About the authors

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Mike Caulfield is a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, where he studies the spread of online rumors and misinformation. Creator of the SIFT methodology, he has taught thousands of teachers and students how to verify claims and sources through his workshops.


Sam Wineburg is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Stanford University, where he founded the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), the largest purveyor of free curriculum in the social studies, with more than 15 million downloads and counting. His team’s Civic Online Reasoning curriculum has been distributed freely to schools all over the world.

The Story Behind the Book

It was 2010. Mike was working at a small public college, helping to design and assess classroom activities around “21st century competencies” when he got a call from the college’s library. They had been running a series of workshops on information literacy. “Any chance you could come by to look at something?” said one of Mike’s librarian colleagues, with a note of concern. Or was it despair?

The results were in from the library’s assessment of their workshop. Apparently, the librarians had something to show Mike that had to be seen in person.

Two colleagues were waiting when he got to the library. They projected on the screen an obvious conspiracy website—secret government plans to “cull” the population, mentions of “9/11 as an inside job”, and allegations that fluoridated water caused the world’s ills.

“So,” one of the librarians said, “a student used this site in a research paper on health policy.”

But even when students weren’t selecting sources about lizard people and the New World Order, they were making choices that were downright weird.

As students worked through the sources on the internet, it became clear that the issue wasn’t that they were bad critical thinkers. They actually did a lot of thinking. They struggled because they had gotten lost on the web.