Social Media

February 2017


President's Message

Dear Friends of NLP,

I have often said in recent months that I wish that the need for our mission was a little less urgent — and that I looked a little less prescient.

But fortunately, with your support and through NLP’s hard work over the past nine years, we have positioned ourselves to meet the burgeoning demand for our services. Our primary means to do so is the checkology™ virtual classroom.

Amid a growing debate about the durability of facts and the credibility of journalism, the platform has gone viral worldwide. In just 10 months since its release, 4,500 educators who teach 550,000 students throughout the United States and in at least 38 other countries have registered to use it.

Our Video captures the kind of feedback that the virtual classroom is inspiring from both teachers and students. NLP in the News reflects the heightened interest in NLP in general and the checkology™ platform in particular.

NLP News highlights new staff members who will help us keep pace with this kind of growth, along with a new role for a current staff member and four grants that will help us build the capacity to do so. And because we seem to encounter teachable moments on an almost daily basis, we feature two recent posts on our Teachable Moments blog — one on “fake news” and one on the truth behind a viral video.

Our Spotlight looks at the virtual classroom’s remarkable reach as we move into our spring pilot. It includes a link to an interactive map that details the platform’s adoption across the U.S. and around the globe.

Our Profile focuses on the enthusiastic responses to the platform from teachers in New Jersey, Virginia and California.

We at NLP feel a great sense of responsibility to help teachers everywhere equip students with these vital skills. Thank you for your interest, your participation and your support, all of which enable us to do what we do.

All the best,


Alan C. Miller










Educators across the U.S. (all 50 states and the District of Columbia) and in at least 38 other countries have registered to use NLP's checkology™ virtual classroom with 550,000 students. Watch our video, then share the link!


NLP Calendar 

March 1: This is the first day of the spring pilot of NLP’s checkology™ virtual classroom. Middle school and high school teachers are encouraged to register to pilot the Premium version of the platform at no cost through the end of June. Premium access includes student sign-in credentials for self-paced e-learning, teacher monitoring, assessment evaluation and moderating functions, a student discussion wall, an integrated points system, digital badges that document students’ mastery of concepts and skills, and access to one or more real-time virtual news literacy lessons with our journalist fellows. Teachers can sign up here.

NLP News

Two Hires, An Expanded Role, Two Teachable Moments Essays and Four Grants

Checking out the checkology™ platform in Newark, N.J.: Teacher Noreen Connolly and student Obed Narcisse at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School (left); journalism students at Newark Tech High School (right). Photos by Meredith Whitefield

The News Literacy Project has made outstanding hires for two new positions this year. Both have significant experience with NLP.  In addition, we've expanded the role of a current staff member.

John Silva, a National Board Certified Teacher, comes on board March 6 as coordinator of NLP’s checkology™ virtual classroom. A Marine Corps veteran, he taught NLP’s classroom program in history classes at one of Chicago’s top competitive-enrollment public high schools. His responsibilities will include tracking and reporting on use of the virtual classroom, offering training sessions and support for participating teachers, and providing key insights to help guide further development of the platform.

Veteran journalist Leslie Hoffecker joined NLP as senior editor on Jan. 3. Hoffecker, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles Times, Congressional Quarterly and Bloomberg, had served as our pro bono editor and Keeper of Standards since NLP was founded in February 2008.

Erika Hobbs, NLP's Chicago program manager, will now take on a second title as our first communications director. In addition to overseeing the Chicago program, she will contribute her expertise and background in communications to expand our social media presence, handle media relations and implement brand strategy.


In mid-December, Gene Foreman, a former managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a timely Teachable Moments essay focusing on the dangers of what has come to be called “fake news.”

The following month, a Teachable Moments post by Alicia Shepard, a former ombudsman for NPR, discussed how a viral video reflects one of our favorite adages: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Both items were distributed by the Tribune Content Agency to its subscribers worldwide.


NLP has received four grants to support our programs in Chicago, New York City and the Washington, D.C., area.

  • The Robert R. McCormick Foundation renewed its $200,000 grant to support NLP’s program in Chicago. The foundation has funded NLP since 2009.
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies has awarded NLP a $75,000 grant, extending our partnership with journalists in Bloomberg bureaus and schools in New York, Chicago and the D.C. area. Bloomberg has been a partner of NLP since 2011. 
  • The Gannett and TEGNA foundations each awarded NLP $10,000 grants to support our program in the D.C. area. The Gannett Foundation has supported NLP since 2009; the TEGNA Foundation was created in 2015 after the Gannett Co. split into two publicly traded companies, Gannett Co. (which owns more than 100 daily newspapers) and TEGNA Inc. (which focuses on broadcast and digital media).

We’re grateful for this generous support that enables us to continue to serve our major regions.

NLP in the News

Media coverage of NLP and its programs has surged since the 2016 election and the announcement of our collaboration with Facebook on a public service advertising campaign to be rolled out this spring. Here are some highlights of the coverage since mid-December:

  • An NPR report calls a site where the checkology™ virtual classroom is used “the classroom where fake news fails.”
  • ABC News’ Facebook Live features D.C. area program manager Elis Estrada and students at Thurgood Marshall Academy in a video about identifying fake news.
  • Circa, a millennial-focused news site, features NLP’s programs as an antidote to fake news.
  • NLP’s Alan Miller discusses discerning fact from fiction on the NPR/WAMU program “1A.” 
  • The evening news on WJLA-TV (the ABC affiliate for Washington) showcases students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., using the checkology™ virtual classroom.
  • NLP’s work and resources are featured in “A Savvy News Consumer’s Guide: How Not to Get Duped” on Bill Moyers’ website.
  • Time For Kids features NLP’s classroom program.
  • The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader reports on NLP’s efforts to bring news literacy to the city under a Knight Foundation grant.

NLP Spotlight

The checkology™ Virtual Classroom Has Gone Viral Worldwide

Our interactive map shows the school location, in the U.S. and abroad, for every educator who has registered for a checkology™ Basic account, along with the number of projected students. Click on the image to see the details about each site.

When NLP rolled out its dynamic checkology™ virtual classroom last May, our goal was to be in all 50 states with 100,000 registered students by the end of 2017.

We’re just two months into 2017, and we have already enrolled 4,500 educators who teach 550,000 students in urban, suburban and rural areas throughout the United States and in at least 38 countries around the globe, from China to Turkey to South Africa to Brazil to Australia. 

Interest surged following the presidential election and the disclosure of the prevalence and power of online rumors, hoaxes and conspiracy theories (“fake news”), accompanied by a growing national debate about the nature and value of real news. Amid increased awareness of the challenge that students face in determining what information to trust, educators have embraced the opportunity to teach core news literacy skills and concepts — including how to detect bias, how to dissect viral rumors and how to use the standards of quality journalism to find credible information.

As teachers bring news literacy to their classrooms, students are recognizing their own need to be news-literate.

"Now we need it even more," said Catherine Dievendorf, a senior at Alta Loma High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. "Consuming news and media blindly destroys our understanding and awareness of bias and deceit that could permeate our news."

The virtual classroom includes 12 core lessons and supplemental tools that teach news literacy skills and encourages students to apply what they are learning to the news and information they encounter every day. By doing so, they develop the critical-thinking skills that are essential for informed and engaged citizens in a democracy.

The Basic version of the platform provides a single login for teachers and permits them to deliver the lessons in a one-to-many format (on an LCD projector, for example). The Premium version provides subscribers with individual student logins to unlock the full virtual classroom experience, including one-to-one delivery, self-pacing, remediation, individual assessments, points, badges and student discussion.

We've received feedback from teachers right from the start, and the spring pilot of the Premium version, which will extend through June, incorporates many of the changes they requested. These include making it more efficient for teachers to offer online feedback to students and giving them more options for student remediation, for blending whole class and individual instruction and for sharing announcements and notifications. We’re also updating examples of information in some lessons and improving key aspects of students’ experience.

Educators: Sign up here to participate in the spring pilot, then share this link with your fellow teachers in middle schools and high schools, librarians, and leaders of after-school programs.

NLP Profile

The checkology™ Virtual Classroom: 'Knowledge That Is Desperately Needed to Survive in Today's World'

For his report on NPR, journalist Cory Turner (left) records student interaction with Wakefield High teacher Patricia Hunt as she leads a lesson from the checkology™ virtual classroom. Photo by Elis Estrada 

When Dee Burek started teaching debate at Stone Bridge Middle School in Allentown, N.J., six years ago, she soon noticed a trend: Her students’ arguments were riddled with inaccuracies.

No matter how many times she urged them to check their sources, the students would say, “But it’s on the internet,” “There is no author” or “It looks like a real source.”

Pushing them to delve deeper proved challenging until Burek discovered the News Literacy Project’s checkology™ virtual classroom while researching curriculum for an upcoming journalism elective. She started piloting it with her eighth-grade journalism students in the fall — a time rife with real-world teachable moments that blended perfectly with the platform’s content.

“Just as I was teaching about citizen watchdogs, a package arrived in the mailbox of a New York Times reporter with some pages of Donald Trump’s tax return,” she said. “Then as I taught the lesson on bias, BuzzFeed released a dossier on Donald Trump. The kids were so excited to talk about it the next day and start trying to get to the truth.”

Burek was so impressed with the platform that she took one of her students to a school board meeting to advocate for its use in classrooms throughout the district.

“The checkology™ virtual classroom has empowered my students,” she said. “Their critical-thinking skills have improved. They will leave my class with knowledge that is desperately needed to survive in today’s world.”

As news literacy is increasingly being recognized as an essential skill, teachers nationwide are finding the platform to be a seamless way to incorporate it into their existing curricula.

A Wakefield High student takes notes as Washington Post political reporter Matea Gold discusses viral content. Photo by Elis Estrada 

“The students and I are loving [the] checkology™ [platform]!” said Patricia Hunt, a government teacher at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., whose participation in the fall pilot was featured in reports on NPR and on WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate for Washington, D.C. “It has fit beautifully with our examination of the political process and focus on core democratic values. The students continually make connections to the material and learning, especially in light of the coverage and impact of fake news.”

Across the country, Liz Ramos, who teaches AP government and world history at Alta Loma High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., said the platform has helped give her students “the tools to evaluate credible takes on a story, examine and understand the various purposes of news and media, and to be aware of bias and deceit by providing a framework to question the news and social media postings and be critical thinkers for reference in life moving forward.”


The News Literacy Project (NLP) is an innovative national education program that equips middle school and high school students with the tools to be smart, active consumers of news and information and engaged, informed citizens.

Click here to learn more about NLP, and visit NLP's YouTube channel.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support NLP, you can do so here.

NLP thanks its major funders and all those whose support makes our program possible.


Copyright © 2017 The News Literacy Project. All rights reserved.