Jack Out of the Box blog

DISINFORMATION TRAINING FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

I saw this article the other day and found it fascinating.  It concerns a study by the Stanford Graduate School of Education.  The study found that high school students who received less than six hours in training on digital literacy were twice as likely to identify bogus websites as they were before they took the training.

The training the students received was developed by the Stanford History Education Group and is called Civic Online Reasoning.  One of the techniques offered by the curriculum is somewhat counter-intuitive.  It stresses the need not to read an online post from start to finish.  Rather, the reader should do some research into who’s backing the site before spending too much time there.  One example offered is the “International Life Sciences Institute.”  It says its mission “is to provide science that improves health.”  But with a minimal amount of research one can discover that the Institute is funded by large food corporations and routinely opposes regulations.

It would be great for this curriculum to be adopted in high schools across the country.  Legislators seem to be looking to tech platforms for answers to the glut of disinformation.  And as suppliers of disinformation, they have a role to play.  But dealing with the demand side of the equation, by producing more skeptical readers is a valuable tool as well.