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EdTech Update





What happened to "information literacy"?


In A Reminder That "Fake News" is an Information Literacy Problem - Not a Technology Problem, author Leetaru writes in Forbes (July 7, 2019):

Societies must teach their children from a young age how to perform research, understand sourcing, triangulate information, triage contested narratives and recognize the importance of where information comes from, not just what it says.

In short, we must teach all of our citizens how to be researchers and scientists when it comes to consuming information.

Most importantly, we must emphasize verification and validation over virality and velocity.

He also opines:

In the early days of the Web societies taught their citizenry not to believe everything they read online, to treat every statement as suspect and not to act upon or share information without verifying it. Today those same societies place enormous pressure on their citizens to believe everything they see on the Web at face value and to share it as widely as they can as quickly as they can, rejecting any contradictory information they might stumble across in the process.

The old adage “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” has become “Believe everything on the Web and share it widely.”

Hello? How can it be that in 2019, over 20 years after many of us started getting information from online sources, are we still calling out the need for "information literacy"? Have we, in fact, regressed in its teaching as the quote above suggests? 

In 2001 I wrote in the article, Survival Skills for the Information Jungle. An excerpt:

Information jungle survival skill 3: Learn to tell the good berries from the bad berries.

Joey Rogers, Executive Director of the Urban Library Council, observes that libraries should have two large signs in them. The first hanging over the stacks that reads “Carefully selected by trained professionals” and the other hanging over the Internet terminals that reads “Whatever.”

Even very young students can and should be learning to tell the bad information berries from the good ones. Since junior high students often make websites that often look better than those of college professors, we teach students to look: 

  • For the same information from multiple sources.
  • At the age of the page.
  • At the credentials of the author.
  • For unstated bias by the page author or sponsor.


As students use research to solve problems about controversial social and ethical issues, the ability to evaluate and defend one’s choice of information source becomes very important.

I suggested the following activity:

Your students have been researching current diseases and they come into the classroom with information from these sources. Could you help them determine which could be considered the most reliable? Might you as a teacher have a different opinion than some parents about the validity of information from some sources?

  • Center for Disease Control
  • Newsweek
  • The bestseller The Hot Zone
  • Flyers from an insurance company or HMO
  • Personal webpage
  • Chat room conversation
  • Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk showNational Public Radio’s “Science Friday” 
I am sure that over the past 20 years, there have been many, many teachers and librarians who have helped their students and patrons develop better information literacy skills. Kathy Schrock, Mike Eisenberg, Joyce Valenza, and other library leaders have tirelessly advocated for applying critical thinking to resource evaluation and use.
Perhaps we who support information literacy, suffer the same struggles as those who support good nutrition. Will people ever begin to choose brocolli over French fries? Reseach journals over the Twitter feed? 



BFTP: 6 business myths about creativity educators should know

. when people are doing work that they love and they're allowed to deeply engage in it -- and when the work itself is valued and recognized -- then creativity will flourish. Even in tough times.  - Teresa Amabile

Business is very interested in how to make employees more creative. THE 6 MYTHS OF CREATIVITY from the December 2004 issue of Fast Company describes work done by Teresa Amabile at the Harvard business school. Her study reviewed 12,000 daily journal entries from 238 people working on creative projects in seven companies. And she discovered some interesting myths that she feels companies need to recognize if they want to increase creativity in their employees.

What I find interesting is that these business myths have direct correlations to education if we stretch our thinking even a little. Here they are. (Remember these are myths.) My comments are in italics.

  1. CREATIVITY COMES FROM CREATIVE TYPES ... almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. ... Intrinsic motivation -- people who are turned on by their work often work creatively -- is especially critical. We need to recognize that all students, not just those in the talented and gifted programs, AP classes, or on a college track, have the capacity to be innovative, especially when intrinsically motivated.
  2. MONEY IS A CREATIVITY MOTIVATOR Bonuses and pay-for-performance plans can even be problematic when people believe that every move they make is going to affect their compensation. In those situations, people tend to get risk averse. ... it's critical for leaders to match people to projects not only on the basis of their experience but also in terms of where their interests lie. Grades, class rank, or even winning competitions are not the key to making students more creative. The truly original thinkers work out of personal need and interest, not for high test scores. In fact worrying about grades and other extrinsic motivators may make students risk adverse and less likely to take creative chances.
  3. TIME PRESSURE FUELS CREATIVITY ... when people were working under great pressure, their creativity went down not only on that day but the next two days as well. Time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem. 50 minute classes, over-stuffed curricula, and too much deadline-driven homework will kill creativity in kids. How many kids get time in school (or life) to reflect and dream - or even encouraged to do so?
  4. FEAR FORCES BREAKTHROUGHS ... creativity is positively associated with joy and love and negatively associated with anger, fear, and anxiety. The [diary] entries show that people are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they're more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. ... One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity. Our children's overall attitude toward school is a critical factor in helping them exercise their creative muscles. Kids who don't like school, feel isolated or depressed, or are always under pressure will not become original problem-solvers.
  5. COMPETITION BEATS COLLABORATION ... creativity takes a hit when people in a work group compete instead of collaborate. The most creative teams are those that have the confidence to share and debate ideas. But when people compete for recognition, they stop sharing information. What does this say about many of the competitions sponsored to encourage creativity? Does ranking and giving awards encourage or discourage the entrepreneurial spirit? Grades will be less effective than performance assessments in bringing out the creativity energies of kids. 
  6. A STREAMLINED ORGANIZATION IS A CREATIVE ORGANIZATION Anticipation of the downsizing was even worse than the downsizing itself -- people's fear of the unknown led them to basically disengage from the work. Huge class sizes, inadequate beleaguered staff, crumbling facilities, and disappearing extra curricular opportunities are the equivalent of business downsizing. Reducing school budgets may well reduce the number of creative graduates as well.

I know that business and education can be two very different animals. But human nature is human nature whether that human is an accountant or a third-grade student. When no-nonsense business experts recognize the factors that encourage or inhibit creativity, all of us ought to pay attention.


Image source

Original post 3/16/14


How did we survive? - a geezer's wondering

Another 4th of July has gone by and I did not set off a single firecracker. And I remember what fun we as kids in the 50's and 60's had with our M80s, Black Cats, and pop bottle rockets. Riley, in the YouTube video below, demonstrates one of the tricks we enjoyed - the firecracker in a can:

We also enjoyed the ball-shaped caps that came in triangular packages of 10 that sold for a nickel. Meant to be thrown on the pavement to get the pop, we instead loaded these pea-sized explosives in our slingshots and used each other as targets. (We also shot each other with arrows and BB guns.) Sparklers were far too tame, but Roman candles were fun.

Not only did we play with fireworks, we all:

  • Rode in the back of pickup trucks standing up at highway speeds
  • Never owned, let alone used, a bike helmet and rode on real roads, never bike paths
  • Swam in ditches that also contained dumped barb wire, household trash, and who-knows-what kind of farm chemicals (and ate the fish we caught from them as well)
  • Drove tractors beginning about age 9
  • Played with BB guns, bows and arrows, and slingshots.
  • Never wore seat belts in cars and would nap in the ledge beneath the rear window
  • Swung from ropes in the haymows of the barns
  • Freely used all the power tools in the machine shed
  • Rode horses bareback and without bits
  • Ate Twinkies and drank sugared sodas
  • Spend the majority of our summer days unsupervised by any adult
  • Got kicked off the school bus and walked home in sub zero weather
  • Read books from the adult section of the public library

The funny thing is that I don't remember anyone personally who died or was even seriously injured as a result of our unsafe pastimes. It wasn't just the tough or lucky who survived - even on the primative prairies of Iowa.

I am certainly glad my grandsons have enjoyed a safer childhood than I experienced. But I am not sure they have as much fun as I did back in the day. Perhaps in 50 years, they will wonder how the children of their generation survived, not being encased in Kevlar suits with air filters each time they left their homes.