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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Sharing, Shaping, and Creating Knowledge on Social Media

How do we know what information to trust? Every day we are exposed to a variety of digital sources, but do we always know from where and whom our content comes or if it’s true? This seminar examines knowledge sharing practices across social media platforms, encouraging students to become more critical consumers and producers of content by having them consider the ways that information is acquired and disseminated digitally, as well as why and how we determine what makes a credible source. We will explore how different social media platforms shape the creation and presentation of content. For example, what knowledge sharing looks like on YouTube or Snapchat versus Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr, in contrast to discussion boards or articles and their comments sections. The use of multimedia platforms for conveying information will be addressed, and how remix culture especially is producing innovative “bottom-up” sources that re-appropriate, edit, and fuse together old and new media forms to argue a point or share knowledge in innovative ways.

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  • Dates: July 17–28, 2017
  • Instructor: Jolie C. Matthews, Assistant Professor, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University 
  • Enrollment Capacity: 24


Through a combination of individual and group exercises, students will explore different social media spaces, evaluate content there and the means through which information is created and distributed, and discuss how to determine the trustworthiness and accuracy of the content they see. They will also trace the methods and networks through which information is acquired, understood, shared, and responded to. Additionally, they will read scholarly and popular articles and excerpts on both old and new media practices (including how previous media forms were seen as tools for knowledge sharing and as agents of social change, and how those arguments parallel those around social media), as well as articles on recent social media events and cases that had wider social impact due to the knowledge sharing practices in these spaces.


  • Identify and discuss the different types of knowledge sharing practices that occur on social media platforms
  • Become aware of how to look for and truly understand who/what is the source behind the content they see
  • Become more familiar with the role of remix culture in creating new sources and the implications it has for sharing knowledge
  • Reflect on their own social media practices and the messages they encounter in daily life
  • Understand how misinformation is disseminated (and accepted) along with information by the collective, and how to determine the “trustworthiness” of sources
  • Consider the benefits and challenges of social media practice on a wider social scale, and the importance of accuracy and meaningful dialogue in digital conversations 


This seminar is designed for college-bound high school students who are interested in:

  • Social media and social impact through digital platforms
  • How information is shared in digital culture
  • Learning how to collect and analyze social media data for research purposes
  • Media messages and the role it has in society
  • Digital production and consumption habits

A Typical Classroom Session

Most class sessions will be half days, but some days will be longer due to field trips, guest lectures, or other activities beyond the normal schedule.


Lecture and discussion of readings


Media/digital tool skill building exercises 



11:30am–12:30 pm:

Case study presentation followed by a discussion of a specific social media event and issue in society 


Media message clip example and reflection time

Resources and Materials

Some readings will be distributed (or links provided) at the start of the course. Students will additionally gain experience using different online databases and tools to search for and gather content, considering the pros and cons of various platforms for information access and credibility. Film and television clips along with other multimedia sources will also be part of this seminar.