The 2nd grade welcomed two members of a digital literacy team out of American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) for an hour-long program to train students to evaluate online sources and spot misinformation. Kesa White and Laura Kralicky of the Developing and Using Critical Comprehension (D.U.C.C.) program taught students how to “quack down on misinformation.”
The award-winning curriculum, which won recognition from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Invent2Prevent competition, aims to make children less vulnerable and less likely to engage with extremist content online. Students develop both critical thinking and emotional intelligence skills needed to identify dangerous behaviors online.
The animation Daniel’s First Day introduced them to the harmful impact of spreading misinformation. The students quickly caught on to the key messages of the program—be wary of scams, evaluate sources, avoid assumptions, and involve trusted adults when unsure.
“We talked about misinformation and how you shouldn’t listen to all the sources you see,” said Miriam ’33, who stopped by the GDS LMS lobby to discuss D.U.C.C. with classmate Amelia ’33. “It could be made by someone lying on the couch. In that case, it may not be true, unless they are an expert, who likes working on couches.”
Their conversation was part “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and part assessment for GDS’s innovation team to gauge what students might remember about the program several weeks later.
“They told us that you shouldn’t assume things about other people that you find online until you know it’s absolutely true,” Amelia added. “We also looked at different scenarios.”
“Scenarios” seems to be one of those words that give 2nd graders a thrill to say aloud. Amelia didn’t hold back. “In the scenarios, they said, ‘Which should we believe? Should we believe the ‘DucksAreDumb.com’ website or Nat Geo Kids?”
Miriam said, “We talked about sources that everyone writes versus ones that experts write. We compared PBS Kids to TikTok, and in the end, we figured out that PBS Kids is more trustworthy. TikTok can easily trick someone. PBS only allows experts to make their website.”
Before dashing off, library books in hand, to rejoin their class, they got to “the big question.”
Should kids be learning this? Why or why not?
“It’s important to know about this,” Amelia said, “so if you see things online and you don’t know if it's true or not true, you can ask an adult to get more information.”
“Another thing about the big question,” Miriam added, “well…let’s say that there is a problem and you look it up online. You search “Is ___ true about [a person]?” and you find fake information. It might make them sad even if they know it’s not true. Other people might think it is true. That’s a problem.”
The invitation to PERIL’s team came from GDS’s innovation and computer science department chair Elvin Peprah, who reached out to the D.U.C.C team following Digital Citizenship Week. Ultimately, GDS had the privilege of hosting the first in-classroom run of the curriculum, which had previously only been through research trials outside of a classroom setting. AU’s PERIL lab also has an ongoing partnership with GDS’s Civic Lab Fellowship for High School students.
Parents and teachers, learn more at https://www.ducc.online/resources.html