reading

Sunday, 17 September 2017 - 7:11pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 17/09/2017 - 7:11pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • My “Nonviolent” Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men — Logan Rimel of Radical Discipleship: I never felt safer than when I was near antifa. They came to defend people, to put their bodies between these armed white supremacists and those of us who could not or would not fight. They protected a lot of people that day, including groups of clergy. My safety (and safety is relative in these situations) was dependent upon their willingness to commit violence. In effect, I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean. Do you understand? They took that up for me, for the clergy they shielded, for those of us in danger. We cannot claim to be pacifists or nonviolent when our safety requires another to commit violence, and we ask for that safety.
  • The First White President — Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.
  • Humans are intrinsically anti neo-liberal — Bill Mitchell: One of the great casualties of this neo-liberal dark age that we are living through at present and which began in the 1980s (if not a little earlier) is that society has been subjugated to economy. In the 1980s, we began to live in economies rather than societies or communities.
  • Why Economists Have to Embrace Complexity to Avoid Disaster — Evonomics publishes an awe-inspiring excerpt from Steve Keen's new book: The reason that aggregating individual downward sloping demand curve[s] results in a market demand curve that can have any shape at all is simple to understand, but—for those raised in the mainstream tradition—very difficult to accept. The individual demand curve is derived by assuming that relative prices can change without affecting the consumer’s income. This assumption can’t be made when you consider all of society—which you must do when aggregating individual demand to derive a market demand curve—because changing relative prices will change relative incomes as well.
  • Capital is failing Australia not labour — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness: In 1974, the share of TFI taken by wages was 62%, whereas as at December 2016 it had fallen to just 53% – a 9% decline. By contrast, the share of TFI taken by profits was 17% in 1974, whereas as at December 2016 it had risen to 26% – a 9% increase. Moreover, the fall in workers’ share of TFI has nothing to do with productivity. […] Australian labour productivity (real GDP per hour worked) has risen by just under 80% since 1978, whereas real average compensation per employee has risen by just 28% over the same period.
  • An Open Letter to My Online Student — Peyton Burgess at McSweeny's Internet Tendency: Did you get my email regarding the Extra Credit assignment? You could benefit from the Extra Credit assignment. Many of you could benefit from it. Nobody has emailed me yet to say how generous it was of me to offer the Extra Credit assignment. Online Student, you have never responded, and I fear you never will.
  • Donald Trump has just met with the new leader of the secular world – Pope Francis — Robert Fisk, the Independent: For more and more, the Good Old Pope is coming to represent what the Trumps and Mays will not say: that the West has a moral duty to end its wars in the Middle East, to stop selling weapons to the killers of the Middle East and to treat the people of the Middle East with justice and dignity.
  • Meet the CamperForce, Amazon's Nomadic Retiree Army — Jessica Bruder in Wired: Many of the workers who joined Camper­Force were around traditional retirement age, in their sixties or even seventies. They were glad to have a job, even if it involved walking as many as 15 miles a day on the concrete floor of a warehouse. From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a “taillight parade.” They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing—not an obvious fit for older bodies—recruiters came to see Camper­Force workers’ maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent.
  • The Dystopia We Signed Up For — Chelsea Manning in the New York TImes: The real power of mass data collection lies in the hand-tailored algorithms capable of sifting, sorting and identifying patterns within the data itself. When enough information is collected over time, governments and corporations can use or abuse those patterns to predict future human behavior. Our data establishes a “pattern of life” from seemingly harmless digital residue like cellphone tower pings, credit card transactions and web browsing histories.

Sunday, 10 September 2017 - 4:55pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/09/2017 - 4:55pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Demon-Haunted World — Cory Doctorow at Locus Online: The basic theory of cheating is to assume that the cheater is ‘‘rational’’ and won’t spend more to cheat than they could make from the scam: the cost of cheating is the risk of getting caught, multiplied by the cost of the punishment (fines, reputational dam­age), added to the technical expense associated with breaking the anti-cheat mechanisms. Software changes the theory. Software – whose basic underlying mechanism is ‘‘If this happens, then do this, otherwise do that’’ – allows cheaters to be a lot more subtle, and thus harder to catch. Software can say, ‘‘If there’s a chance I’m undergoing inspection, then be totally honest – but cheat the rest of the time.’’
  • Widening inequality is largely a US and UK phenomenon – why? — by good lord, it's Vince Cable, new Lib Dem leader!: […] there is abundant cross-country evidence that too much inequality can harm economic performance, and that redistributive politics can do good. Studies suggest that higher levels of inequality are associated with unproductive rent-seeking; contribute to financial instability; feed asset bubbles rather than productive investment; weaken demand and encourage high levels of household debt; and lead to underinvestment in education and health.
  • Nature Does Not Grade on a Curve — Ian Welsh: One of the problems with de-naturing (with living in almost entirely human made systems, and with pushing those bits we don’t control off into ghettos as we would illness), is that it means most people almost never experience a benchmark that isn’t set by other human beings. They feel, in their guts, that if only other people are convinced, any problem can be fixed or finangled. No. The bear doesn’t care that you can’t run fast enough because TV is funner than going for a jog, and nature doesn’t care that shareholders needed value and that oil barons didn’t want to be a little poorer (or whatever). And neither will those who suffer from climate changes due to our ethical monstrosity and sheer incapability.
  • The Future of Work, Robotization, and Capitalism’s Ability to Generate Useless Jobs — Rutger Bregman: The time has come to stop sidestepping the debate and home in on the real issue: what would our economy look like if we were to radically redefine the meaning of “work”? I firmly believe that a universal basic income is the most effective answer to the dilemma of advancing robotization. Not because robots will take over all the purposeful jobs, but because a basic income would give everybody the chance to do work that is meaningful. I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a life well lived. I believe in a future where “jobs are for robots and life is for people.”
  • Ransom — Flea Snobbery:
  • Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict fight on — Robert Fisk in the Independent: A Medecins Sans Frontieres analysis – presented at the conference by Abu-Sitta and Dr Omar Dewachi who co-direct a newly created Conflict Medicine Programme at the AUB supported by Jonathan Whittall of Medecins sans Frontieres – said that multidrug resistant [MDR] bacteria now accounts for most war wound infections across the Middle East, yet most medical facilities in the region do not even have the laboratory capacity to diagnose MDR, leading to significant delays and clinical mismanagement of festering wounds. Beyond the physical damage caused by weaponry, Whittall added, “destroyed or degraded sanitation facilitates the microbiological seeding of wounds. The body, weakened by the wound, is reinjured when it interacts with the harsh, physically degraded environment.”
  • The bitcoin and blockchain: energy hogs — Fabrice Flipo and Michel Berne in the Conversation: In a 2014 study, Karl J. O’Dwyer and David Malone showed that the consumption of the bitcoin network was likely to be approximately equivalent to the electricity consumption of a country like Ireland, i.e. an estimated 3 GW. Imagine the consequences if this type of bitcoin currency becomes widespread. The global money supply in circulation is estimated at $11,000 billion. The corresponding energy consumption should therefore exceed 4,000 GW, which is eight times the electricity consumption of France and twice that of the United States. It is not without reason that a recent headline on the Novethic website proclaimed “The bitcoin, a burden for the climate”.
  • The Varieties of Populist Experience — Robert Skidelsky: To be sure, support for a leftist program certainly exists in France. About 20% of voters backed the left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidential election’s first round. In the second round, one particularly illuminating Twitter hashtag was #NiPatronNiPatrie (“neither boss nor country”), reflecting many voters’ dissatisfaction with the election’s choice between neoliberalism and nationalism. The task of the left is to direct attention to the truly problematic aspects of global economic integration – financialization, the prioritization of capital over labor, of creditor over debtor, of patron over ouvrier – without lapsing into reactionary politics.
  • I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past. — Tony Schwartz in the Washington Post: The Trump I got to know had no deep ideological beliefs, nor any passionate feeling about anything but his immediate self-interest. He derives his sense of significance from conquests and accomplishments. “Can you believe it, Tony?” he would often say at the start of late-night conversations with me, going on to describe some new example of his brilliance. But the reassurance he got from even his biggest achievements was always ephemeral and unreliable — and that appears to include being elected president. Any addiction has a predictable pattern: The addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to re-create the desired state. On the face of it, Trump has more opportunities now to feel significant and accomplished than almost any other human being on the planet. But that’s like saying a heroin addict has his problem licked once he has free and continuous access to the drug. Trump also now has a far bigger and more public stage on which to fail and to feel unworthy.
  • Renegade Shorts - STEVE KEEN on Government Surplus:
  • Australians don’t loiter in public space – the legacy of colonial control by design — Aaron Magro in the Conversation: While towns and new suburbs in the young colony were deeply influenced by European urban design, a key feature was excluded – the piazza. Governor Richard Bourke made very clear to surveyors that new towns in New South Wales (which at the time encompassed present-day Victoria) must not include public squares as these could promote rebellion.
  • Free Time and the Pressures of Employability — David Frayne at Zed Books: The notion of employability has risen to remarkable prominence in the early part of the twenty-first century, where it forms the lynchpin of a neoliberal political philosophy, in which the state and employers are no longer committed to, or deemed responsible for, providing citizens with lasting and secure jobs. Those politicians who champion neoliberal policies have glorified paid employment, whilst at the same time dismantling the social protections that have traditionally insulated citizens against the uncertainties of the labour market. Within this context, the capacity of individuals to work relentlessly at their employability has come to be understood as the crux of national and individual prosperity.

Sunday, 3 September 2017 - 6:28pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 03/09/2017 - 6:28pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Review of Steve Keen’s “Can we avoid another financial crisis?” — Michael Hudson: Mainstream models are unable to forecast or explain a depression. That is because depressions are essentially financial in character. The business cycle itself is a financial cycle – that is, a cycle of the buildup and collapse of debt. Keen’s “Minsky” model traces this to what he has called “endogenous money creation,” that is, bank credit mainly to buyers of real estate, companies and other assets. He recently suggested a more catchy moniker: “Bank Originated Money and Debt” (BOMD). That seems easier to remember.
  • Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can? — Jennifer Berkshire interviews Harvey Kantor in the Have You Heard blog: One of the consequences of making education so central to social policy has been that we’ve ended up taking the pressure off of the state for the kinds of policies that would be more effective at addressing poverty and economic inequality. Instead we’re asking education to do things it can’t possibly do. The result has been increasing support for the kinds of market-oriented policies that make inequality worse.
  • Three radical ideas to transform the post-crisis economy — Martin Sanbu in the AFR: If private management of the money supply is a recipe for instability, the radical alternative is to nationalise the money supply. This is do-able today: central banks can offer accounts to all members of the public (or make central bank reserves available to everyone). Banks could be restricted to allocating existing savings to investments, rather than creating new credit. Another imperative is that of economic security. Previous radicals created safety nets where none existed. Today we have ample welfare states, but they still leave large groups in precarious conditions. Sometimes they trap them there, as generous benefits for low earners are withdrawn with rising incomes, creating prohibitive effective marginal tax rates for the modestly paid. The radical solution is a universal basic income, the proposal to pay an unconditional benefit to all citizens, financed by tax rises. The idea is rediscovered by every other generation; the time to put it into practice may now have come.
  • Can Trump Deliver on Growth? — James K. Galbraith in Dissent Magazine: As things stand, the financial sector neither serves a public purpose nor does it deliver the growth it once did, until it broke down nine years ago. While there are people who feel obliged to borrow, and there will always be new generations of suckers, boom-and-bust banking credit isn’t a viable model for growth any more. What should be done about the banks? These are institutions with high fixed costs and with technologies and transnational legal structures that are designed to facilitate tax evasion and regulatory arbitrage. They face very limited prospects for sustained profitability in activities that correspond to social need. Their entire structure isn’t viable in a world of slow growth, except by fostering short-lived booms (of which the shale rush was the most recent example), followed by busts and bailouts. In short, the financial sector as a whole is a luxury we cannot afford.
  • Savings are an Export Product — Neil Wilson: Foreign entities are holding your currency as savings. Similarly, financial products denominated in your currency are held as savings. Savings are, in effect, an export product of your currency area. Once you look at it this way, then savings are very similar to a barrel of oil in stock, or an aircraft engine. If your country relies upon oil exports and people stop wanting oil then you may have a problem. If you rely on aircraft engine exports and there are no orders for new aircraft, you may have a problem. If you rely upon people taking your savings (because they had an export-led policy — which implies a savings-import policy) and that changes (the export-led policy moves to a domestic-led policy, as we’re starting to see in China) then you may have a problem.
  • The University Does Not Think — Simon Cooper in Arena: If we look at the various levels of university activity, from undergraduate teaching to academic research, to the relationship between the university and the wider social realm, it becomes quickly apparent how the university has been captured by instrumental logic since the expansion of the system in the 1980s. The increasing dominance of knowledge as a commodity (as opposed to other modalities of knowledge—critique, interpretation, wisdom and so forth) has played out across various domains. Starting with undergraduate education, we can see how the introduction of fees and debt systems creates a shift around the meaning of education towards a more narrowly instrumental one for both the student and the institution. As G. L. Williams remarks, ‘students have been metamorphosed from apprentices into customers and their teachers from master craftsmen to merchants’. University education as vocational training has become an increasingly central way of framing the student’s relation to knowledge, with a consequent decline in less ‘market-friendly’ subjects. The atrophy of the pure sciences, philosophy, social theory, literature etc. within many tertiary institutions is well established. In some cases, humanities departments have closed, replaced by ‘creative industries’ centres whose rationale is to marketise skills generated by an applied-humanities model, discarding all others.
  • The Rock-Star Appeal of Modern Monetary Theory — Atossa Araxia Abrahamian at the Nation: According to this small but increasingly vocal cohort of economists, including Bernie Sanders’s former chief economic adviser, once we change the way we think about money, we can provide for everyone: We don’t have to “find” the money to “pay” for universal health care by “cutting” the budget elsewhere. In fact, our government already works that way: Spending must precede taxation, or there would be no dollars in the economy to tax. It’s the political will to spend on certain things, not the money to afford it, that’s lacking.
  • Immiseration Revisited: The four phases of working time — Sandwichman at Angry Bear: The four phases of working time can be labeled cooperation, exploitation, immiseration and ruin. The incentive for employers is to progress inexorably toward the last phase unless regulated by legislation or collective bargaining.[…] In conclusion, yes, there is a neo-classical immiseration theory. The economists who propounded it apparently were unaware that it was such a theory. By extension, that immiseration theory is a crisis theory. There is no built-in mechanism of negative feedback from prices that militates against the passage from the immiseration phase to the ruin phase. Hicks assumed that a “very moderate degree of rationality on the part of employers will thus lead them to reduce hours to the output optimum as soon as Trade Unionism has to be reckoned with at all seriously [emphasis added].” But by the time exploitation has progressed to the immiseration phase, trade unionism doesn’t have to be “reckoned with at all seriously” by employers.
  • What is human capital? — Peter Fleming in Aeon Essays: Friedman had discovered in human capital theory more than just a means for boosting economic growth. The very way it conceptualised human beings was an ideological weapon too, especially when it came to counteracting the labour-centric discourse of communism, both outside and inside the US. For doesn’t human capital theory provide the ultimate conservative retort to the Marxist slogan that workers should seize the means of production? If each person is already his own means of production, then the presumed conflict at the heart of the capitalist labour process logically dissolves. Schultz too was starting to see the light, and agreed that workers might actually be de facto capitalists: ‘labourers have become capitalists not from the diffusion of the ownership of corporation stocks, as folk law would have it, but from the acquisition of knowledge and skill that have economic value.’

Sunday, 27 August 2017 - 5:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 27/08/2017 - 5:42pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 20 August 2017 - 6:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 20/08/2017 - 6:42pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Actually, Germany Can Do Something About Its Trade Surplus — Dean Baker: If Germany were prepared to run more expansionary fiscal policy and allow its inflation rate to rise somewhat then it could have more balanced trade, meaning that it would be getting something in exchange for its exports. However, Germany's political leaders would apparently prefer to give things away to its trading partners in order to feel virtuous about balanced budgets and low inflation. The price for this "virtue" in much of the rest of the euro zone is slow growth, stagnating wages, and mass unemployment.
  • The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia — Norman Solomon: After Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss nearly six months ago, her most powerful Democratic allies feared losing control of the party. Efforts to lip-synch economic populism while remaining closely tied to Wall Street had led to a catastrophic defeat. […] In short, the Democratic Party’s anti-Bernie establishment needed to reframe the discourse in a hurry. And -- in tandem with mass media -- it did. The reframing could be summed up in two words: Blame Russia.
  • Making Sense of the Deportation Debate — Aviva Chomsky in TomDispach: A Washington Post scare headline typically read: “ICE Immigration Arrests of Noncriminals Double Under Trump.” While accurate, it was nonetheless misleading. Non-criminal immigration arrests did indeed jump from 2,500 in the first three months of 2016 to 5,500 during the same period in 2017, while criminal arrests also rose, bringing the total to 21,000. Only 16,000 were arrested during the same months in 2016. The article, however, ignores the fact that 2016 was the all-time low year for arrests under President Obama. In the first three months of 2014, for example, 29,000 were arrested, far more than Trump’s three-month “record.”
  • Cyber.Hospital — VectorBelly:

Sunday, 13 August 2017 - 7:08pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/08/2017 - 7:08pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Toronto Housing Bubble Pops. “Genuine Fear” of Price Collapse — Wolf Richter: “Clearly, the year-over-year decline we experienced in July had more to do with psychology, with would-be home buyers on the sidelines waiting to see how market conditions evolve,” said [Toronto Real Estate Board] President Tim Syrianos. Alas “psychology” is precisely what causes house price bubbles – not fundamentals, such as 2.3% annual wage increases. And when that “psychology” turns, it pricks those bubbles.
  • Housing bubble is now official, commence arse-covering (panic)! — Matt Ellis: We look to be approaching the final panic stages of the last blow off in this epic bubble, as the kitchen sink is thrown at the market in a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable. But it will only do further damage, and ultimately prove futile. This is the cost that we all have to pay for those beloved property prices – that illusory “wealth effect” that simply amounts to a pile of household debt as large as the difference between the total nominal value and the total fair value of the housing market.
  • Explainer: shadow banking and where it came from — Huon Curtis in the Conversation: Australia can’t do much to remedy global uncertainty. However, policies it pursues do link into shadow banking practices in multiple ways. Policies that erode the standard employment relation and cut pay rates increase consumer demand for short-term credit products. This increases private debt for consumers, but feeds its attractiveness into an asset class for institutional investors.
  • I See What Google Did There… — Adam Croom: Today Google announced what is, again, a fun and intriguing tool called AutoDraw. You draw some squiggly lines and it uses AI to guess what you meant to draw. […] Does Google really want to improve drawing everywhere? Did Google find a specific weakness within the human race and thus felt compelled to solve a world problem? Or is Google creating a product that meets a market need of designers who need quick icons? Nah, none of those. Does it want to improve machine learning? Hell yes it does.
  • British Labour has to break out of the neo-liberal ‘cost’ framing trap — Bill Mitchell: Statements such as the ‘nation cannot afford the cost of some program’ are never made when the military goes crazy and launches millions of dollars of missiles to be blasted off in the dark of the night. But when it comes to public health systems or the nutritional requirements of our children, the neo-liberals have their calculators out toting up the dollars. However, the actual cost of a government program is the change it causes in the usage of real resources. When we ask whether the nation can afford a policy initiative, we should ignore the $x and consider what real resources are available and the potential benefits. The available real resources constitute the fiscal space. The fiscal space should then always be related to the purposes to which we aspire, and the destination we wish to reach. British Labour needs to learn those basics fast and to break out of the neo-liberal ‘cost’ framing it is trapped within.
  • With or without edtech — Jonathan Rees: Can you live without edtech? [You just knew I had to get around to edtech here eventually, right?] Shockingly enough, there were actually good schools in the United States long before Bill Clinton and Al Gore decided to put a computer in every classroom. Plenty of teachers and professors offer great classes of all kinds without anything more sophisticated than their voices and a chalkboard. Weirdly enough, just this morning, right after I read that article, I was pitching our dean on starting a digital humanities program in our college. “What about the professors who don’t want to use technology?,” he asked me. I said I would never in a million years force any teacher to use technology if they don’t want to, but it’s a actually a good thing if students have a wide range of classes in which they can enroll, some of which use educational technology and some of which don’t.

Sunday, 6 August 2017 - 7:53pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 06/08/2017 - 7:53pm in

This week, I have been writing a short essay rather than reading, which in practice means mostly playing Aisleriot:

Develop a criteria for critical evaluation of online information

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2017 - 7:05am in

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A central challenge for educators today is that students do not always think critically about information they encounter online. Research has raised questions about the ability of students to evaluate online information. Quite simply, many students appear not to have the evaluation skills and strategies to succeed in this environment. Apparently, students mistakenly trust information they read online. In particular, students are not able to accurately judge the validity of a website, even when given procedures to do so. The lack of critical evaluation skill, while reading online information, is also a problem among adults.

Since online information is commonly used to make decisions affecting the personal well being of individuals, the ability to critically evaluate this information has become increasingly important to individuals at home, work, and schools. It is clear that critical evaluation of online information is integral to the success of online readers in their ability to evaluate and safely use the information they find.

This post will share an activity used in some of my earlier research on critical evaluation of online information. The results suggest opportunities for developing the critical media and information literacies necessary when reading online. These materials have been utilized in classes from K up through higher ed. You should modify the specific aspects of the activity to suit your own needs.

What do we look for?

In my research on critical evaluation of online information, it all boiled down to recognizing and analyzing markers of credibility and relevancy online. Credibility is defined as expertise and trustworthiness, or the reliability of information presented. In some classes, I substituted the word “truthfulness” for credibility as students did not understand the original term. Relevancy is defined as importance and currency, or judgments about the essential nature of the information presented. In some classes, I substituted the work “usefulness” for relevancy as students did not understand the original term.

To sum up, we’re generally identifying and questioning the credibility (or truthfulness) and relevancy (usefulness) of information presented online. I indicated that it is the presented information we’re evaluating because we’re making judgments about materials constructed by others as they share content. This could include text, font, images, video, audio, design aesthetics. I need to also indicate that individuals construct their own meaning as they recognize these cues online as they read. This means that we all bring our own biases, perceptions, & misconceptions into the process as we read. But, for the most part, we’re still identifying and evaluating these cues, or markers that establish credibility and relevancy.

Where do we look for it?

As you identify and evaluate markers of credibility and relevancy online, you need to calibrate using a list of websites all on a common subject. The list of websites should include information of with varying levels of credibility and relevancy. In my prior activities on this subject, I used the topic of asthma as most students from elementary up through higher ed had some prior knowledge on the topic. You should select a topic related to your content or discipline to ensure authenticity of the activity.

In this list of websites for the activity, I included five websites for students to review. Seven proved to be too difficult for individuals to look across and remember all of the information presented. Three may provide a suitable amount depending on the population and selected information.

The websites should be representative of two of the three general types of information on the web: weaker sincere sites, stronger sincere sites, and hoax websites. Weaker sincere sites are identified as more “balanced between reputability and disreputability” than hoax websites or stronger sincere sites. The claims made are apparently believable, and are backed up by supporting data found online, but do not stand up to close scrutiny. Stronger sincere sites present “professional markers” of organization, more credible experts, and an “air of precision and authority.” Hoax websites are defined as website “fabrications” that have been created for entertainment purposes, usually invoking the ridiculous, but maintaining a “superficial appearance of scientific professionalism.” I include websites that fall into the weaker sincere and stronger sincere categories as I have a different activity for hoax websites.

I also recommend including a source from Wikipedia as you develop your list of websites for review. Wikipedia is sometimes viewed as a poor source of information online because of a belief that “anyone can write anything.” In my own experience, I’ve found that the Internet is a giant self-cleaning oven For the most part, the “good” information will outweigh the “bad” or incorrect information over time. I think this is definitely true on Wikipedia. I’ve also witnessed students valuing Wikipedia more as a source after an activity such as the one detailed here.

In the next section, I have included the five websites I include in the activity, along with the instructions given to participants.

My list of websites about asthma

Please take a look at the following websites. All of the websites contain basic information about asthma. You may examine the pages, and click through to other links from the page you are provided.

On the worksheet that your teacher gives you, rank them in order of the most useful and truthful, to the least truthful and useful.

Website A> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asthma

Website B> http://www.webmd.com/asthma/

Website C> http://angryasthmamama.blogspot.com/

Website D> http://usads.ms11.net/reed.html

Website E> http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/asthma.html

How do we look for it?

On a piece of paper, I ask participants to rank order the websites they have been provided according to how truthful and useful they appear to be.In this activity, participants are to rank order all of the websites listed from the most to the least truthful and useful. Participants may work individually or in small groups. I prefer the think-pair-share model in which students first complete the activity on their own, and then review their responses with a small group of students before moving on to the full group or class.

As you bring the class together to discuss the results, the focus is less about the rank order of the websites, and more about the criteria they used to make these determinations. Students and groups of participants can be asked to provide an overview of each of the websites and identify markers or cues that impacted their evaluation of the credibility and relevance of the website. The following prompts are good, open-ended starters to guide this discussion.

  • Which author is the most knowledgeable person about asthma?
  • Which website uses strong words, phrases, and images to influence readers?
  • Which website has the most reliable details to support the argument that chihuahuas can cure asthma?
  • Where do you look on a website to find out when it was written?
  • What is the reason this website was published?
  • Given this website’s “About” page, what is the expertise of the author of this site?
  • Which website has the most up to date information?
  • Which website uses the best details to support the claim about causes of asthma?
  • Which website uses information from the most reliable source?
  • Where do you click to learn more about an author?
  • What is the author’s main argument?
  • Which website would be the best to answer the question: What is asthma?
  • Who is the main audience of this website?
  • Which website has pictures and video to help inform the audience?
  • Which section of the website should you read to learn about asthma flare-ups?
  • Which website uses information from the least reliable source?

Once again, the teacher or instructor should act as a facilitator of the discussion in this part of the activity. The goal is not to identify the websites that are the most credible and relevant. The goal is also not to evaluate the work or perspectives of the students. The goal is to develop a comprehensive set of criteria that can be used in the future as learners evaluate online information.

These criteria can be left on a poster in the classroom, or saved in Google Doc or on the classroom website for future reference. Down below I included a photo taken after completing this activity in a fifth grade classroom after they reviewed the list of asthma websites.

What is next?

This activity is an important step in identifying the markers and criteria used to evaluate credibility and relevance of online information. The identified criteria should then be used and revised over the course of the year as learners continue to interact with information. These criteria can also be used to evaluate other sources of information in the classroom, not just websites. As an example, these criteria can then be utilized to think critically about textbooks, primary source documents, and other learning materials. The key is to equate the use of all forms of text in the classroom, and empower learners to question the veracity of the information being presented. It is these habits of mind and critical strategies that can then be used in future literacy practices.

 

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Sunday, 30 July 2017 - 5:46pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 30/07/2017 - 5:46pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Meritocracy: the great delusion that ingrains inequality — Jo Littler: When the word meritocracy made its first recorded appearance, in 1956 in the obscure British journal Socialist Commentary, it was a term of abuse, describing a ludicrously unequal state that surely no one would want to live in. Why, mused the industrial sociologist Alan Fox, would you want to give more prizes to the already prodigiously gifted? Instead, he argued, we should think about “cross-grading”: how to give those doing difficult or unattractive jobs more leisure time, and share out wealth more equitably so we all have a better quality of life and a happier society.
  • ‘When I Was Your Age, We Used A Thing Called Cash’: And Other Ways to Fight Back Against The Banks — Warwick Smith in New Matilda: We need to stop seeing housing as a way to accumulate wealth and start to see it as… well, housing. This is largely a government policy responsibility and not something we can do as individuals. However, as individuals we can claw back a little bit of control and cut out the banks as middle men by using cash when we spend. This is particularly useful for the small local businesses where we shop. It could be the difference between them surviving and going under – or being able to pay staff versus working 12 hour days themselves. Those staff could be your kids or your friends.
  • Mortality Crisis Redux: The Economics of Despair — Pia Malaney, Institute for New Economic Thinking: Case and Deaton estimate that the upturn in mortality rates in the US is starkly divergent from other developed countries, and accounts for 96,000 deaths that could have been avoided between 1996 and 2013. Their latest work delves deeper into the underlying causes of this decline. “Deaths of Despair” — by suicide, drug overdose or alcohol abuse — cannot be completely explained simply by stagnant or declining incomes. Income profiles for middle aged blacks and Hispanics look similar, without a corresponding rise in mortality. Rather, the authors posit, it can be traced to a “cumulative disadvantage over life”, where declining labor market opportunities have led to declining outcomes not just in the labor market but also in health, marriage, and child rearing. In other words, the stress accompanying the shock of downward mobility is likely driving this health crisis. And:
  • America’s prison population is getting whiter — Keith Humphreys: The 21st century has witnessed remarkable decay in the well-being of many non-Hispanic white Americans. In a new report, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton document that non-Hispanic whites who have a high school education or less have experienced reduced life expectancy and increased rates of suicide and addiction. Recent correctional system data highlight another dimension of this population’s travails: they are increasingly spending time in jail.
  • After 12 Rejections, Apple Accepts App That Tracks U.S. Drone Strikes — Josh Begley, the Intercept: Smartphones have connected us more intimately to all sorts of data. As Amitava Kumar put it recently, “The internet delivers ugly fragments of report and rumor throughout the day, and with them a sense of nearly constant intimacy with violence.” Yet information about drone strikes — in Apple’s universe — had somehow been deemed beyond the pale.
  • One weird trick for dealing with government-bashers — Jen Sorensen at Daily Kos:
  • Oh, Jeremy Corbyn — Neil Wilson on Medium: Student loans are not really loans. It’s just a list of people who are liable to a form of additional taxation after graduation. Even then it is only paid by those who managed to get a decentish job after graduation. Two thirds of the loans will likely be written off anyway. Scrapping tuition fees and the loan system is simply a tax cut for those who have bettered themselves and managed to get a reasonable job. Getting rid of the albatross around their necks and the necks of thousands, if not millions, of ex-students who were not quite so lucky in the jobs market will increase their capacity to spend in the economy. The resulting expansion and multiplier effect throughout the economy will absorb that spend via additional production and job expansion.
  • The Top Ed-Tech Trends (Aren't 'Tech') — Audrey Watters: In 2012, I chose “the platforming of education” as one of the “top ed-tech trends.” […] Platforms aim to centralize services and features and functionality so that you go nowhere else online. They aspire to be monopolies. Platforms enable and are enabled by APIs, by data collection and transference, by data analysis and data storage, by a marketplace of data (with users creating the data and users as the product). They’re silos, where all your actions can be tracked and monetized. In education, that’s the learning management system (the VLE) perhaps.
  • Announcing Unpaywall: unlocking #openaccess versions of paywalled research articles as you browse — Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem of Impactstory, the team behind Unpaywall, on the LSE Impact Blog: Today we’re launching a new tool to help people read research literature, instead of getting stuck behind paywalls. It’s an extension for Chrome and Firefox that links you to free full-text as you browse research articles. Hit a paywall? No problem: click the green tab and read it free! The extension is called Unpaywall, and it’s powered by an open index of more than ten million legally-uploaded, open access resources.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 - 6:54pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 23/07/2017 - 6:54pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Is the threat of a copyright lawsuit stifling music? — Chi Chi Izundu, BBC News: According to forensic musicologist Peter Oxendale "everyone's concerned that inspiration can [now be interpreted as] a catalyst for infringement. "All of these companies are worried that if a track is referenced on another at all, there may be a claim being brought," he explains. Mr Oxendale says some artists are now having the requirement to name their influences written into contracts by their record labels - although he would not specify names.
  • If your wallet is empty, you're part of the new majority — Peter Martin: An astounding 30 per cent of us keep no cash whatsoever in the house, up from 25 per cent three years ago. If nothing else, it suggests incredible faith in banks. The Reserve Bank carries out the survey every three years. In November it gave 1500 people diaries and asked them to record every transaction for a week, more than 17000 transactions in total. In a telling irony it rewarded them with gift cards rather than cash.
  • The Conversation About Basic Income is a Mess. Here’s How to Make Sense of It. — Charlie Young in Evonomics: It’s unusual to argue wholeheartedly against representative government, taxation or universal suffrage, while it is common to disagree on which party should govern, whether taxes should be raised or cut, and particular elements of voting procedure. In the same way, we shouldn’t argue all-out for or against UBI but instead inspect the make-up of each approach to it – that’s where we can find not only meaningful debate, but also possibilities for working out what we might actually want.
  • Infographic: the truth behind Centrelink’s waiting times — Wes Mountain, the Conversation: We’ve created this graphic – based on new data from 2015-16 calls confirmed by the Department of Human Services – to explain what’s really going on when Centrelink says its wait time is under 16 minutes. The last two major issues I had with Centrelink required four calls each (with a week between each call to give the wheels of bureaucracy a more-than-reasonable amount of time to turn) before I would call the issue "handled". Each call involved around two hours on hold. Sitting at the WWII-surplus phones in the local Centrelink office because I don't have a landline and can't afford to be on hold for that length of time on my mobile.
  • Real estate agents: let first home buyers raid their super — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness: Sure, allowing an individual [First Home Buyer] to access their super to purchase a home probably would increase their chances of home ownership, since they would have a leg-up on other buyers. But if you allow all FHBs to access their super, this advantage diminishes, and the end result will be home prices being bid-up for no ‘affordability’ gain, with the added downside of having less funds available in retirement. But on the other hand, if you can instruct your fund manager to cash out all your mortgage-backed assets it's a one-for-one risk swap. When the real estate bubble bursts you have the satisfaction of knowing all your losses were your losses. It's more personal.
  • The real reason Trump didn't want to shake hands with Merkel… — Gaius Publius at Digby's Hullabaloo:
  • Wall Street First — Michael Hudson: The straw that pushed voters over the edge was when [Hillary Clinton] asked voters, “Aren’t you better off today than you were eight years ago?” Who were they going to believe: their eyes, or Hillary’s? National income statistics showed that only the top 5 percent of the population were better off. All the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during Obama’s tenure went to them – the Donor Class that had gained control of the Democratic Party leadership.

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