Reading the Web

There is a lot of information available online that can be very easily accessed, but whether this information is reliable is another question. What this blog post aims to do is provide a guide to some online resources – two websites (one good and one bad) and one video – and that teachers can use on the topic of Australia, relating them to Salyer’s (2015) eight questions to ask about their reliability as sources:

  1. Does the website have a clear purpose?
  2. Does the website have information needed to answer the reader’s questions?
  3. Are the language and concepts within the reader’s control, or nearly so with appropriate support?
  4. Will the organisation of the website be clear to the reader?
  5. Is the navigation reader friendly?
  6. Will the graphics be accessible to the reader?
  7. Do the dynamic and interactive elements support the purpose of the website?
  8. Are there short bursts of text, or can the text be easily segmented to manage and differentiate the reading?

Website 1 – For Teachers for Students

For Teachers for Students fact page on Australia, accessed through the above link, meets all eight of the above criteria to a good degree. It is well set out and the text is presented in short, easy to understand paragraphs, meaning it meats criteria 3, 4, 5 and 8. It has a clear purpose (criterion 1), to provide facts about Australia, though could easily be moulded to be more specific under the headings of ‘Australian States’ or ‘Australian Symbols’, depending on the questions asked (criterion 2). Whilst its map of Australia is good and accurate, the website’s downside is in criteria 6 and 7 as the majority of the pictures are cartoon depictions and there are not any interactive elements.

Website 2 – Video

This video accurately explores lots of the geographical features as well as land area and population statistics of Australia and some other interesting facts throughout. Whilst there are no interactive elements (criterion 7), the maps that are displayed throughout give a good description of Australia’s surrounding waters and the placements of Australian states and territories (criterion 6). With this in mind, it has a clear purpose (criterion 1), would be able to answer questions (criterion 2), and is well set out and easy to understand (criteria 3, 4, 5, 8).

Website 3 – Australian Facts for Kids: The Land of Kangaroos

Unlike the previous two website, this one fails to meet a number of of Salyer’s (2015) criteria. It has no clear purpose (criterion 1) as it simply presents random facts, so of which are incorrect such as Australia’s main religion being Roman Catholic. It would not be able to answer a logical sequence of questions (criterion 2). It also makes a lot of assumptions and is very colloquial (criterion 3). The big slab of text at the beginning does not make sense and that is followed by a long series of dot points that don’t follow any sequence (criteria 4, 5 and 8). There are no interactive elements and the only image is a stock one of the Opera House (criteria 6 and 7).

Developing Photography Skills

(Parkarklis, 2011)

Rule of Thirds

IMG_0296

Using the rule of thirds, this photo places me in the top right of the four gridline intersections. The most prominent lines in the the photo, both the top and the bottom of the bridge, also lie along the horizontal grid lines.

Leading Lines

IMG_0295

The leading lines in this photo are created by the multiple pillars located to the left and the wall to the right which makes the tree at the end of the passage much more prominent than the student walking towards the camera.

Non-centred Subject

IMG_0297

This photo places the main subject, the bike, slightly off centre. This puts more emphasis on the bike and brings together the other elements of the image.

Social Media, News and Critical Literacy

What follows is an analysis of three websites and the ways they could be used to teach stage three students about the reliability of sources when conducting research.

Zapato – Tree Octopus

Zapato brands itself on its home page as “the source for conspiracies and other diversions”, which does not seem a reliable source from the beginning. However, when delving deeper in to the website, particularly the hyperlinked page on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (pictured right), there is a certain conceivability about it. It provides superficially believable facts, such treeoctoas the fact that the animal has the largest brain to body ratio of any mollusk, and includes a map and photoshopped magazine articles. Yet a simple cross-check reveals the site is fake news. A daily news article details how the story was created by a US researcher called Donald Leu in an attempt to prove that Facebook users will believe anything. (Daily News, 2011) This website would be a great example to show stage three students how easy it is for anyone to place anything online, and that using only one source is a non-feasible way to conduct research. All it took to disprove this article was a 30 second google search.

The Onion – NASA’s Cordless Satellite 

SatelliteThe Onion is a household name as a ‘satirical news site’ but one cannot assume that students will know that. I have chosen one article which, similarly to the Zapato article described above, seems superficially believable, but does not take much time to disprove. The new satellite that NASA claims to have launched lacks the 22’000 mile cable the article explains. Another simple search can find that the circumference of the Earth is a shade under 25’000 miles (Rosenberg, 2017) so this supposed cable would almost reach around the length of the entire planet, quite clearly something that is not possible. A google search of ‘NASA satellite cable’ brings up this very article on its first page, reinforcing the requirement for students to investigate multiple sources before deciding on its reliability and validity.

Natural News – Vaccines

The difference between this article on Vaccines and the previous two articles is two-fold. Firstly, the previous two were written comedically by authors who clearly did not believe what they were writing whereas it appears that is not the case with this one; and secondly, this article has big health ramifications if anyone were to read it and believe it, far beyond a school assignment. The article lists complicated jargon, which only medical professionals would ever have the chance of properly understanding and despite explaining the supposed risk to people never actually cites a real-life example. The most damaging thing about the article is that is clearly does not consider both sides of the argument. This is a very difficult thing for a child to judge so teachers would need to ensure that strategies such as Internet Guided Reading (Salyer, 2013) would need to be used for an article such as this.

David Buckingham on Fake News

David Buckingham’s article outlines the grave problem the world is facing with fake news. On the surface, sites like the onion are seen as comedic and the vast majority of people are easily able to assess their credibility. However, he cites two examples which demonstrate the danger of such news.

The first of these is an Onion article made a satirical post about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un being named sexiest man alive. The vast majority of people would have laughed it off, but it was actually read a true by a major Chinese newspaper who published a 55-page spread on their website on the topic. (Buckingham, 2017)

The second is perhaps a more worrying example. The ‘pizzagate’ saga stemmed from a fake news story that Hilary Clinton was involved in a paedophile sex trafficing ring run out of a Washington restaurant. Clearly designed to be a funny story, yet less so when a Trump supporter turned up at the restaurant firing an automatic weapon. (Buckingham, 2017)

1-yei3y5z9jkbyaufd5mgd_gThus, the key point that examples such asthe two cited above and all three aforementioned websites posit is that students need to develop skills in source analysis and cross-checking. Part of this can be done by providing students with the sources they need, as Salyer (2013) proposes, however, this is not a feasible long-term solution. Students and teachers alike need to develop habits in source analysis as issues such as fake news are not showing any signs of diminishing.

Reference List

australiantales (2011). Australian States And Territories. YouTube. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN3F_4zpX3w&feature=youtu.be

Buckingham, D. (2017). Fake news: is media literacy the answer?. David Buckingham. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from https://davidbuckingham.net/2017/01/12/fake-news-is-media-literacy-the-answer/

Daily Mail,. (2017). It must be true, I read it on the Internet: Elusive ‘tree octopus’ proves how gullible web generation is. Mail Online. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1352929/Endangered-tree-octopus-proves-students-believe-read-Internet.html

Facts for Kids (2013). Australia Facts For Kids | Top 23 Facts. Facts For Kids. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://factsforkids.net/australia-facts-for-kids/

For Teachers for Students (2017). FOR TEACHERS for students. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.forteachersforstudents.com.au/site/themed-curriculum/australia/facts/#ausbasics

Onion (2017). NASA Launches First Cordless Satellite. Theonion.com. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.theonion.com/article/nasa-launches-first-cordless-satellite-53387

Pakarklis, E. (2017). 11 composition tips for taking great photos with your iPhone. Idownloadblog.com. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.idownloadblog.com/2013/09/23/composition-tips-great-photos-iphone/

Rosenberg, M. (2017). Answers to All Your Questions About Planet Earth. ThoughtCo. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from https://www.thoughtco.com/essential-facts-about-the-planet-earth-1435092

Salyer, D. (2015). Reading the Web. The Reading Teacher, 69(1), 35-39. Accessed February 22, 2016 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/trtr.1380/abstract

Wilson, J. (2014). More young adults skipping the flu vaccine. NaturalNews. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.naturalnews.com/043680_flu_vaccine_young_adults_H1N1.html

Zapato, L. (2017). Save The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Zapatopi.net. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/

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