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Teaching Students to Navigate the Online Landscape

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Since the 2016 presidential election, worries about our ability to evaluate online content have elicited much hand wringing. As a Forbes headline cautioned, "Americans Believe They Can Detect Fake News. Studies Show They Can't." Our own research doubtless contributed to the collective anxiety. As part of ongoing work at the Stanford History Education Group, we created dozens of assessments to gauge middle school, high school, and college students' ability to evaluate online content. In November 2016, we released a report summarizing trends in the 7,804 student responses we collected across 12 states. At all grade levels, students struggled to make even the most basic evaluations. Middle school students could not distinguish between news articles and sponsored content. High school students were unable to identify verified social media accounts. Even college students could not determine the organization behind a supposedly non-partisan website. In short, we found young people ill equipped to make sense of the information that floods their phones, tablets, and laptops.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • Social Education, our flagship journal, contains a balance of theoretical content and practical teaching ideas. The award-winning resources include techniques for using materials in the classroom, information on the latest instructional technology, reviews of educational media, research on significant social studies-related topics, and lesson plans that can be applied to various disciplines. Departments include Looking at the Law, Surfing the Net, and Teaching with Documents. Social Education is published 6 times per year: September; October; November/December; January/February; March/April; and May/June.
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