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Texas A&M at Qatar’s second 2015-2016 Distinguished Lecture Series features Stanford professor

Published Feb 24, 2016

Stanford University professor Dr. Sam Wineburg was the second speaker in Texas A&M University at Qatar’s 2015-2016 Distinguished Lecture Series.

Texas A&M at Qatar interim dean Dr. Ann Kenimer introduced Wineburg, who is the founder and executive director of the Stanford History Education Group and the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford University.

In his talk, “Reading Less and Learning More: The Search for Expertise in the Evaluation of Online Sources,” Wineburg discussed the skill of determining the veracity and legitimacy of online sources. In his research, Wineburg found that “digital natives” were the most adept at such a task, while “digital immigrants” relied on bygone practices of deducing, which do not translate on the Internet.

Digital immigrants — or those who existed in a pre-Internet world and then adopted a digitally literacy, despite any learnedness or shrewdness — tended to evaluate online sources only in a vertical manner as observed by Wineburg in his research findings. They would observe and examine a site from the top of the page and then progress downward only. Digitally native experts, or those who only know of a world in which the Internet exists, examined sources quickly. They would superficially look at a page and then immediately jump to another page to do a search about the page in question to get their bearings.

Wineburg stressed the importance of an informed citizenry in a digital age and the responsibility of educators and institutions to ensure students learn the skills necessary to evaluate digital information.

“No longer is the question where to find information,” Wineburg said. “The question is whether the information we find is worthy of our belief. What fell on the shoulders of fact checkers has fallen on us. Reliable information is a civic responsibility.”

Wineburg received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in psychological studies in education. Before joining Stanford, Wineburg was a Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair at the University of North Bengal, India, professor at the University of Washington and visiting professor at the University of Haifa.

His research interests include new forms of assessment to measure historical understanding, the creation of Web-based environments for the learning and teaching of history and longitudinal study on the development of historical consciousness among adolescents in three communities.

In 2003 his book, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, received the Frederic W. Ness Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In 2007 he was awarded the American Historical Association's William Gilbert Prize for distinguished scholarship on the teaching of history as well as being named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians.

Wineburg is on the advisory boards of the Journal of the Learning Sciences, National Research Council, American Hebrew Academy and the Center for the Study of Historical Consciousness. He is a trustee of the National Council for History Education and a consultant for the Mandel Foundation.