How to tell some troll is pulling your virtual leg

April 13, 2018

The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor / F. Opper. Library of Congress

The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor / F. Opper, 1894, Puck. Summary: Print shows a newspaper owner, possibly meant to be Joseph Pulitzer, sitting in a chair in his office next to an open safe where “Profits” are spilling out onto the floor; outside this scene are many newspaper reporters for the “Daily Splurge” rushing to the office to toss their stories onto the printing press, such stories as “A Week as a Tramp!! Wild and Exciting Experiences of a Daily Splurge Reporter”, “A Reporter of the Daily Splurge Spends a Thrilling Week in an Asylum!”, “An Organ Grinder’s Life”, “Life in Sing Sing – a Splurge Reporter in Disguise”, “Divorce Court Details”, “Private Scandal”, “a Night Around Town” by a woman reporter “in Men’s Attire”, life on the streets “As a Flower Girl”, “Thrilling Exposé”, “How beggars are treated on 5th Ave. by Fanny Fake”, and “High Spiced Sensation”. A notice hanging on the wall of the office states “The Motto of the Daily Splurge – Morality and a High Sense of Duty.” Library of Congress image

You’ve been watching news on TV all your life (you should have been reading your local daily newspaper, too . . . but I digress), and you hate to admit you’re having a tough time telling when Trump lies to you, or someone lies about Trump.

There is help available, for thinking people.

EdTechAdvocate features technology the editors consider useful for teachers and students in schools.

Occasionally school overlaps with real life.

Here are eight apps the publication recommends for teachers and students, to help them use their critical faculties to determine what news is accurate, and what news isn’t. From an article by Micheal Lynch.

No reason we shouldn’t use these tools for everyone, even people out of school for decades.

The recommendations, and links to the eight tools:

As fake news, biased media, and internet hoaxes abound, students need to be taught digital literacy from the time they start using computers. Fortunately, there are resources available for students to check their facts.

  1. All Sides

This site provides balanced news from all perspectives, so students can sort through facts and distinguish between differences in opinions easily. The site also offers a specialized search option where you filter results. Additionally, it offers a school toolbox with a variety of useful resources and lesson plans.

  1. CRAAP Test

Teaching students how to evaluate websites and information is a necessary skill. The CRAAP Test designed by Meriam Library, California State University, Chico is helpful in guiding students through evaluating the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of information.

  1. FactCheck

This website is a non-profit, nonpartisan site which is a Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center allows students to ask questions and search. Additionally, it also allows students to ask science questions on public policy issues.

  1. Hoax-Slayer

This website focuses on debunking hoaxes or urban legends, as well as email hoaxes and internet scams. It also provides information on how to protect your email and computer.

  1. Politifact

Using a Truth-O-Meter (true, mostly true, mostly false, and false), Politifact rates the accuracy of claims. It focuses on politicians.

  1. Snopes

One of the original fact-checking websites, Snopes is a popular site for identifying misinformation and debunking internet rumors. Students can search with keywords or by plugging in a URL.

  1. Ted ED – “How to Choose Your News”

The Ted-Ed video, “How to Choose Your News” by Dan Brown is designed for students. Using imagery and explanations they will understand, Dan Brown explains how to be a critical thinker and savvy evaluator when it comes to reading (or watching) the news.

  1. Truth or Fiction

Another website that focuses on debunking internet rumors, e-mail hoaxes, and questionable images where students can search information as well.

Teachers need to explain how media biases work and change facts to fit their needs. By teaching students to use fact checking tools, teachers are strengthening their digital literacy skills.

Detail from

Detail from “Fin de seicle newspaper proprietor,” by F. Opper, 1894, Puck Magazine. Library of Congress image via Wikipedia

What are your favorite sources of solid information, and what are your methods of determining who is pulling your leg, and who is not? 

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Insta-Millard: “Not available on the App Store” — real child’s play

May 9, 2014

Found on Twitter:

Deep thoughts on Twitter, about children, childhood, recess and play. https://twitter.com/IntThings/status/464766923201576960

Deep thoughts on Twitter, about children, childhood, recess and play. https://twitter.com/IntThings/status/464766923201576960


Peeling back the layers of the Onion: “Obama Turns 50 Despite Republican Opposition”

August 4, 2011

Bad birthday cake from 2009

Bad birthday cake required by debt ceiling act - replay of 2009

WASHINGTON—After months of heated negotiations and failed attempts to achieve any kind of consensus, President Obama turned 50 years old Thursday, drawing strong criticism from Republicans in Congress. “With the host of problems this country is currently facing, the fact that our president is devoting time to the human process of aging is an affront to Americans everywhere,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who advocated a provision to keep Obama 49 at least through the fall of 2013. “To move forward unilaterally and simply begin the next year of his life without bipartisan support—is that any way to lead a country?” According to White House officials, Obama attempted to work with Republicans right up until the Aug. 4 deadline, but was ultimately left with no choice except to turn a year older.

How many people don’t know what The Onion is, and will assume this as fact?

Tip of the old scrub brush to William Keiser.


Getting the story straight: Galileo and the church

January 31, 2008

Galileo observes the stars

One of the great joys of history, to me, is the diving into a story and finding that the details of the true story do not correspond well with the popular myths. For example, most sailors of the late 15th century were aware the Earth is a globe, when Columbus sailed — his crew did not fear falling off the edge of the Earth. This fact raises questions about why the great European powers were not more enthusiastic about exploring to the west, and that question is probably more difficult to answer. That means more work for the historian.

Here’s an essay from Peter Klein at the economics blog Organizations and Markets, on details of the story of Galileo, setting the record straight, but raising a lot more issues about what actually happened in this story from the history of science.

The problem is that the leaders of Galileo’s day didn’t think the sun revolves around the earth. My former colleague Thomas Lessl is an expert on Galileo, and from him I learned that virtually every aspect of the Galileo legend is false.

Consider these facts:

1. Neither Galileo, nor any other scientist, was put to death by the medieval Church. Giordano Bruno, a 17th-century Dominican, was indeed condemned by the Inquisition, not for his scientific views, but for preaching a quirky, New Age-ish view called hermeticism, which was only incidentally connected to heliocentrism.

2. The Catholic authorities of Galileo’s day had little trouble with heliocentrism per se. Many of the leading Catholic scientists were actually Copernicans. Copernicus’s treatise on heliocentrism had been in print for seventy years prior to Galileo’s conflict with the Church.

3. Galileo remained a devout and loyal Catholic until the end of his life. He held no animosity toward the Church over his conflict with Church authorities.

4. Most important, the conflict between Galileo and the Church took place in the context of the Protestant Reformation, a context that is almost always omitted from popular accounts of Galileo’s trial. The key issue in this conflict was not heliocentrism per se, but the authority of the individual Believer to interpret Scripture. Galileo’s argument that scientists should interpret the Bible to conform to their scientific views was close to Luther’s view that the Believer should be his own interpreter of Scripture. It was Lutheranism, not heliocentrism, that alarmed the Church leaders.

Galileo, in other words, was caught up in a larger, theological and ecclesiastical controversy. He was not simply a truth-seeking scientists going up against a bigoted Establishment.

Klein urges that we should be distrustful of scientists who invoke the old myths about the Galileo story. He fails to assert the more powerful point, to me: Christianity traditionally supported good science, and therefore creationism is the odd duck — the Bible, and Christianity, are not opposed to good science.

Preachers should be preaching for the truth, not for creationism. Of course, one should ponder when, if ever, preachers have paid attention to economists.


How do we know what we know?

December 10, 2007

Especially in science — how do we know what we know?

A charitable trust in Britain called Sense About Science makes a start on explaining peer review, the process scientists use in science journals to referee what is accurate and what is not.

The site looks legitimate, though I’m no great judge of British scientists (see the board of trustees and advisors).

The site has several sets of debunking material, debunking things like “alternative” treatments for malaria, plus an 8-page pamphlet on how peer review works.

See especially these publications (available in downloadable .pdf):

The booklets are available free, but I’ll wager they were intended for British consumption — I’m not sure they’d mail them across the Atlantic.

It’s worth a look. See any problems with using that pamphlet in a classroom? I am very interested if you find a problem with any of the materials there.


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