Crap Detection literacy

As teachers, we have so much to tell our students and share with them. With content standards looming and the constraints of time peeking in, it’s almost inevitable that teachers would focus on the content and covering as much material as they can. The same goes for information. Now more than ever, with the advent of social media and rapid developments in technology, information is coming to the users instead of being sought out by users. What one knows only becomes secondary now as finding out is just as easy as a few clicks. Academic sources are no longer the only sources of information as everyday a huge wealth of content is being produced and published by people everyday in knowledge bases, review sites, content blogs, news sites. Some of this content is valuable and legitimate, but some are not. For a good many people, their main source of information is Facebook as it allows them to connect not only with their friends, but also with groups and organizations that would supply them with information from the weather, the traffic situation, an update on the krazy life of the Kardashians, or Taylor Swift’s latest beau. We’re at an age of information explosion or information abundance that it is no longer a problem of how to get information, but determining information that is credible, accurate and veritable. We seldom realise that more often than not, all these come to us with filters, and what gets filtered is based on who is relaying the information and this person’s beliefs, philosophies and affiliations (UC Berkeley, 2012). Just as it  is in the non-digital world, a person’s name, authority and image would lend credibility to the information being presented (Schrock, 2002). But as receivers of information, we don’t have a say on what gets in, and most importantly, we don’t know what gets edited out. Given this, it becomes very clear that we need to look beyond the headlines and search words that are merely designed to catch viewership and increase visibility; we need to evaluate the information and the arguments along with the source to identify validity (Schrock, 2002). In this age that we live in, library literacy or the knowledge of the Dewey Digital System and bibliographic literacy have been phased out and replaced by information literacy. This will enable our students to be successful,  effective  and judicious information seekers with critical inquiry skills to process, field and evaluate the usefulness of information. Simply put, students need to develop feelers and keep it up to detect crap in the internet.

For most students, their go-to source in finding out information is Youtube and social networking sites. Admittedly, it is not the traditional source of information, nor is it a trusted leader in churning out valuable and credible information, but these sites have become a portal to other ‘more complex’ sources. Relying on social media to gather information makes students more susceptible to being ‘misinformed’ or ‘misdirected’. The very nature of social media, to connect people and allow quick uploads and sharing of information means there is very little skill to be able to share information. Anyone with a cellphone and too much time in their hands could very easily post anything on Facebook, and it takes a few seconds for this to go viral. This has been made clearer in the recently concluded elections as memes, hoax news, ‘doctored’ or Photoshopped images were liked and shared at an alarming rate. The rate that information was being created was at an all-time mindblowing rate that even journalists may very well have been prey to sharing erroneous “news”. Second, the personal nature of Facebook and the art of posting in itself  also means that it is open to bias, and the social nature means that scams, jokes, and the occurrence of fake posts is much more likely than it is in any other site.

So how does a teacher ensure information literacy in a generation that’s beholden to Facebook? Surely students will not go to great lengths doing elaborate sleuthing strategies to identify the credibility of a particular piece of information. According to my readings, the quickest way to go about it is to find out about:

Source – Find out who wrote it and his qualifications. Establish his credentials and affiliations and objectives.

Origin – Is this a primary source or a secondary source? naturally the most credible will be the primary since the secondary would already have been twisted and subjected to interpretations much like in the game of Chinese Whispers.

Date – Find out when it was created and updated. An old source or research may not necessarily hold true anymore at a later date.

While students are not necessarily dealing with breaking news that holds significance to a majority of people, it is still prudent that they apply critical thinking and information literacy to anything they might cull from social media.. This makes them informed individuals with critical awareness and not just gongs and chinwaggers. It only teaches them to have an open mind about the world around them and not be one-dimensional individuals. This is after all what it means to be a 21st century citizen of the world.

References:

Home – Evaluating resources – Library Guides at UC Berkeley. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/evaluating-resources

Brookdale Community College. (2016). Five criteria for evaluation web pages. Retrieved from http://ux.brookdalecc.edu/library/5criteria.pdf

Schhrock, K. (2002). The ABC’s of Website Evaluation. Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/uploads/3/9/2/2/392267/weval_02.pdf

Image Retrived from  http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/427561-on-the-internet-nobody-knows-youre-a-dog

 

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A ‘new kind’ of learning

When I was a pre-med student, I struggled as I pored over countless transcription notes for lectures of up to 2-3 hours per subject. There were transcription notes and handouts for Anatomy and Kinesiology, Physiology, Therapeutic Exercises, Hydrotherapy, Electrotherapy, Neuroanatomy and a list of others I couldn’t care to remember. Back then, OHP was the tool of choice as it was considered versatile enough to allow adding additional notes as the lecture progressed. The overzealous and grade-conscious students that we were, we also negotiated to be allowed to photocopy those priceless OHP slides. But as any med student knows, getting your hands on lecture notes is just half the battle. Going through mounds of those at the end of the day was the real war.

It was a challenge to study the processes of respiratory/circulatory/nervous or whichever system as you try your darnedest best to mentally conjure up images of the processes themselves while familiarising yourself with the technical jargon at the same time. More often that not, a student would resort to rote memorisation, keep his/her finger crossed and  hope the information stucks long enough through the exam period before he/she has to chuck it to a bank of discarded memories for purposes of replacement of new information from the fresh, hot-off-the-OHP lectures.

As I was going over this week’s modules on multimedia and internet sources, I’ve realised the value of active participation and involvement in learning beyond the recall of facts. I’ve realised how different my pre-med days would have been if we had access to the interactive multimedia tools that are commonly used today. How much more meaningful and pleasant would learning have been. I would have been able to cut my study time in half as it would have allowed me to visualize the biological and physiological systems and increase my attention and motivation, encouraged involvement and interaction which would have promoted analysis and synthesis of the material than mere recall.

Computers and technology have truly revolutionised learning as it was known to be into something that is hardly recogniseable as it is but a fraction of its face of old. Computer technologies increase the level of interactivity and re very user-friendly as they  allow users control over the content, learning sequence, the pace of instruction and learning; thus giving students power to customize their experiences according to their needs.

We can say that the students of today belong to an entirely new generation, and oftentimes, I feel like they’re an alien generation. They grew up with computers the internet, online learning resources, mobile phones, tablets, e-books, social media and instantaneous access. In fact, they’ve never known life without computers. They’re the Digital Generation, Generation Z. If our generation received information through print, this generation has taken the digital path. and they deal with information differently than any other generation. They have hypertext minds, and they leap around. One only need to watch them type in a few strokes in a computer or their cellphones — fingers flying off a keyboard as if twiddling their thumbs on their touchscreen mobile phones were but an involuntary reflex for them. They’re intuitive visual communicators who can rapidly shift their attention from one task to another. They’re able to respond quickly and expect rapid responses as well. There is no better illustration than watching them play online games or mobile games. This generation has mastered that science and has turned it into an art form. this is a computer-savvy generation that spends more time playing video games than they do reading. I highly doubt this generation has any interest in picking up a printed material, and would probably favor an image-laden environment over anything containing text. Even their own text messages are infused with so many images I can’t even keep up. Their brains process visual information a lot better. These students expect interactivity and technology to be part of their instruction. The challenge is upon today’s teachers and educators, of which I am a part, to stand and deliver. And though I sometimes find it hard to understand this generation and their attachment to technology, I believe we can all learn from each other.

Interactive media and multimedia resources are a departure from the tried-and-tested traditional teaching formats. And though most teachers would probably acknowledge that it is not as effective a tool and encourages little to no interaction from and among the learners, a few would be brave to venture out also partly because of teacher’s beliefs about the context of learning. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown itself that hinders an attempt. Taking that risk could be worthwhile if it enhances student learning. That is the objective after all.

The challenge also goes to the students to learn to become active, independent and reliable participants of learning. Most students have acclimatised to their passive role in learning. Educators cannot assume that students would know how to actively participate in their learning, nor would they have any idea what is expected of them. So teachers must gradually ease them into taking on a more active role and welcoming a ‘new kind’ of learning.

Audio in Practice

I must admit that I am primarily an auditory learner. I favor listening to lectures over poring over charts, graphs and images. My interest in creative writing has always leaned heavily towards the spoken word over format, layout and design. Thus I never forayed into the world of advertising (but that’s a topic for another day).

Back in my pre-med days, I knew I could use this to my advantage. So our block set up transcription groups to ease the burden of recording and transcribing those long and winding lecture notes. I must say I experienced first-hand the sleep-inducing  nature of lectures presented by doctors. It is the perfect antidote to insomnia, and my auditory inclination was tested to its limit at that time. Our 7 am Physiology class ran for 2 hours. Lo and behold, those doctors waxed poetic for the entire 2 hours without cracking a single joke or pausing a minute to allow us to ponder and digest the tsunami of information that raged before us and threatened to wipe out our own sanity. And they really do sound like they  have a lifetime membership to and are the lead part in the Pabasa during holy week. It is the perfect example of “auditory fatigue” (Smaldino, 2004). Their pitch, volume and speed never wavered or lost steam. They gratuitously delivered their lectures like the Sermon on the Mount with no regard whatsoever of the audience pulse. I’m assuming I could have just as easily laid out my bed right by the podium, and they probably would not have flinched at all.

I would surmise that this practice of recording entire lectures and seminars is quite popular amongst students as it gives them the opportunity to listen to the material in case they missed it initially or, such as in our case, merely want to review it again at a later time.

But as I was going over the modules for this week and putting together the materials for our first assignment, I realized that audio recordings can also be used in a variety of ways to supplement the teaching process. Audio materials can help create interest and develop the creativity and imagination amongst students. For example, teachers can play a sound file or a voice clip and ask students to visualize and illustrate this later on. this way, students are motivated and made active participants in the learning process which thereby helps improve retention. Moreover, audio helps develop the listening skills of the learner, a basic skill that one should master as it would prove very helpful not only in one’s professional life, but also in personal life. But I also realise that despite the benefits, audio should still be used with caution as audio-based learning would be difficult for students with hearing impairments. Audio is still best used in conjunction with other media to add depth and complexity to the design of teaching. Also, the development or incorporation of audio  into a lesson should be part of a blended learning approach and integrated with other learning experiences.

Given my experience in my pre-med days, this module has also ratified my belief that not all audios are the same. Even auditory learners would struggle if the audio  does not support learning, was of poor quality and was as circuitous and intricate as the roads leading to Baguio. Quality and tone could spell the difference between an actively engaging lesson and a dull, lethargic and auditorily prostrated class. I do think no matter how complicated and technical the subject is, the audio should be upbeat, conversational. Subject matter expertise alone may  not be enough to keep learners motivated and engaged, and in some cases, may not even have a positive impact on student learning, no matter how much the lecturer excels in the process. It is the human element which is extremely important in the learning process. For some learners, this human element could be even more important than technical expertise. It’s akin to going into a restaurant. A person visits a restaurant primarily for the food it serves. This is the technical element. However, the customer expects polite staff, attentive yet non-intrusive service–the human element. If these expectations are  not properly met, the guest would leave the restaurant dissatisfied even if the technical element, which is eating a meal has been met. It’s the same thing for any learner. Students go to school to be educated. Their existence in the classroom does not guarantee that they have learned anything. For some, they may complain that they haven’t learned and that their grades remain as dismal as before because the audio was not clear enough, or the speaker was busted and he/she was staying at the back of the room, or the audio was boring, the font in the powerpoint too small. This becomes a design problem that no form of instructional or instructional design can fix.

Death by Powerpoint

In my line of work, a Powerpoint is a ubiquitous and indispensable tool. If there’s a class to be facilitated or a presentation, there’s bound to be a Powerpoint that comes right along with it. (Or for the creative, lazy, artsy type, it’s the program that resembles it.) These days, presenters are offered a slew of alternatives to Powerpoint – Keynote, Prezi, Slidedog, Emaze, Easel.ly, and a range of others, most of which are free. One would think that since its launch, Powerpoint’s billions of users would know how to use the software to make their presentations look better, yet nothing could be further from the truth. A good number of people – students, employees, participants and audiences—still get the harrowing sentence of death by powerpoint.

I should know. I’ve been on the receiving end of dull, rote presentations, as well as felony-level Powerpoint abuse. I’ve fallen victim to presenters who put too much information in their slides, distracted me with bad clipart and unreadable font, nauseated me with blinking disco-like animation and amateurish, antiquated typefaces. I felt like the presenters were just vomiting visuals and information they found on the net and chucking it at me hoping I could make sense of it.  I’m not quite sure when people started relying on graphics and stilted effects when they could have been telling me a good story instead. What I find even more annoying are people who read directly from their own presentations. It’s one of my pet peeves, and it’s right there on top somewhere. I once walked out unapologetically on a presenter right when I realized I had inadvertently signed up for a reading class. I quite pride myself on having an attention span longer than most, but I’m a busy person who does not have the time for monologues and numbing talks.

Several years back, I attended the Dale Carnegie High Impact Presentation Seminar. One of the modules was Presenting Complex Information. Prior to that, I must admit I used the Powerpoint like a drunk uses a lamppost – for support rather than illumination. I usually just bunched together a group of information that I thought the audience should know. Ironically though, I learned that what’s more important is what’s heard and not seen. Well, so much for high impact presentations then, I thought. The tide has definitely turned back. Old school has become once again new.

But for trainers such as myself who cannot do away with a Powerpoint, how do I get creative and use it in an unusual way instead of lulling my audience to sleep? Here are the things I remember from what I learned:

  1. A good story is better than a beautiful slide.
  2. Engage your audience through various senses.
  3. Don’t use Powerpoint as a crutch. Don’t write whole sentences and paragraphs; insetad stick to bullet points.
  4. Less is always more
  5. 8×8 rule: 8 words in 8 lines is the maximum limit per slide.
  6. Create a consistent look and feel.
  7. Create a focused message that you want your audience to retain.