following three sample assignments are adapted from Data & Society's Media Manipulation Syllabus.

(1) Evaluating sources

Pick any two sources, and answer each of the following questions for each source:

  1. Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view? 
  2. Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
  3. Publication & format - Where was it published? In what medium?
  4. Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
  5. Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
  6. Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?

(2) News consumption

Where do you get your news from? For 24 hours, keep track of all the news items you click on, skim, read, or otherwise engage with, noting:

(3) Create and critique a meme

Create a visual meme that conveys a political point of view. You can build on a pre-existing meme or try creating one from scratch. Share your meme with your classmates and discuss: Does it get traction? Would people pay attention? Try different variations; are some more successful than others? Are some messages “stickier”? Write an short response paper analyzing your experience and reflecting on the use of memes for political messaging.


(4) Knowledge production and power

From DataCenter's Research Justice Toolkit.

  • We are the Experts (pp. 14-18)
    An activity to explore core attributes of various types of knowledge in our world, and the political legitimacy assigned to each type of knowledge.
  • Tour of the Knowledge Factory (pp. 21-24)
    Help students identify structural inequities in research that maintain certain power relationships, demonstrate how knowledge flows in society, and reveal barriers that communities face in giving and acquiring knowledge.

(5) Evaluating Social Media 

  1. Choose a post from any social media site (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn...) that you liked, shared, commented on, or otherwise reacted to. 
  2. Choose any two concepts from this Platform & You list (Attention, Bullshit, Clickbait, etc.) and explore how these concepts may be relevant to your reaction to the post above.
  3. Optional: share a screenshot of the social media post in class, and discuss your analysis. Do classmates find other key concepts relevant to the post?

Digital Literacy: Teaching Modules

Each of the following Level Up pages includes an introduction to the topic, along with a suggested activity, which instructors are welcome to use or adapt for the classroom.

  • How the Web Works
    •  Algorithms: Help students consider how information is displayed and prioritized on platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, or Buzzfeed.
    • Hacking URLs: Help students manipulate URLs to sharer cleaner and more effective links.
    • Search Engines vs. Databases: Help students understand differences between databases like JSTOR and popular search engines like Google.
    • Platforms: What's a content management system? Web hosting? A server? 
  • Creating Web Content
    • HTML: A basic introduction and activity to learn HTML for websites.
    • CSS: A basic introduction and activity to learn Cascading Style Sheets (to style websites).
    • Inspect this Page: How to inspect website code.
    • Web editors (WYSIWYGs): How to make the most of built-in content editors from sites like Wordpress and Gmail.
  • Remixing Online Content
    • Reusing Images: How to track the original source of online photos using Google Image reverse search.
    • Reusing Text: An exercise to track the original sources of plagiarized text (or any quotations) online.

Surveillance Self-Defense Readings (via the EFF)

The following guides from the Electronic Frontier Foundation can help you and your students keep their information safe and private online:

  • Creating Strong Passwords: Do you use the same password on every website or almost use the same password and change it a little bit for each site? If so, you're vulnerable to getting hacked. 
  • Cybersecurity Guide for Attending Protests in the United States: Useful tips for you to remember if you find yourself at a protest and are concerned about protecting your electronic devices if or when you’re questioned, detained, or arrested by police. Remember that these tips are general guidelines, so if you have specific concerns, please talk to an attorney.
  • Facebook Groups: Reducing Risks: Facebook groups were not designed for secure collaboration, but as the popularity of Facebook grows, they are inevitably used by many to coordinate work that may be vulnerable to sabotage or surveillance by other, malicious Facebook users or governments.
  • How to Avoid Phishing Attacks: When an attacker sends an email or link that looks innocent, but is actually malicious, it’s called phishing. Phishing attacks are a common way that users get infected with malware—programs that hide on your computer and can be used to remotely control it, steal information, or spy on you.
  • The Problem with Mobile Phones: Mobile phones were not designed for privacy and security. Not only do they do a poor job of protecting your communications, they also expose you to new kinds of surveillance risks—especially location tracking. 
  • Protecting yourself on Social Networks: Social networks are often built to share posts, photographs, and personal information. Yet they have also become forums for organizing and speech—much of which relies on privacy and pseudonymity. The following questions are important to consider when using social networks: How can I interact with these sites while protecting myself? My basic privacy? My identity? My contacts and associations? What information do I want keep private and who do I want to keep it private from?

Recommended Student Readings