Won’t Get Fooled Again

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.

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10 Responses to Won’t Get Fooled Again

  1. Tim A says:

    It is worse than that Sue.
    If you look at the image you can see it is a standard worksheet from the company ReadWorks.
    You can see the original worksheet used by googling exactly the following “readworks “who was america’s first president?””
    The fifth link is the original document and includes the Getty Images picture of George Washington.
    So who are ReadWorks? They are a company who produce “close reading” example texts to aid children in retrieving data from text.
    And who works with ReadWorks serving on advisory boards with their founder…….I’ll leave you to enjoy clicking the link
    http://www.thewritingrevolution.org/about-twr/advisory-board/

    Like

  2. Tim A says:

    Should just clarify I’m not suggesting or implying anything above regarding Doug Lemov and Read Works. Just found it funny the founder of ReadWorks sits on an advisory group with Doug.
    I thought the fact the knowledge rich worksheets of ReadWorks (it even says “the first president was George Washington”) were being used to illustrate the problem with children lacking knowledge. If providing children with the answer to the question in the text above the answer box then I’d say the problem was the test was age/stage inappropriate rather than anything to do with Google.

    Liked by 1 person

    • suecowley says:

      Yes, that’s why I found it so strange. If the child can’t read, what’s the point of the test/worksheet? If they can read, they would have got the correct answer since it’s right there in front of them.

      Like

  3. tonyparkin says:

    A little more evidence?
    The original Readworks worksheet that the answer was taken from is aimed at Grade 1 children – and can be accessed here (free registration). http://www.readworks.org/passages/presidents-day-here.
    The applicable Common Core Standard says “CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
    Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text”.
    This could have been a 6 year old child trying to do exactly that? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chrismwparsons says:

    It’s clear that search strategies are a very important form of knowledge in this day and age. To be fair to Doug, he has also now posted this to clarify a bit more (though not about the source). http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/tweet-difference-information-knowledge/
    I do find his main point pretty compelling though: That – with us having more information than ever before at our fingertips – we actually need more contextualising background knowledge than ever before to be able to cope with it meaningfully and not simply be lost in an ocean (ok – my paraphrasing and metaphor). But the search strategies definitely help 😉

    Like

    • suecowley says:

      That was the blog I quoted. I’ve left a comment with the missing attribution but it hasn’t been moderated yet. The information is right there on the worksheet, so whether it’s on a worksheet or on Google, it’s not a lack of knowledge that is the problem for this child.

      Liked by 1 person

      • chrismwparsons says:

        Apologies – I saw the image being familiar with the original tweet and didn’t read that bit properly. (Now what message can we all take away from that…?!)
        Despite still approving of Doug’s overall message, I think your point is fair about the information being right there for anyone who can read to take. It isn’t as if the top right text simply says “George Washington” and the incorrect answer would have been helped by just a smattering of vague general knowledge; it does indeed seem to say something like “George Washington was the first president of the United States”.
        In fairness to you, I will (attempt) to make the same point on Doug’s blog as well. 🙂

        Like

  5. Pat Stone says:

    Well done Sherlock.
    My suspicious something-dodgy-is-going-on-here antennae went into overdrive when I saw the information in the top picture had been cut off, sort of, why? and the bottom picture has ReadWorks in the top left corner. I also know that Getty Images put their logo on their photos, not underneath where anyone could crop it out. They are not daft! Yes I have that knowledge. I am not 6. (ReadWorks starts at kindergarten which is UK year 1, 5-6 year olds.)
    The whole thing looks to me like a piece of work – not a test, necessarily, but a worksheet – for Presidents Day, 22 Feb. The dates mentioned in other comments, of it going online, confirm this.
    It looks to me that the child is young, as you say, and is not yet a fluent reader. But the child does seem to know that words under a picture are usually a title, or a name if it’s a picture of a person, and being unable to read well, has copied what they thought was the name. Don’t lots of little kids know a lot about names under pictures? They get their own names put under or near their own pictures – one of their first meaningful experiences of print at school.
    I could speculate about how the child knew the question if they can’t read well enough to find the answer. Someone could have come to help by reading the question and then gone away to let him find the answer. He might have limited experience of text that is in different areas of the page. Or other scenarios. Who knows?
    The class could have, on Presidents Day, been discussing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – another biggie in USA civics. There might be something on the wall that makes a child think that when he sees ‘Getty’ it has something to do with Presidents. The child might have picked up the capital G for George. Who knows?
    I think it is cynical to assume that a child of 6 in USA thinks the first president was called Getty Images because he knows no better. It’s appalling. I’m going to ask a US friend from Facebook who has a 6 year old to tell me what she thinks.
    I think it’s cynical to give a little kid a piece of work that is supposed to ask him to find information in text (the cut off bit) but then throw in the deliberate booby trap under the picture.
    I think it is cynical to use work from a child who has been given free resources to work with – ReadWorks is free – to prove an ideological point by one of the charity’s advisors who makes money from writing books about this sort of thing. It’s like something from Victorian times when charity children could be used for any old thing because they had nobody watching over them.
    If Doug Lemov wants to prove his ideological point that knowledge has more power than or must come before anything else, let him not do it with other people’s 6 year olds.
    It stinks. It’s indefensible and should be taken down.
    Let Mr Lemov put his own kids up to be examined by the WWW.

    Like

    • chrismwparsons says:

      Ok, reading your comment, my suspicious ‘Conspiracy Theory taking hold’ antennae went into overdrive. Then later, my “decided I’m going to be outraged rather than balanced after all” antennae also kicked in.

      Firstly, are you saying that ReadWorks deliberately created a misleading worksheet to trick unsuspecting readers…? Or… were they just doing the required ‘copyright thing’ when designing their worksheets in an admittedly clumsy way?

      Secondly, isn”t it just possible that the child did the standard thing of reading the questions first before seeking the answers randomly in the text, rather than reading the text through and THEN looking at the answers? As you say, they appeared to be able to read the question. If you want to assume that it was read directly to them by someone, then it really begs the question as to why that person didn’t even give them a clue as to the massive flaw in their answer if, as you say, it was just a worksheet rather than a test.

      Finally, as to the triple accusations of cynicism, yes it was opportunistic of Doug to use it publicly (as originally publicised by someone else on the internet) to make a point which it doesn’t really make. But let’s not overblow the conspiracy or our apoplectic response to it.

      Ok, I know the traditional ‘trad’ would do the same on the other foot, but I don’t want to plough that furrow!

      Like

  6. debrakidd says:

    Many grade one pupils would struggle to read the words president and George, perhaps also Washington. They may be able to decode some or even all of the words “president’ and “washington” as at least they are phonetically plausible for a 5 year old, but they’d need to know a) what a president was, b) that George is a first name and Washington is not just a city but can also be the name of a person. If this is a comprehension task then it is not helpful for children to know the answer in advance so to have been taught the name of the first president would make the purpose of comprehending the accompanying text redundant. Also if the purpose was to find the answer in the text provided then Getty Images is a plausible answer given that children are often taught to look for names/descriptions of images in the text directly beneath and that both words start with capitals and this might make a child think they indicated a name. There’s a design flaw in the caption. If it’s a factual recall task then the answer shouldn’t be written on the paper in the first place. So what is it? A very poorly designed worksheet. The fact that it has come from a commercial organisation makes it doubly poor. To be ridiculing the capability of a small child rather than the author of this awful worksheet is pretty crass. What Doug Lemov should have written about is the importance of properly considering purpose and identifying possible misconceptions when designing learning materials.

    Liked by 3 people

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