The Poynter Institute will lead a project funded by Google.org called MediaWise, a groundbreaking endeavor aimed at helping middle and high school students be smarter consumers of news and information online.
Google is investing $3 million over two years in MediaWise, which will bring together experts from the Local Media Association, the Stanford Graduate School of Education and Poynter. MediaWise will feature a curriculum to be taught in classrooms and a first-of-its-kind teen fact-checking initiative online. The project aims to reach a million students, with at least 50 percent coming from underserved or low-income communities.
“Democracy works best when citizens can make decisions for themselves based on accurate, independent and honest information,” said Poynter Institute president Neil Brown. “Poynter is honored to be part of MediaWise, which aims to help the next generation of voters have that power, and to reduce the spread of misinformation, which is polluting our civic life.”
At the center of the project is a body of research from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) that shows that despite being constantly online, the vast majority of teenagers are unable to correctly evaluate the credibility of online news and information. (Adults didn’t do much better, according to Stanford’s research). Over the next two years, Stanford will develop a new curriculum for use in schools to teach better information literacy and improve what it calls, “civic online reasoning.”
“Our research has shown that students need help navigating the sea of digital information that they encounter every day. We are excited to embark on this initiative to create classroom-ready materials that will prepare students to confront the challenges of a digital society,” said Sam Wineburg, founder of the Stanford History Education Group and Margaret Jacks Professor of Education at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.
Poynter will launch a fact-checking venture in which teens will work with professional journalists to sort out fact vs. fiction on the internet. Poynter’s fact-checking franchise, which includes the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, will collaborate on the project, applying key findings that grew out of Stanford’s research on how teens consume news. The work of the teen fact-checkers to debunk misinformation will be presented on numerous online and social media platforms, and it will be heavily visual, including extensive use of graphics and other creative means to reach teens wherever they are consuming news.
The Local Media Association will work with Poynter and Stanford to take the skills and knowledge of this project into communities through events, newspaper in education programs and news coverage. There are over 2,800 newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and digital news sites as members of the Local Media Association across the country.
The National Association for Media Literacy Education is also partnering in this project as a resource and to help with outreach to teachers, librarians and others who teach these skills. And several stars on YouTube — content creators with millions of followers — have committed to sharing this project with their audiences as well.
Contributing YouTube creators include a CrashCourse series hosted by John Green and several Smarter Every Day episodes featuring Destin Sandlin. The dynamic team of Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown will transfer the teachings towards STEM learning through their ASAP Science channel. Several YouTube influencers are donating their time to the initiative. Additional collaborators include Ingrid Nilsen, Alonzo Lerone and Soldier Knows Best (Mark Watson).
“At Google.org, we’re focused on developing the next generation of diverse technology creators but we know that coding skills or even digital savviness is not enough,” said Jacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org. “We are thrilled to be working with Poynter, Stanford and the Local Media Association to help equip young people with the skills they need to assess fact from fiction online.”
In addition to the MediaWise initiative, Google also announced at the same time that it was committing $300 million over the next three years to boost news subscriptions and combat fake news.