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Teaching Newsletter: One Way to Fight Fake News

Chronicle of Higher Education – Teaching Newsletter: One Way to Fight Fake News – We Read It on the Internet

“Anyone who views college as an inoculation against fake news will find a new study from the Stanford History Education Group pretty disheartening. The study, by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, builds on the group’s previous work, which found that students in middle school, high school, and college were “easily duped” online. The new study tested three kinds of “experts”: historians, professional fact-checkers, and Stanford undergraduates. The fact-checkers performed well, but the students and the historians “often fell victim to easily manipulated features of websites, such as official-looking logos and domain names,” the report says. One test required the experts to evaluate information about bullying from two websites, those of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has 64,000 members and publishes the field’s main journal, and of the American College of Pediatricians, a much smaller organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its positions on LGBTQ rights. All of the fact-checkers determined — correctly — that the American Academy of Pediatrics was the more reliable source. But only half of the historians and 20 percent of the students did, with the rest finding the American College of Pediatricians more reliable, or the two groups equally so. Why did the fact-checkers prevail where students at a top college and historians — who, as the report notes, “evaluate sources for a living — stumbled? They read differently. The students and historians tended to read “vertically,” the report notes, delving deeply into a website in their efforts to determine its credibility. That, the researchers point out, is more or less the approach laid out in many checklists designed to help students use the internet well, which tend to suggest looking at particular features of a website to evaluate its trustworthiness…”

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