Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Covid19 spam and worse

Thanks to online statistics, there is a measure of online traffic for which information fluency is a protective filter:

"Since the start of the year there have been over 300 thousand unique online threats detected which attempt to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis and our desire for information on, and an end to, the pandemic." Source
You are encouraged to visit Statista.com to see the numbers for yourself:

The most targeted countries are, in this order: United Kingdom, France, United States and Italy. The UK is targeted almost twice as much as France.

If you live in one of the affected areas, think twice about what arrives in your email and other online media.

Check the author/publisher. Fact check claims. Don't be a victim.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Twitter fooled by Fake Candidate

A few election cycles ago, there was the story of Susie Flynn running for President. It was a hoax published by a media company to attract attention. It made for a pretty good fact checking evaluation challenge. Here's an archived reminder of the story.

In today's news is a story about a 17-year old who fabricated a Senate candidate named Andrew Walz and managed to get Twitter to verify the fake as legitimate.  Here's some of the story from CNN:
"Earlier this month, Walz's account received a coveted blue check mark from Twitter as part of the company's broader push to verify the authenticity of many Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates currently running for office. Twitter has framed this effort as key to helping Americans find reliable information about politicians in the lead up to the 2020 election."
Not until the 17-year old's parents came forward with the story did anyone notice the problem.

One takeaway is that if a bored teen can exploit Twitter's election integrity efforts, what else is that publisher missing?

We are foolish if we allow others to think for us, assuring us what to believe, what to trust. There is really no substitute for honing our skills and taking time to do our own vetting.

The story of Andrew Walz is another wake up call to practice fact checking.  What details in Andrew Walz's campaign can't be verified? Post your answers below.

More on fact checking here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Find the Author's Name

Tracking down an author's name online can be a tough assignment.

Let's say you want to reference a story about Polly the Polar Bear that you find here.

Who is the author? For this challenge, find the author's first and last name. It CAN be done, although it requires strategy and persistence.

Try the Challenge

If you give up, click the link to the Author Tutorials in the challenge.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Elementary Workshop Refreshed

Especially for those who teach younger students, the Elementary Workshop is a user-guided resource that may be used to introduce and reinforce concepts and skills in information fluency in the elementary grades.

An assortment of hands-on learning activities and games, with and without computers, is included in the workshop:

Speculative Searching

Investigative Searching

Citing the Source

There's enough material to insert into mini-lessons throughout the school year. Check it out here: https://21cif.com/rkitp/course/elementaryworkshop/index.php

Saturday, February 22, 2020

What can't Google do for you?

We already know Google is wildly popular, the go-to search engine for most students and a disruptive innovator in search technology.

But it can't do everything.

There are many times a non-trivial question arises and Google is not the right tool. It's fine for most easy searches, but when the information needed is more complex or you can't think of the right keywords to use, Google hits a wall.

At times like these, having information fluency skills is essential. Searching may require a different, specialized search engine. Knowing how to learn to use an unfamiliar search engine is highly important. So are investigative skills to check out questionable news. Google is not your one stop shop for all that.

Finding specialized research articles is one example. The first of the three free Internet Search Challenges is one of those.

If you have your own example of a time when Google was not the answer, feel free to share it here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Information Researcher is up and running

A refresh of Information Researcher is now available. This assessment and tutorial package identifies weaknesses and strengthens skills in information fluency.

The subscription package consists of a six item Pretest, followed by a 9 unit set of interactive tutorials on all information fluency skills. A ten item Certification Exam concludes the learning experience. This was originally developed for the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and has been revised based on user feedback.

A free preview of the Tutorials is available here.

To test your information fluency skills, try the Three Free Search Challenges, adapted from the Pretest.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Coronavirus Fake News

China Coronavirus
When life gets scary, it's important to think twice about information.

The outbreak of the coronavirus is a good example. As the numbers of people affected and dying grows daily, the amount of misinformation surrounding the outbreak expands globally. Some of the information is considered misleading and unhealthy.

News reports have begun to circulate stories about fake news and the coronavirus. This presents a ripe opportunity to use information fluency to identify fake news claims.

Many people are attracted to a possible solution known as Master Mineral Solution (aka Miracle Mineral Solution or MMS). Here's a sample copied from the testimonial page:

I was teaching a class and all of the sudden, I got a head cold ... This rushed on me like a freight train! I was miserable until evening, then I thought I would take a mega-dose of CDS that I had in the fridge. I just poared some in a glass, added some water to it, and down the hatch! I guess now, it was equal to a 6 drop dose of MMS. Within, say, 2 or 3 minutes, the "cold" left like the wind blowing a raincloud away. Clear as a bell!
Before you go online to place an order--this is also touted as a cure for coronavirus--do some fact checking. 

Try an investigative query like Miracle Mineral Solution coronavirus. Then examine the results:
  • Are they positive or negative?
  • Who is the publisher?
A summary of the results for the first ten results from this search in Google shows that none of the sources have positive things to say about MMS, using words like "bleach," "QANON," "conspiracy theory," "dangerous," "toxic," "acute liver failure," "vomiting" and more. The sources include rollingstone.com, thedailybeast.com, salon.com, vice.com, businessinsider.com, nypost.com, nymag.com, armstrongmywire.com and inews.co.uk.  These aren't necessarily considered authorities on health issues. But the preponderance of negativity regarding MMS raises a red flag.

Now, if we had confirmation of such claims from a recognized authority, that might convince us not to try MMS. So another query is tried, taking one of the keywords commonly found in the first results: medical authority coronavirus bleach.

The first result includes this information in the snippet (abstract): "But medical authorities, including the US Food and Drugs Administration, have ..."  This invites further reading. Browsing the article, clicking links on the FDA-related information, leads to this page on the fda site: 

FDA warns consumers about the dangerous and potentially life threatening side effects of Miracle Mineral Solution

Here is another Red Flag. If you have students, see what other medical authorities they can find.