Nine Innovators to Watch in 2018

Meet a group of trailblazers in medicine, education, art, transportation, artificial intelligence and more

(Dana Farber Cancer Institute; January Heuss; Suman Kanuganti; Cathy Carver)
smithsonian.com

A lot of people have good ideas. But only a few have the tenacity, discipline and single-mindedness to bring them to fruition. Here are nine groundbreakers to keep your eyes on in 2018.

Matthew Gross: Teaching Kids About "Fake News"

When he launched Newsela four years ago, Matthew Gross had a pretty straightforward mission—promote literacy and get students more engaged in reading by providing curated news articles to teachers. That’s still its primary goal, but the company, which now has more than 12 million registered users throughout the country, has more recently sharpened its focus on one of the more vexing issues in media today—so-called “fake news.”

It became a “red-hot topic” among teachers during the 2016 presidential campaign, many of whom were confused by just what the term meant, according to Gross. They also knew that the vast majority of their students got their news online, often from sites which didn’t follow the vetting process of more traditional media outlets.

So Newsela entered into a partnership with the American Press Institute and began to incorporate questions related to a story’s credibility, such as: What are the sources of the information and are they reliable? Is there a bias? Is the main point backed up by the evidence? and What’s missing? In addition, Newsela launched a section on its website featuring articles about “fake news.”

Earlier this year, the service also rolled out an initiative called “A Mile in Our Shoes,” which tries to promote students’ empathy for people different from themselves by presenting collections of news stories about various groups--from American Muslims to people with disabilities to families in rural communities.

It’s in line with Gross’ vision to offer content that resonates with today’s students. “We want,” he says in a press release, “to go beyond the textbook and help create an instructional content experience for the digital classroom era.” 

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