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$50,000 grant provides mentors to combat misinformation

December 18, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. – Paid peer mentors will teach new college students at Indiana University Kokomo how to consider information that doesn’t agree with what they already know, with funding from a national grant.

The campus received the top award of $50,000 for its Mind Over Chatter training program, as winner of the Misinformation Solution Prizes. The grants are intended to fuel development of novel ideas that can reduce the spread of misinformation and minimize its influence.

“This will help prepare students to be more mindful of some of the biases we’re all prone to, and be more critical readers as they take in information,” said Mark Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “It’s not the standard approach to information literacy.” 

The program builds on existing curriculum in digital polarization, which builds student knowledge in civic and web literacy. It includes a three-step process to help students address cognitive biases, or natural tendencies to reject new information that doesn’t fit in with what a person already thinks or believes.

Christina Downey, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success, said it can be difficult for people to consider new information or viewpoints. She added that everyone has tendencies to make quick judgements of new information and have confidence that what they already know is the only right answer.

“That can be very challenging for college education, where we’re trying to expose students to things they didn’t know before, or new ways of thinking,” she said. “By helping students build their critical thinking skills, they will be better equipped to succeed in college in general and writing in particular.”

The Misinformation Solution Prize was presented by the Rita Allen Foundation and RTI International, in partnership with the Aspen Institute.

In addition to Canada and Downey, faculty members who created the Mind Over Chatter program include Paul Cook, associate professor of English, and Polly Boruff-Jones, dean of the Library.

Downey, Cook, Boruff-Jones, and Canada collaborated on an article about their solution. This article appears in the recently published volume Curbing the Spread of Misinformation: Insights, Innovations, and Interpretations from the Misinformation Solutions Forum. http://bit.ly/2GskY9k

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 12/18/2018