Program awards TWU educator $400,000 grant to fight misinformation

Tara Zimmerman, PhD, was awarded a grant for nearly $400,000

August 1, 2023 — DENTON — What is real? What isn’t? Can I trust this?
These are familiar questions we ask ourselves when scrolling through social media or looking for information online. These are also questions that School of Library and Information Studies assistant professor Tara Zimmerman, PhD, plans to help children in kindergarten through fifth grade (K-5) learn how to answer.
Zimmerman, who studies social media misinformation behavior and coined the term “social noise,” wants to build a curriculum for school librarians to teach students dangers of online misinformation, how to detect it and avoid it.
The primary goal of her project is to develop a research-based educational tool that will provide children with critical skills they need to be thoughtful information consumers.
“I expect to find that curriculum and other learning tools to help teach critical information literacy skills to K-5 students are minimal and difficult to find,” Zimmerman said.
Her project is funded by an Early Career Research Development grant for $399,890 from the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Her project aligns with the program’s mission to meet changing information and learning needs in America.
“I am honored to be awarded this prestigious grant, especially considering it is named for our most famous Texas librarian, Laura Bush,” Zimmerman said. “This is a huge project, but I am excited to get started.”
Her research has focused on how online environments influence a person’s information behavior. Now she is combining her research with her experience as a school librarian to focus on helping other librarians educate children how to navigate misinformation.
Through pilot programs in Texas, Oklahoma and New York, Zimmerman will assess young children’s ability to distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy information online and how K-5 librarians are currently addressing misinformation with their students.
From her findings she will develop a curriculum to address information literacy and observe school librarians as they implement it for one school year. In response to feedback from school librarians and students, Zimmerman will refine the curriculum and training materials to help build information literacy teaching skills of school librarians to provide students critical skills to consume information.
The project will continue through three school years, ending in July 2026.

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Page last updated 5:43 PM, August 1, 2023