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Posts Tagged ‘fake

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The video above is a preview of a new Crash Course that will be coming soon.

I am looking forward to it as much as the next major blockbuster. While movies entertain, John Green and company have a way of educating that pulls learners in.

I am one of the 8+ million subscribers to their channel. You should be, too, if you have any role in developing information literacy.

If we are going to teach ourselves and our students how to identify fake news or other sources of disinformation, then we should know what rules their creators use.

This video by the New York Times identified the Seven Commandments of Fake News by deconstructing notable examples of disinformation.

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The seven rules were:

  1. Find the cracks (the rifts or sore points in society)
  2. Create a big lie (so outrageous that it is almost too hard to believe)
  3. Wrap the lie around some truth (to create believability)
  4. Conceal your hand (make it seem like it came from someone else)
  5. Find useful idiots (to spread the fake news)
  6. Deny everything (when found out)
  7. Play the long game (the impact is not always immediate)

Now those seven rules were created in the pre-Internet era. Today the effectiveness of any of the seven is exacerbated by the breadth and speed of spreading disinformation.

So what is an ordinary person to do?

One expert in the video said: Question more, answer less. I suggest: Question more, retweet or repost less (or not at all). Wheezy Waiter, a YouTube I follow, pointed out that a headline is not an article.

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One way to question more is to read, watch, listen, or otherwise sense more, and then to reflect on what we process. There are no shortcuts; it takes work.

My Twitter feed led me to one of the local rags, Today, which declared that “news” spreads faster and more widely when it’s false.

TODAY attributed the article to the New York Times, but it was actually an almost word-for-word copy of the report in the Nature journal. The report was based on a study published in the journal Science.
The TODAY paper wrongly attributed the source to the NYT. The article was a near copy of the one in Nature.

This was not fake news, but it was bad attribution. You can blame social media or any platform, but the fault lies in people making poor or bad decisions.

The Nature article was more reliable — it reports academic findings after all — and the numbers were scary:

the most popular true news stories rarely reached more than 1,000 people, whereas the top 1% of false news stories reached between 1,000 and 100,000 people. False news that reached 1,500 people did so six times faster than did true stories. And falsities were 70% more likely to be retweeted than truths…

This was true whether the fake news was generated and spread by bots or by people. Even when bots were removed from the equation, “fake news… still spread faster than truth, showing that this property stems from human behaviour”.

It is not the platform. It is the people and the decisions they make.

What motivates people to propagate what they do not read, fact-check, or understand? Novelty — it grabs attention and begs to be passed on. Novelty combined without a clear link to evidence or even a lack of evidence also seems to contribute to the rapid spread of fake news.

Again, it is not the platform. It is the people and the decisions they make. It is easy to retweet something interesting but unconfirmed; it takes more effort to fact-check and pour cold water on the spread.

Therein lies a possible prescriptive note to stemming fake news. For people to fact-check, they must access a source of information. So it is not enough to tweet information. The tweet must be accompanied with a primary source.

By the way, the New York Times had its own take on the Science article. Unlike TODAY, it did not misattribute and copy wholesale. It was more thorough in that it provided examples and graphs to illustrate spikes of fake news.

This reflection was brought to you by attribution to sources and links to articles. It is not fake news and therefore unlikely to spread.

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I remember Ask Jeeves like I remember Lycos and Hotbot. These were search engines before Google.

I remember curation before the likes of fire-and-forget services like These tweet “curations” are Ask Peeves for me because they piss me off.

Last month I tweeted an article about providing effective formative feedback.

The title of the article included the word “cartography” because the writer likened feedback to knowing 1) where you are, 2) where you need to be, and 3) how to get there.

However, individuals and bots who did not bother to actually read the article auto “curated” it into papers about geography, way finding, navigation, and the like. Even my attempt to hashtag the tweet with #feedback did little to stem the tide.

I dread to think of “experts” and trainers showing teachers how to set up such fire-and-forget services in the name of curation. It is not curation if you 1) have not read the article, 2) are not telling a coherent story, and 3) are not doing any of the heavy lifting.

If you like fire-and-forget strategies, you are taking a shortcut. You might get views and followers initially. But when they see that you lack effort and substance when you fire, they will forget.

Earlier this month, @tucksoon tweeted this CNA article about fake news.

I turn the question on teachers and rephrase it slightly. Do teachers know how to spot bad theory and practice?

Do they know why they should question:

  • Learning styles?
  • Homework?
  • Assessment practices?
  • Digital distinctions?

If not, I share what I have written and curated on:

The two tweets I embed below are related.

My son spotted this fake LEGO set at a store last month. Buyers know it is fake, but because it looks like the real thing and is cheaper, they might purchase it anyway.

My second tweet was a brief statement about how some vendors have jumped on the bandwagon of Skills Future courses.

Relying on strategies of old, they dangled lucky draws and gifts, and made claims like being “free” or “paid for by the government”. The incentive to learn lifewide and lifelong seemed to focus on the extrinsic of rewards, cheap, or free.

How are the two examples related? Faking it is not the same as making it.

There is a quality to authentic LEGO that copiers find hard to replicate. One is something that LEGO calls clutch power. The look and feel might also not look and feel right.

By the newspaper report alone, some of the companies offering courses did not seem to focus on the relevance and quality of their Skills Future courses. They opted instead on marketing speak and gimmicks.

In both cases, the truth behind the facade might be revealed with a few key questions:

  • What is the reputation of the brand?
  • Where is the evidence of quality or timeliness?
  • How credible is the evidence of their work?

In the case of those that offer (or pretend) to teach:

  • What are their pedagogical models?
  • What rigorous research are their approaches based on?
  • How current are their offerings and approaches?
  • How transparent are their processes?

If these questions seem to require expertise outside your comfort zone or domain of knowledge, then simply listen to how they sell their ideas, ask probing questions, and listen some more.

Do they sound like they have done their homework and legwork? Was their homework something they heard at a conference or a single blog post from an expert far away? Do they seek to clarify or confuse? Do they sound like marketers or educators?

No single agency should be accountable to those that sell. We are all watchdogs now.

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If your Twitter follower count doubled overnight, how would you feel? I was not happy with my first world problem. Let me tell you why.

Whenever I do a talk, seminar, or workshop, I share my social media details at the end to keep conversations going with folks who are interested.

I forgot to do this at BETT2015 but I still gained followers in two phases.

The first phase was when I promoted my session on Twitter with #bett2015 prior to the talk. Like-minded folk started following me and we exchanged thoughts.

I typically get more followers right after the talk by showing the connect-with-me slide. This did not happen as much since I forgot to show that slide.

But something unexpected happened the day after I returned to Singapore.

My follower count was around 1,100 before BETT2015. I had carefully curated who followed me to only include who I thought were legitimate educators or education providers. I have shared before how I cull fake followers.

Overnight my follower count doubled to just over 2,200. Most people would be happy, but I was not. The following had all the signs of purchased, fake followers. Most of their Twitter avatars were in egg state and many had zero followers and/or postings. I did not arrange for this to happen.

I decided to use Amit Agarwal’s script for identifying potential fakes. I followed his instructions and ended up with a Google Spreadsheet of 837 potential fakes.

There are other tools that help with the identification of fake Twitter followers. The ones I have tried before and Agarwal’s workaround require manual removal of fakers.

I cannot imagine removing the extra 1,100 individually and by hand. I would have to do this in addition to the 20 to 50 I remove daily.

Time to scour the Web for a more reasonable solution.

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