Searching for the Truth

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site: Searching for the Truth.  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers

Continuing my thoughts and writing about fake news, fake web pages, teaching search skills, and ultimately, trying to find the Truth of a matter, this post brings together for your consideration two web articles which are not new, but which work well together.

The first is Why Students Can't Google their Way to the Truth, by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, published 1 November 2016.  
laptop user
Photo in the Public Domain, CC0 Creative Commons
The authors describe their research at Stamford University: "Over the past 18 months, we administered assessments that tap young people's ability to judge online information. We analyzed over 7,804 responses from students in middle school through college. At every level, we were taken aback by students' lack of preparation: middle school students unable to tell the difference between an advertisement and a news story; high school students taking at face value a cooked-up chart from the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee; college students credulously accepting a .org top-level domain name as if it were a Good Housekeeping seal."

Students were asked to determine the trustworthiness of material on two organizations' websites, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Pediatricians. 25 undergraduates at Stanford were asked to spend up to 10 minutes examining content on both sites.  "More than half concluded that the article from the American College of Pediatricians, an organization that ties homosexuality to pedophilia and which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a hate group, was "more reliable." Even students who preferred the entry from the American Academy of Pediatrics never uncovered the differences between the two groups. Instead, they saw the two organizations as equivalent and focused their evaluations on surface features of the websites."

When Wineberg and McGrew gave their task to professional fact-checkers, it became clear that these professionals used three strategies that are often unknown to, or not used by average readers:
  1. Landing on an unfamiliar site, the first thing checkers did was to leave it. Fact-checkers use the vast resources of the Internet to determine where information is coming from BEFORE they read it.
  2. Fact-checkers know it's not about "About." They don't evaluate a site based solely on the description it provides about itself.
  3. Fact-checkers look past the order of search results. Google does not sort pages by their reliability. (GoogleSearch presents results in an order it judges to be most relevant. (see How Google Search Works)
Read the full article on Education Week, and read more about Wineberg and McGrew's research at this page from Stamford. An executive summary of the report (Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning) is available here.

In an article on Open Culture, Josh Jones posted Carl Sagan Presents His “Baloney Detection Kit”: 8 Tools for Skeptical Thinking on 11 April 2016. "Sagan... did not hesitate to defend reason against “society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda." These undertakings best come together in Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World, a book in which he very patiently explains how and why to think scientifically, against the very human compulsion to do anything but." (The full text is available on the Internet Archive. An 4-hour reading of Sagan's book can be heard here. )

In The Fine Art of Baloney Detection, Chapter 12 of the book (p. 189 of the Internet Archive text), Sagan describes his tools for skeptical thinking: "...What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and—especially important—to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument." The video embedded below gives a quick overview of the tools; Read them all in  Sagan’s full chapter, where he writes:

Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander.
Before you read this caption, did the image make you think that
Sagan had been on Mars with the lander?

(Photo in the Public Domain)
 (https://mars.nasa.gov/programmissions /missions/past/viking/)
"...A deception arises, sometimes innocently but collaboratively, sometimes with cynical premeditation. Usually the victim is caught up in a powerful emotion—wonder, fear, greed, grief. Credulous acceptance of baloney can cost you money; that’s what P. T. Barnum meant when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But it can be much more dangerous than that, and when governments and societies lose the capacity for critical thinking, the results can be catastrophic—however sympathetic we may be to those who have bought the baloney."

"In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions...Knowing the existence of such logical and rhetorical fallacies rounds out our toolkit. Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world—not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others. "

The Rational Wiki has a page about The Fine Art of Baloney Detection which includes a table of  the fallacies listed by Sagan, giving with examples and definitions.  If one were teaching search strategies, or how to sort the "fake" from the "real", or scientific methods, or reading for content, etc., this might be a very useful addition to the class library.

Transforming the meaning of evidence and truth

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site: Transforming the meaning of evidence and truth.  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers

This morning I read a post at Engadget titled Researchers make a surprisingly smooth artificial video of Obama "Their program grafts audio-synced mouths onto existing videos." The post describes the process used by the University of Washington researchers:
"The researchers used 14 hours of Obama's weekly address videos to train a neural network. Once trained, their system was then able to take an audio clip from the former president, create mouth shapes that synced with the audio and then synthesize a realistic looking mouth that matched Obama's. The mouth synced to the audio was then superimposed and blended onto a video of Obama that was different from the audio source. To make it look more natural, the system corrected for head placement and movement, timing and details like how the jaw looked. The whole process is automated save for one manual step that requires a person to select two frames in the video where the subject's upper and lower teeth are front-facing and highly visible. Those images are then used by the system to make the resulting video's teeth look more realistic."
Read the post, and watch the video below to see the result.

"Published on Jul 11, 2017. A new tool developed by computer vision researchers at the University of Washington Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering creates realistic video from audio files alone. In this example, the team created realistic videos of Obama speaking in the White House, using the audio file from a television talk show and during an interview decades ago."
The news story by Jennifer Langston is on the University of Washington's web site, Lip-syncing Obama: New tools turn audio clips into realistic video, and the details of the project are at this link.

A story by Kurt Schlosser at GeekWireUW’s lip-syncing Obama demonstrates new technique to turn audio clips into realistic video goes into a bit more scientific detail about the process. Schlosser writes that "By turning audio clips into realistic-looking lip-synced video, the implication is that a moving face could be applied to historic audio recordings or be used to improve video conferencing."

At Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes goes straight to the heart of this not-fake news: Insanely Accurate Lip Synching Tech Could Turn Fake News Videos Into a Real Problem. "... the capacity to use easy-to-access technology to create fake images and video is growing by the day. Just last week, security researcher Greg Allen published a cautionary tale of sorts in Wired: “AI Will Make Forging Anything Entirely Too Easy.”  Estes writes, "Of course, there are other teams working on similar problems around the world. And you know what? They’re all getting really good at creating incredibly realistic fake videos, even with low-budget equipment. Last year, for instance, one Stanford team created a method of facial reenactment that could be performed with any cheap consumer webcam. It’s incredibly creepy...Allen sums up the bad news pretty well when he says this technology will “transform the meaning of evidence and truth.” If you thought fake-looking news websites were a problem, just imagine what a completely fake police bodycam video could do."
(Watch the video below, and read the notes on its YouTube page.)

We've written on this blog before about fake and real news and images. (See Can that be real? and Alternative Facts). The news media is full of claims, counter-claims about the "true facts" in almost every area of our lives.  There are TV shows to help you sort out fake from real viral videos, among them Britain's Channel 4's Real, Fake or Unkown: "Of all the intriguing, shocking and extreme videos on the web, how do we know which are real? Real, Fake or Unknown works out how the web's most-watched clips were made."

My guess is that many of you reading this post have already made videos just like the Obama one being discussed above.  Do you have a smartphone?  a pet? a child? a friend?

"You can make this photo do and say whatever you want. The pranking possibilities are endless." with Crazytalk

"Add a photo and speak into microphone, you'll get a lively talking pet in video." with My Pet Can Talk

"My Talking Pet brings photos of your favorite pet to life! Use it for any animal... or maybe someone you know?" with My Talking Pet




Why is this technology important to the IB community? Perhaps a quick reference to the novel "1984" and The Ministry of Truth.
"...Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power." The New Yorker
and to TOK.
"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past," repeated Winston obediently. "Who controls the present controls the past," said O'Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. "Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?" (1984. Book 3, chapter 2.pp. 39-40) "

We'll just check with Mr. Obama about when he said some of the words quoted in the video above. Wasn't it in 1990?

140 Characters in the IB Classroom

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site: 140 Characters in the IB Classroom I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers

"Twitter" flickr photo by Uncalno https://flickr.com/photos/uncalno/8537569665
shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The word "Twitter" (as in a certain social media platform) has been turning up more and more in the news recently.  Twitter itself isn't new (if you're interested, you can read the history of Twitter in this post on lifewire), and it isn't new in education.  But as it is being talked about right now, I thought it might be a good time to take a closer look.

First, here are three posts and a video about Twitter basics: How to Use Twitter: Critical Tips for New Users from Wired.com  WikiHow to Use Twitter and from Twitter itself, Getting Started with Twitter.

As with all online sites and media, once you have a Twitter account, to protect yourself you MUST carefully look at your settings and privacy choices.  Read about these at the  online In the Twitter Support pages:
You can also find this information from your own Settings and Privacy page for your Twitter account. You should read through all this, and make your choices about what you want to see, and do not want to see, who can reach you through Twitter, etc. Access all this by clicking on the little circle with your avatar image, in the upper right corner of your Twitter page after you have logged in.  You might also like to read this post on cnet.com about recent changes in Twitter's privacy settings.  Barbara Stefanics recently posted on this blog about how to "Check Your Twitter Settings".

Do you know what you want to do with your Twitter account?  Read this EducationWorld post, Using Twitter for Professional Development , this one at Talks with Teachers, Why Twitter Matters in Education, and this from November Learning, How Twitter Can Be Used as a Powerful Education Tool.

"Twitter" flickr photo by clasesdeperiodismo https://flickr.com/photos/esthervargasc
/9775119174 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
Now, you are logged in, you've checked through your settings,  you have some ideas of what you want to use your Twitter account for, and you probably  want to find Twitter users to "follow".  Here are some possibilities:

The IB has several official  Twitter accounts, and other folks have created IB centered Twitter accounts and lists:
The whole IB organization @iborganization
IB MYP @ibmyp  and the #myp #mypchat search results.
IB PYP @ibpyp and the #ibpyp search results
IB Examiners @IB_Examiners 
IB World Magazine @IBWorldmag
@IBConnects PYP | MYP | DP International Baccalaureate Teaching Jobs Posted Daily. Connecting the World - One IB Teacher at a Time!

TOK Teachers is a public list by Larry Ferlazzo which collects tweets from the 23 TOK teachers listed on this page.  (The tweets you read on the list page may or may not have anything to do with education.)
IB DP teachers is a public list of 31 teachers created  by Ilja van Weringh
IB DP Geography Teachers is public list of 48 teachers created by Richard Allaway

There are many individual teachers tweeting, among them Brian Neises, MYP Workshop Leader & Field Rep; science and humanities teacher;  @themypteacher; Paul O'Rourke, Lifelong Learner; IB-Middle Years Program Coordinator; debate/public speaking, soccer coach @Paul_Niagara
This search result for our OSC blog shows many posts with ideas for using Twitter in the IB classroom.

This coetail post, Twitter for the IBDP Student: While Twitter is an amazing tool for building community, microblogging understandings, and organically developing a real-time yearbook, there’s more to be done with everybody’s favorite blue bird by Tricia Friedman, offers a few ways to "tweet like a pro in the IBDP classroom".  The post includes this interesting TedEd video "Visualizing the world's Twitter data" by Jer Thorp.(See the accompanying lesson on this web page.)