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Posts Tagged ‘literacy

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If there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and they watch YouTube, they might mistake this serious news piece for a comedy show.

What seemed like a ruse by a politician to the journalist turned out be fundamental and easily avoidable mistakes by “educated” people.

The figure on the poster was misrepresented because someone did not realise that “140” was the 140th footnote. The politician was also using a ten-year-old publication to highlight a study that no longer exists.

You cannot claim to be educated today if you cannot smell something fishy. What looks like an attempt to turn a six-figure amount into a nine-figure sum was down to poor information literacy (specifically, citing footnotes). 

What looks like a legitimate claim of wasted money is empty because 1) the study concluded in 2016, and 2) it has legitimate purpose and design [Scientific American]. The basic information literacy skills here: Finding out if the study is still valid and why it was funded in the first place.

Sidenote: The politician also used a sensational image of a quail fed a small mountain of cocaine. Even a person without a science background might realise that is not how doses are given. This was not a frivolous coke party for birds but a study to “look at underlying hormonal and neurobiological changes which may underlie that behavior following cocaine exposure”.

If something smells fishy, follow your nose. But first make sure that your nose has been trained to figure out what the different smells might mean.

I agree with the tweeted thought above. Knowing how to use Twitter and being literate in the Twitterverse matter if you are to make it work for you.

But there is a difference between being literate and being fluent. The latter is a a leap ahead. It is the like the difference between being able to read, write, and speak a language, and being skilled at all three.

Being literate in Twitter could mean being aware of technological affordances of Twitter as they are and as they emerge, and being able to use them all. It could mean knowing who to follow and who not to.

Being fluent could mean embracing and taking advantage of nuance and subtlety. This could mean knowing who to unfollow, mute, or block, and sending messages with these actions. It could also mean knowing when a long thread is appropriate vs when to link to a blog post. It could mean knowing whether to reply or not.


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I enjoy these comedic videos on two levels. The first is as a person who enjoys smart comedy. The second is as an educator with a background in science.

The purpose of comedy is to make people laugh. If comedians fail to do this consistently, they are just commentators or pundits. The problem with some of these comedic comments is that they are based on ignorance and the perpetuating of such ignorance.

For example, take the comparison of the 95% likelihood that humans are responsible for climate change to the 99% effectiveness of a condom. A comedian remarked that he should be wary about having protected sex 100 times. His implication and intended comedic comment was that there was an assured one time that the condom would fail. This is not what 99% effectiveness means. It means that a condom is effective 99% each time it used.

There are other remarks about rising sea levels and mirrors in space that could be deconstructed and reconstructed with a scientific eye while still appreciating the humour of the exchanges.

My worry is that the audiences have not heard the scientific information previously and the comedy is their source of news. This is not the fault of the show because it is not their role — it is for entertainment, not education.

Ideally educators might use such videos as a relatable way to start lessons about scientific misconceptions. These are invaluable lessons to nurture critical and curious thinkers. Part of such thinking is investigating. When I watched this video yesterday, I looked for the source of the 95% statistic. It was from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its reports are available online.

The next investigative issue was when this video was first aired. A commenter indicated that it was from Season 12 and episode 11 of Mock the Week and first aired on 3 October 2013. One other person’s reply to that comment: “I wish they would post this themselves so I don’t have to look up the episode list”. This information makes it easier to find the actual report.

YouTube comments about the show's episode date.

The show’s YouTube channel does not operate like SciShow, so it does not list its resources to back up what it says. Its audiences then take what panellists say at face value, and if such a practice happens often enough, the information becomes fact and the practice becomes acceptable.

If we are to raise the baseline of scientifically literate people, educators need to realise that this is no laughing matter. They could take the laughing matter (funny videos) to turn ignorance into information into knowledge into mindsets.


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The first five minutes of this news video was a critique of Trump’s attempt to mislead with disinformation.

Twitter and Facebook blocked Trump’s attempt to share a clip in which he reportedly said that “children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – almost immune from this disease”. The news folk pushed back with corrections, but slipped as they did so.

The news anchor said that Twitter and Facebook had blocked Trump’s misinformation. The claim that children are “almost immune from the disease” is disinformation, not misinformation. It was a deliberate attempt to convince parents that it is safe to send their kids to school so that the parents can get back to work.

Misinformation might be a result of early and incomplete fact-finding. It could also be a result of unclear or ambiguous phrasing. Disinformation flies in the face of facts. Being immune to the SARS-CoV-2 virus means your body can fight it off. It does not mean that you cannot transmit it. Immune persons can still transmit the virus they are not hygienic and do not maintain physical distance.

The reporter on the ground said that “precision is so important when you are talking about peoples’ health”. Being precise is not the same as being accurate.

Accuracy is about hitting the target, i.e., getting the facts right. Precision is about being consistent. It is important to be accurate first and then precise with explanations and elaborations. If you are not accurate first, it is still possible to be precisely wrong.

This is not a game of semantics. This is about being scientifically literate. This means getting information from reputable and reliable sources, and using accurate and precise language to communicate these findings.

News agencies can be a good source of information, but they are not necessarily halls of information and scientific literacy. It is up to teachers and educators to first develop these skill and mind sets, and then model and teach these to students.

What is lateral reading? This video provides the basics.

It first points out that “information literacy” or “cyber wellness” lessons might teach students how to spot relatively superficial markers, e.g., author’s expertise, citations, type of website.

It cited the example of how a .org but right-leaning site could actually be more biased than a reputable news-reporting .com site.

Lateral Reading screenshot.

Then it described lateral reading simply — not just reading up and down a single website source but also opening up searches and other other sources in parallel browser tabs to check for credibility.

Lateral reading was something that Crash Course (CC) visited in 2019 as part of a series on information literacy. You can practice lateral reading (and watching) by clicking on the Stanford abstract or on my quick review of the CC video.

My RSS feed showed me this graphic on media literacy in European countries. No surprises — the Scandinavian countries lead the pack.

I wondered if there was anything similar for this part of the world. So I searched for NGOs that researched it starting with the one credited in the graphic.

I could not find anything from such organisations so I widened my search for “media literacy in southeast asia”. Except for a few old articles like this one in 2008, I could not find comparison or rank tables.

It is not that the rankings are important. I want to know WHAT we are doing compared to elsewhere. An initial comparison of HOW we are doing might have opened doors to the WHAT.

But since media literacy across curricula and goes beyond formal schooling, it must be difficult to collect and make sense of such data. So now I wonder how that credited organisation actually ranked those countries.

Methodology of

I downloaded the PDF of the report which had a one-page description of its methodology. It turns out that that the “measurement” was not about media literacy. It was about predicting media literacy with components like PISA scores. What? My question exactly.

So my tweet is not an endorsement of the graphic. It is an example of not taking data presentation at face value.

The Today rag co-opted a New York Times article but changed the headline about how the meat industry was responding to plant-based “meat” like Impossible and Beyond.

The original NYT headline read:

NYT headline of its article.

The Today headline was:

TODAY paper headline of the same NYT article.

The NYT headline was more accurate. The Today headline came across as a warning to consumers that favoured the old school over the new.

Not only that, my screen shots reveal something else — the NYT linked to its sources and sites outside its interests while Today did not.

If we want our students to be more news literate, it is not enough to force them to read X number of articles every week. The source of those articles is important in modelling behaviours that we would like them to mimic.

When I say “basic literacy” now, I am not referring to being able to read. I am thinking about the ability to create.

Creating short content, e.g., in the form of tweets, requires both traditional literacy and the basic literacy of now. Take the tweet below for example. The creator of the tweet received numerous reminders from commenters how to copy and paste.

Once an item is in a device’s clipboard, there is no need to copy it again. Copying the same thing again is an unnecessary step and a boomer mistake.

But the next tweet was more on point.

It indirectly pointed out the need for better visual design. The specific concept to apply was contrast.

There is no point teaching kids content and skills they will not use. It is just as harmful to not teach them content and skills they will need.

There is no need to look into the crystal ball for what content and skills might be relevant in ten years. One just needs examples of what is important now.

The title of this reflection is a quote from one of the participants of the video below.


Video source

The participants had to evaluate the claims made by another video producer about the properties of “real” and “fake” food. I highlighted one reaction because it was an honest and direct response to attempts to mislead.

However, it might be easier to spot misleading claims about those food claims than statements in tweets or headlines.

Thankfully that is why we have the Navigating Digital Information series by Crash Course [my thoughts and annotations on the series] and two episodes so far by TED-Ed [annotations on part 1] [annotations on part 2].

The sad thing is that the video above will probably get more views on its own than all 12 of the videos combined about being digitally literate. It is easier to tell people “Don’t be a dumbass!” than to get them not to be dumbasses.


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The video above has a clickbait title — this one weird trick will help you spot clickbait.

The examples highlight not one but three strategies when evaluating clickbait titles of news or video reports:

  1. Drawing a line between cause and effect
  2. Understanding the impact of sample size on reported results
  3. Distinguishing between statistical or scientific significance and practical bearing

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http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

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