“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”
Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, Stanford History Education Group (2016)
With fake news headlines like NASA Confirms Earth Will Experience 15 Days Of Darkness In November 2017, to say nothing of all the political headlines in the media today, it's more important than ever that young people acquire the ability to decipher "fake news" from real news. Arguably, never before in our nation's history has so much ridden on the populace's ability to separate fact from fiction, something that becomes increasingly pressing given the study's finding that "making sense of search results is even more challenging with politically charged topics."
If you want your students to think critically then ...
... keep in mind other research that demonstrates that the challenges to critical thinking are not merely those of cognitive ability. Rather, "the evaluation of personally relevant arguments has been found to be related to actively open-minded thinking dispositions independent of cognitive ability" (West, Toplak, Stanovich, 2008). In other words, a key reason behind students' inability to decipher "fake news" from real news comes down to their willingness to face information that challenges what they already think. Therefore, you will not achieve as much success in helping your students think critically about anytopic unless you work to increase their willingness to critically examine their own beliefs and biases. If you want stronger critical thinking from your students, help them understand why it is so important to keep an open mind about any idea, especially the ones they hold as true. Model this open-mindedness for your students on a regular basis by showing them how you question what it is that you "believe."
The Critical Thinking Initiative is dedicated to helping educators acquire the tools needed to cultivate in their students the ability to critically engage all information they encounter, be it in a classroom, on the Internet, from the media, or from politicians of either party.