The 2020 election has once again demonstrated how easy it is to spread misinformation online. And universities across the U.S. are failing in teaching students how to identify it. Many colleges offer students guides to evaluate the trustworthiness of websites. But too many of them base their advice on a report from 1998. That’s nine years before the first iPhone, and 18 years before Russian interference sparked an urgent discussion on how we interpret information online.
There’s something deeply wrong with using advice on the internet of 20 years ago to teach students how they should interact with the internet of today. That demands 21st century skills.
In a report released last month that we co-authored for the Stanford History Education Group, we saw what happens when educators provide students with outdated advice. Most of the 263 college students we tested floundered when trying to discern fact from fiction online.
Students viewed a post of a “news story” from the Seattle Tribune, a satirical site whose masthead proudly proclaimed that “any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.” Two-thirds failed to identify the story as satirical.
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