Friday, September 11, 2015

Satanize Me?

A report of a secret McDonald's menu is going around the Internet. I learned of it today thanks to this DIGG post:

McDonald's Has A Secret Menu And Other Facts link

Digg's source is Lucky Peach, where Lucas Peterson gives the details, along with photos, of secret menu items:
  • Sausage Egg Big MacMuffin
  • Mash Brown
  • Blankets in a Blankets
  • The McLuminati
  • “Derrida-Style”
  • General Ro’s Chicken
  • Mommie Dearest
  • The Burmese Python
  • The Captain Nemo
  • “Diorama-Style”
  • Satanize Me!         
Short of walking in to your local McDonald's and asking for one of these menu variations (under your breath), how could you really know for sure if a secret menu does or does not exist? Maybe you don't mind if the counter person gives you a blank stare. Or laughs--I'm sure someone has already tried this.

After all, other fast food places have secret menus, why not McDonalds? 

One place to start is with the author. Lucas Peterson (If you want to make sure you get the right Lucas Peterson, include "Lucky Peach" in the query.) Top results are his Twitter page:, another piece he wrote in Lucky Peace entitled, An Official Complaint Against Oriental Ramen, his LinkedIn page, where he lists his occupation as eater, Lucky Peach, LA Weekly, Serious Eats, Flaunt Magazine, Film/TV.  So we gather he is a public figure with an interest in food topics that can sometimes be humorous.

Another place to go is Lucky Peach. What kind of publication is this? From skimming results, it's a
"cult indie magazine founded by chef David Chang and writer Peter Meehan" [link] about all things food. It is a "quarterly journal of food and writing. each issue focuses on a single theme, and explores that theme through essays, art, photography, and recipes." [link]. The style of the magazine is ad-driven with loud cartoons and other attention-grabbing stuff. So an article about a secret menu fits in, although no claims are made whether it's true or not.

So, a writer that can be serious (at least at times) and a magazine that can be serious (at times) have paired up and released this story. Is this one of their not-serious moments?

The investigation returns to those customers who have tried this. They should be able to verify whether any of the creations bulleted above actually exist (I personally believe any McDonalds can deliver on Mash Brown). Where can you find these people, these witnesses?

Try Twitter.

A search for #secretmenu (guessing that's been used) turns up hits for secret menus submitted by members. Down the list is an entry by Lucky Peach with a picture of Sausage Egg Big MacMuffin, captioned: "We like to have a little fun sometimes, too!" Not quite definitive, but a sign the article is more fun than serious.

What other evidence can you find--without actually going in and muttering, "Satanize me?" (Note: I suggest not actually trying this. Keep in mind: McDonalds crew members read the Internet--they might actually comply-- in which case it doesn't have to be an official secret menu, but an underground one.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Spam email: Red Flags

Other than a SPAM: alert that may be provided by your email software, how can you tell this message isn't real?

Good Day,

My name is Mrs Linda Walker and I work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), I am writing you to let you know that finally your ATM Card worth $650,000.00 USD has been delivered through UPS to Mr Hart Leroy, who works with the IMF where it is going to be activated before final delivery to your home address. You can use the tracking number with the tracking site below to track the ATM Card to be sure it has been delivered to Mr Hart for activation.

UPS Tracking number: 1z2876490390947593
UPS tracking site:

Below is the contact information to Mr Hart Leroy

Contact Name: Mr Hart Leroy
Contact E-mail:
Contact Number: +1 347 298 9752

You are to contact Mr Hart with his email address above then he will guide you on how your Card will be activated and delivered to your home address.

Note: The only fee you are to send for the activation fee is just $280 USD so make sure you don’t send him more than $280 USD. Your card is already with him and you can track it with the tracking details given to you above for confirmation.

Congratulations once more.

Best Regards,
Mrs Linda Walker
International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Before sending in $280 to activate this card, how can you check its validity? Here are some Red Flags:

On the surface,
Too good to be true: Experience teaches that few things in life are free.
It costs something: Be wary when a stranger asks for money.
It sounds complicated: Why would the IMF send a card to someone else at IMF that you have to contact? Why not just send you the card?

Below the surface,
Sender: If you look closely at the sender's email address you'll find this: "International Monetary Fund (IMF)"   IMF actually uses this email:, which can be found on their Website.  
No Data Found: If you look up registration information for, you won't find any. It appears to be a smoke screen.
Third Party Review: Copy the first phrase of the email: "My name is Mrs Linda Walker and I work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)" and google it. There is an exact match from › Scam Mail Depot › Government scams.

There may be more Red Flags, but it's clear that this is not going to result in your receipt of an ATM card.

Have students identify Red Flags -- what others can they find?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Out of the Library, Into the Classroom

What's happening in Kansas isn't unique.

Wichita Public Radio's feature,  "The School Librarian is Expendable in many Kansas School Districts" documents a large scale shift in responsibility for information literacy instruction. As the number of school librarians dwindles, information literacy is being integrated into classroom curriculum to be addressed by teachers. How effective this will be, time will tell. Another case of teachers being asked to do more.

Neighboring Colorado is similarly affected, with a nine percent decline in the number of school librarians between 2007 and 2011.

In Illinois, Chicago Public Schools reduced its librarian staff by 44 percent in just two years. Librarians are being reassigned to classrooms as teachers. Faced with a teacher shortage, it's a move that makes sense. But part of the problem of considering librarians a luxury comes down to this:
"There's no required amount of minutes for library instruction (in Illinois), so schools won't face any repercussions if they don't have a librarian or a school library." Source
For the time being, other things are just more important. It's hard to make the argument that digital research skills are as important as learning how to learn when there is no reason to learn them other than they are good skills to have. When they are considered essential skills, the tide may start to change.

In the meantime, policy makers should see how proficient students in Elementary through High School are. This means assessment. The Information Fluency assessments we've tested show that students can't research challenging assignments and consistently make poor choices in the selection of information that is inaccurate, irrelevant, out of date, biased and is not held in high regard by trusted sources. If you are a librarian concerned about your job or a classroom teacher who just doesn't have the time to teach one more thing, request a free test for your students. The results could be eye-opening.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Trends in Information Literacy

Our friends at EasyBib have produced a new Infographic that confirms our findings that the majority of instruction depends on one-shot instruction or is still being built.

How does this match with your experience?  Full size image

If you aren't satisfied with one-shot instruction or need resources for developing instruction, the Information Fluency website is full of ideas! Consider our self-paced tutorial modules as a way to supplement your library instruction.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Fallacies (mistaken beliefs based on an unsound argument) appear in many forms, as the author of pearls and elephants recently posted:

Straw man – an argument used against a real person, the key is that the straw man does not exist but is fabricated to take attention away from the real person.  Discerning a straw man argument means finding out who the real person is and what he/she stands for – voting records help with this and are available via Freedom of Information Act requests.

Red Herring – a false plank or issue, similar to the straw man in that it is a fabrication meant to take attention away from actuality.

Band Wagon – Apple uses this to great effect, it is otherwise known as the coolness effect.  “Everyone is doing it (or wearing it), come on!”  Parents often confront this argument with, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, or stood on a rooftop to take a selfie, does that make it an intelligent, informed choice?”

Slippery Slope – an argument that asks you to accept a small step that leads to another step until ultimately you have strayed far from the truth.  An example comes from a play titled, A Streetcar Named Desire.  In the play, the female lead wears a slip rather than her dress on stage.  It caused a furor in 1947 – what about today?

More types of fallacies are discussed here

Fallacies are Red Flags. Other red flags include innocent inaccuracies (errors, mistakes), accidental or intended omissions, author bias, prejudice, deliberate misinformation, phishing. Fallacies are a staple of propaganda.

A great student evaluation activity is to provide examples of fallacious information and have students decide what it is.

What would you say these are:
  1. Reporter: "It seems to me that if you were elected president, the Congress with which you would have to work would not be very cooperative at all. How could you, as president, bring about any reform or help enact any beneficial legislation with a Congress that was almost totally opposed to your programs?" Ross Perot: "Well, if I were elected, about half the members of Congress would drop dead of heart attacks, and half of my problem would be solved from the outset."  [source/answer]
  2. Environmentalist: "Bicycle infrastructure should be expanded because cycling is a sustainable mode of transportation." Opponent: "We should not build bike lanes because cyclists run red lights and endanger pedestrians." [source/answer]
  3. Blogger: "I hope the art mural at 34th and Habersham will not be allowed. You open the gate for one, you open it for all and you'll have it all over the city. A person wanting to paint on buildings is nothing more than upscale graffiti. More than likely it will go too far." [source/answer]
  4. Son: "Wow, Dad, it's really hard to make a living on my salary." Father: "Consider yourself lucky, son. Why, when I was your age, I only made $40 a week." [source/answer]
  5. Voter:  "Everyone in Lemmingtown is behind Jim Duffie for Mayor. Shouldn't you be part of the winning team?" [source/answer]
Feel free to add your own examples by leaving a comment.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Information Warfare

In the 10-15 year history of digital information literacy, the need has generally been to help students find accurate, credible information and use it ethically. The stakes were typically low, i.e., school assignments, reports and personal projects.

Nowadays, there's a bigger threat to illiteracy: information warfare.

NATO has launched a Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, Latvia for the purpose of combating alleged pro-Russian propaganda. The purpose of the Center, according to Director Janis Karklins, is to "develop skills of media information literacy and critical thinking in our education system to make it harder for adversaries to disorient the population." Read the full article.

The Internet may be a greater hazard than ever as a tool for terrorist recruiting and military "hybrid warfare." The challenge is how to educate populations to recognize and resist information that is created specifically to control or disorient thinking.

Educators would do well to keep an eye on the Center's activities to see how they propose to educate an populace about propaganda. Better yet, it may make an excellent language arts or social studies assignment for high school students to see Internet warfare and effective defenses in action.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Information: To filter or not to filter?

Making it easier for children to use digital information does not always prepare them for real life tasks.

Filtering information to make it more kid-friendly takes several forms. A recent Japanese study found that students were more successful when given information that was presented in an organized way. For example answering a multiple choice test based on what different sources said, by providing the students with four sources. But when asked to determine the answer to a simple question that involved selecting relevant pages from a fictitious Website, the majority of students--more than 90% of elementary and 88% of middle school students--could not answer the question.

Analyzing the results, professor Kazuo Nagano concluded, "(students) need to acquire skills to filter disorganized pieces of information to find solutions, whether online or in the real world." Read more

What information do you provide your students? Disorganized or filtered?

Try this challenge with students: What is the year-round temperature of Fauntleroy Creek? Start here--  This is a real Website and the information is only three clicks away. For younger students, start at #1 or #2.
This is a browsing activity--searching through "disorganized" (unfiltered for students) that is bound to be frustrating. If the students know the answer is only 1 or 2 clicks away, it helps. This is one way to scale the activity without overly filtering it. What links are most promising for getting to the answer?