Mind over Chatter: Essential Skills for Navigating the Post-Truth Era

Mind over Chatter: Essential Skills for Navigating the Post-Truth Era is a series of five interactive, Canvas-based learning modules designed specifically for first-year college students and aimed at curbing the spread of problematic information in our time. Made possible by a generous grant from the Rita Allen Foundation and RTI International, these modules can be dropped into any course at almost any level.

Grounded in cognitive psychology and reflective pedagogy, this digital intervention provides students with a fluid set of digital skills, habits, and a basic working knowledge of how to navigate the web and social media, as well as recognize information that is false, misleading, inaccurate, manipulated, or improperly-framed. Students also learn about the complexities of information-gathering and exploration in a digital environment where information and media are abundant and cheap, while attention is rare and much more expensive.

Imminently practical and self-contained, the following modules may be completed in order or as stand-alone activities in virtually any course or discipline. Each module takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

The six modules in Mind over Chatter are available now for free download or import in the Canvas Commons and IU Expand. We also encourage you to download and read the Mind over Chatter teaching manual, a document that includes a wealth of collaborative activities, writing projects, discussion prompts, and other materials to introduce students to the complexities of media and mindful information-gathering in the post-digital era.

The five modules (plus one epistemological overview) are as follows:

  1. Initiation into MoC: This overview, which is embedded in the MoC Teaching Manual, is a general overview of the nature of knowledge, facts, and truth, and how higher education works to help students form an understanding of truth in a world full of complex information and diverse perspectives.
  2. Framing Effects: This module introduces students to the elements of messaging, persuasion, and rhetoric that shape our understandings of the world.
  3. Paradox of Authority: This module explains the relationship between knowledge and trust of authorities/experts, and how that can both help and hinder our comprehension of reality.
  4. Mere Exposure Effect: This module introduces students to a psychological phenomenon that influences what we believe and how we become committed to certain beliefs, ideas, and assumptions.
  5. Confirmation Bias: This module engages students in an interactive activity meant to reveal how our brains form rapid understandings and then work to preserve those understandings in the face of both confirming and disconfirming or even contrary evidence.
  6. Mindfulness, Media, and Misinformation: This module helps students understand how mindfulness, reflection, and simple web-based search techniques can help them guard against skewed, incomplete, misleading, improperly framed, or inaccurate beliefs about reality.

In the classroom, experienced writing instructors and trained peer instructors guide students in discussion, reflection, and exploration of the concepts and skills showcased in the modules. We are currently piloting Mind over Chatter in first-year writing courses (ENG-W 131) because of their focus on critical reading and literacy as students develop as academic writers, researchers, and responsible users of information. In Fall 2020, we plan to expand MoC to all sections of first-year writing at IU Kokomo.

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Indiana University Kokomo Mind over Chatter Team

Polly Boruff-Jones, MLS, MPA, is Dean of the Library at IU Kokomo. She is focused on engaging with students to understand their approach to research and information gathering. A five-time recipient of the Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award, she has taught information literacy skills and concepts to students at all college levels. With an interest in mitigating the challenges of the high school to college transition, she especially enjoys working with students who are new to the college experience and has taught freshman seminar courses at three universities.

Hannah Bourne is a senior double majoring in history and political science and public communication. After graduating from IU Kokomo in May 2020, she plans to pursue a PhD in history with the intention of becoming a professor. She aspires to build a career focused on research, teaching, and mentoring students. Throughout her time at IU Kokomo, Hannah has been involved in a variety of student organizations, including serving as President and Vice President of the Student Government Association. Currently, she is involved in an internship with the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Eric Bain-Selbo, to create a lifelong learning program at IU Kokomo. Hannah is a student worker for the Director of Alumni Relations and Campus Ceremonies, a Student Liaison for the IU Kokomo Honors Program, and a Peer Mentor at IU Kokomo.

Mark Canada, PhD, is Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of English. A former journalist, he has written extensively on the intersections of literature and journalism, particularly competition over ways to tell the truth. His five books include Literature and Journalism in Antebellum America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Introduction to Information Literacy for Students (Wiley, 2017). His work on the present truth crisis has been featured in The Conversation, The Academic Minute, and other venues. In July, he co-presented “Beyond ‘Fake News’: Framing the Next Decade of Higher Education’s Fight Against Misinformation,” the opening plenary address for AASCU’s Summer Academic Affairs Meeting.

Paul Cook, PhD, is Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing at IU Kokomo. He oversees all first-year writing, writing in the disciplines, and writing-intensive courses at the institution. He also has taught an undergraduate course specifically on misinformation and the post-truth crisis, as well as a special topics graduate course on the intersections of misinformation, media, and mindfulness in the digital era. He is co-chair (with Dean Boruff-Jones) of the campus team working on the Digital Polarization project, sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Christina Downey, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success at IU Kokomo. She oversees the university’s student-success initiatives and resources, including New Student Orientation, first-year experiences, and instruction in growth mindset. An award-winning teacher, she has published numerous articles and books, including Positive Psychology in Racial and Ethnic Groups, published by the American Psychological Association.

Mary Kennelly is an adjunct instructor of English at IU Kokomo. In addition to her composition courses, she enjoys providing motorcycle safety instruction via ABATE of Indiana as well as teaching music classes at a local primary school. She also works as a counselor at Birthright of Kokomo, a crisis pregnancy center.

Noah Sababu is a junior at IU Kokomo who is majoring in history with a minor in sociology. After completing his undergraduate degree he intends to become an academic historian with a focus on cultural studies. Alongside his strong academic career, he is an active member of IU Kokomo’s student community and a member of IU Kokomo’s Black Student Union. He was hired as a Peer Mentor for the Mind Over Chatter grant which will have him work directly with incoming college freshmen to practice mindfulness and combat misinformation by honing their critical thinking skills to analyze arguments through various news media.

Kristen Snoddy, senior lecturer in English at IU Kokomo, teaches both freshman composition and literature courses. She is also the director of Freshman Learning Communities. Kristen participated in the fall of 2018 Digital Polarization Initiative (DigiPo) and is also an engaged citizen through volunteerism in her local community.

Aaron Stanley is pursuing a BA in communications with minors in both philosophy and political science at Indiana University Kokomo. After completing his undergraduate degree, he plans to complete a doctorate program in communications before pursuing a career as a political analyst. Aaron enjoys traveling when he is not working as a facilitator at Elite Banquet & Conference Center, a server at Windmill Grill, and a peer mentor at IU Kokomo.

Martha Warner, MA in Liberal Studies, is an adjunct instructor of communications and English at Indiana University Kokomo. She has been teaching at various levels for over twelve years after earning her BA in English from IU Kokomo. A member of the Indiana University Alumni Association Kokomo Region Board, Martha is actively engaged on campus and in the community. In addition to her role at IU Kokomo, she is a private contractor who writes curriculum, articles and grants, designs and maintains websites, and edits projects and written works.

Michelle Westervelt, MA in English, is a lecturer in English at Indiana University Kokomo. She teaches both composition and literature courses. Additionally, she teaches First Year Experience courses and is actively involved in the Freshman Learning Communities as well as other student success initiatives. Michelle is Director of the Indiana University Kokomo Writing Center and serves on the editorial board for Burningword.com, an international online literary journal. Michelle has been with the university for more than ten years, a full-time lecturer for the past five.

Updated April 13, 2020 at 9:39am EDT.

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