This morning I was ambling through my Twitter timeline in my usual half awake Monday state, when I stumbled across the following tweet:
I had a quick read of the blog, and joined in a brief Twitter discussion about it, but I had a nagging concern at the back of my mind. There was something distinctly odd about that image. For a start, the tail on the ‘a’ looked to me like the letter formation of a very young child – that separate tail is a classic sign of an emergent writer – it’s something you see a lot in children of around 4 or 5 years old. But why would a child that young be given a test like this, when they would only just be learning to read? And if the child was older, with poorly developed letter formation, but was able to read, then surely the answer to the question would have been obvious? I started to wonder whether the child had written the wrong answer on purpose, as a joke. It seemed like the only plausible explanation. It was really bugging me. How could I find out the truth?
And then I remembered something that I learned a month or so ago – a great tip I picked up for dealing with potential ‘fake news’ of the Trump variety, around the time of his inauguration (when all kinds of claims about huge crowds were made). It’s a simple way to check the source of an image you see on Twitter, and to ensure that it is what it claims to be, before you retweet it to all and sundry with an outraged comment attached. All you need to do is hover over the image on Twitter, right click on your mouse, and then choose ‘search Google for image’. This takes you to Google where, with a bit of careful research, you should be able to identify the origin of the image. The furthest back I could get for the image in this blog was someone called ‘FishInferno’, who had uploaded it to Reddit in the ‘funny’ category on 26th February, from which point it was picked up by various ‘funniest thing on the Internet’ sites and ended up as “a picture a friend had sent me of work a young student did in the classroom” in Doug Lemov’s blog.
Call me cynical, but I’m not entirely convinced about the veracity of the original image – it looks to me as though an adult might have made it for laughs, with the thought that the best way to make it look like it was done by a child was to write the answer in babyish handwriting. There’s something just a little bit too pat and amusing about ‘Getty Images’. Either that or the child is brand new to English, or just can’t read yet. Perhaps the only way we could know for certain would be to hunt down ‘FishInferno’ and ask him/her to provide the child’s handwritten original, or to get Doug Lemov to check with his friend. As is the way of the Internet, we will probably never know. The image will pass into history as an example of the evils of using Google, when in reality Google was what allowed me to identify where it had come from in the first place. It strikes me that, instead of this image being an example of why we need more knowledge, it is actually an example of why we need more digital literacy. Of why it is important not to take the things we see on the Internet at face value, and why we should always verify the source.