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Soon after the 2016 presidential election, as debates raged over “fake news” and its influence on the outcome, a landmark report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education provided sobering evidence of just how easily young people are duped by information online. The study, by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), found that middle and high school students overwhelmingly failed to demonstrate the skills necessary to distinguish credible sources from unreliable ones.

Since the release of that report, policymakers and educators have introduced a wave of initiatives aimed at equipping students with stronger digital literacy skills. But as the 2020 election approaches and many of those students become first-time voters, SHEG researchers have found few signs of progress—and the consequences are dire, said Sam Wineburg, the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education, who cofounded SHEG in 2002.

“Our democracy depends on access to reliable information,” he said. “And the internet is increasingly where we go to look for it.”

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Last year SHEG released Civic Online Reasoning, a free curriculum for educators to instill strategies for evaluating the trustworthiness of online information. More recently, Wineburg and SHEG director Joel Breakstone joined with colleagues at SHEG and faculty at MIT to develop a free course on how to teach these skills, which launched this
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