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With the omnipresence of technology and social media, students are increasingly exposed to misinformation and conspiracy theories that are harmful to democracy and civil society. Students are also regularly exposed to alternative facts, and they need to be taught skills to critically consume information. Social media appears to be a key platform for fake news. According to the Pew Research Center, 18 percent of US adults get their political news from social media (Mitchell et al. 3). Because of the saturation of news on social media, "we are all susceptible to the seduction of false or deliberately manipulative internet content and should be vigilant and humble rather than confident about our ability to detect it" (Gourguechon). Teachers can serve as the conduit for helping iGen students-born after 1995 into a technology-rich world-understand and navigate the overwhelming amount of information they consume daily (Twenge).

In an effort to assess students' critical thinking and digital literacy, MindEdge Learning surveyed just over one thousand Americans and examined how well respondents could locate faulty information. In 2019, "only [7 percent] of the respondents scored an 'A' on the test, answering eight or nine questions correctly. Three quarters of millennial respondents received an 'F' grade" (Gourguechon). Similarly, McGrew et al. found that iGen students are unable to distinguish between reliable information and misinformation. As teachers, it is our responsibility to help students practice assessing information for its validity so that we can better equip them to both seek accurate information and to be civically engaged. The purpose of this article is to summarize an instructional unit taught to high school students that used conspiracy theories to teach skills for debunking misinformation. This article will provide a brief overview of the psychology behind conspiracy theories and provide an overview of how a conspiracy theory unit can be culturally responsive. We will summarize the unit's goals and learning objectives \ and provide a unit plan template that integrates culturally responsive pedagogy. We will also include a list of the conspiracy theories students chose to research and teacher perceptions on the student impact of this unit. This article provides a practical and research-based framework to help educators navigate teaching students to become critical consumers of information.


Information literacy--Study and teaching, Fake news--Psychological aspects

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Archived version is the publisher's PDF.

The article was originally published in Oregon English Journal.



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Journal Article

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