Students of all ages have trouble assessing online content for validity

Dive Brief:

  • Stanford University researchers have identified troubling statistics about the critical thinking skills of students who grew up as "digital natives," finding that they don’t seem to be able to adequately assess quality and validity of online content.
  • The Hechinger Report writes “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” is based on 7,804 student responses to 56 online tasks created by researchers  93% of college students couldn’t identify a lobbyist’s website as a biased source, and 80% of middle schoolers didn’t know “sponsored content” on a news website is paid advertising.
  • The study found students couldn’t explain how to find accurate information online, and few investigated claims they saw on social media by seeking additional information, which led the authors to recommend better and earlier training for students.

Dive Insight:

The role of fake news in the presidential campaign has been heavily debated since President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected win. Facebook and other social media sites have made commitments to limit fabricated content from showing up in people’s news feeds and in advertisements. Many educators have become self-reflective about their role in their students’ civic preparation over the last few weeks.

Schools teach children how to read and they are held accountable by student performance on state tests. But teaching critical thinking is a separate skill. The Stanford study highlights the vast and troubling gaps in student knowledge when it comes to critical thinking and assessment of online content. Districts everywhere should take these findings seriously and consider where they can prompt change at the local level.

Follow on Twitter

Filed Under: K12 Technology Policy & Regulation