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From the Editor's Desk

Scientific Literacy in the Post-Truth Era

The NGSS highlight obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information as a crucial practice. Our students are expected to “Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence” (NSTA 2014). Unfortunately, this charge is challenging because humans tend to automatically believe information—including false information—because our brains have evolved to quickly process information for the purpose of learning (Laliberte 2018). 

This quirk of evolution, coupled with the ability to easily convey information to millions beyond our immediate geographic reach, has contributed to a post-truth world in which fake news outcompetes peer-reviewed research. A study by Vosoughi, Roy, and Aral (2018) found that false information on Twitter spread faster than the truth and reached more individuals. The ease with which false information can spread through numerous social media outlets makes it imperative that we guide our students toward becoming critical consumers of information, particularly as it relates to science and engineering. Our students may be technologically savvy, but they struggle to separate truth from fiction (Wineburg et al. 2016).  

Given the evolving role of technology and its impact on communication, perhaps no other science and engineering practice is as important as that of obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. I encourage you to work with your English language arts colleagues, as many of the ELA strategies related to obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information can be utilized in the science classroom. Such strategies, which can be employed to help our students analyze news articles, develop explanations, and argue from evidence, are imperative classroom inclusions if we want to help our students grow into well-informed scientifically literate citizens.  

References

Laliberte, M. 2018. Why do we remember false information?

NSTA. 2014. Matrix of science and engineering practices.

Vosoughi, S., D. Roy, and S. Aral. 2018. The spread of true and false news online. Science 359 (6380): 1146–1151.

Wineburg, S., McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., & Ortega, T. 2016. Evaluating information: The cornerstone of civic online reasoning. Stanford Digital Repository.

Topics

Advocacy Literacy Technology

Levels

Middle School

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