12 | KNOW • Volume 15 Issue 1
A 2016 Stanford University study found
that students failed to question the validity of
a photo caption
students have the skills necessary to be confident
and in control of their own beliefs, given the
media saturated world they live in. We want them
to be knowledgeable consumers, ones who are in
control of the millions of messages they receive
Concord High’s nationally-recognized work in
this area won’t be found in many other states.
Most schools, according to Professor Sam
Wineburg of the Stanford Graduate School of
Education and founder of the Stanford History
Education Group (SHEG), tend to “respond
like ostriches.” If they don’t ban the Internet
altogether, they filter it beyond recognition.
“Schools are preparing a generation of bubble
children without the immunities to deal with the
information toxins that surround them,” he adds.
“Quality information is to a thriving democracy
what clean air and clear water are to public health.
When information becomes polluted, our civic
discourse is compromised.”
Long before the expression “fake news” entered
the public consciousness, Wineburg and his
colleagues at Stanford were already immersed
in an 18-month-long study to evaluate students’
ability to accurately evaluate online information.
The results, says Wineburg, were bleak.
“Many people assume that because young
people are fluent in social media they are equally
perceptive about what they find there. Our work
shows the opposite to be true.”
MANY PEOPLE ASSUME
THAT BECAUSE YOUNG
PEOPLE ARE FLUENT IN
SOCIAL MEDIA THEY ARE
ABOUT WHAT THEY
FIND THERE. OUR
WORK SHOWS THE
OPPOSITE TO BE TRUE.
In total, the researchers collected and analyzed
7,804 student responses in 12 states. They tested
students in low-income and affluent middle
and high schools, as well as college students at
Regardless of their age or socioeconomic status,
students across-the-board demonstrated a troubling
inability to weed out unreliable information.
For example, the overwhelming majority of middle
schoolers believed “sponsored content” was a
legitimate news story and were unable to discern
native ads from actual articles. When shown an
image and caption that went viral on social media,
high school students readily accepted the claim
presented in the caption without offering any
reservations about verification or attribution.
Most college students didn’t take note of any
potential bias in a tweet by an political activist
group, and when it came to identifying a reliable
news source from an obvious fringe outlet, most
students couldn’t tell any difference.
While unsettling to say the least, the findings
are unsurprising in many ways, because, as the
researchers point out, schools haven’t really helped
students think otherwise and help them become
the fact-checkers they need to be.
Wineburg says the next steps to this research
include developing curriculum to help educators
track student understanding of online information
and to adjust their instruction accordingly. The
Stanford History Education Group has already
begun to pilot lesson plans in high schools in
California and a video exploring the link between
digital literacy and civic, informed discourse may
soon also be on the way.
What’s important for educators to remember, says
Dave Stuart, is that students’ familiarity with digital
technologies has no bearing on the fact that they
need help in competently digesting information
and reaching well-founded conclusions.
“Kids still need to read, write, think and speak
critically. That doesn’t come with being a digital
native. Not at all.”
And instilling these skills, Stuart adds, should be a
responsibility of all educators across the curriculum.
“A student’s ability to be more critical of the
information they get online, to understand
evidence, to identify inaccurate sources, affects
practically every subject – English, Social Studies,
Science, Health. This is a huge opportunity for
all of us.”
Posted in Teachers and Their Classrooms: medialiteracy: Uncategorized
Reprinted with permission from NEA Today