February 3, 2011

Tree Octopus

So this article -- "'Tree Octopus' Is Latest Evidence the Internet Is Making Kids Dumb, Says Group" -- did two things to me.

First, I was outlining the new ArmorQuest graphic novel when I saw that article and needed an idea for a creature that's not a dragon. We'll see if the "treectopus" makes the final cut, but for now it's in the outline.

Second, I read the article. So, some teachers give some kids an assignment to research a "tree octopus" (what, not sharktopus?). And then they give the kids a fake website with information about a "tree octopus". Seventh grade kids. And then they draw the conclusion that, because the kids did as they were told . . . they're dumb. Hm.

Sure, they pulled it off to make a statement about how kids don't have critical thinking skills. But we already knew that. I don't think the problem is that the kids trusted the website. I think the problem is that the kids trusted the people who gave them the assignment! And the kids are not to be blamed.

Now, the tree octopus website is awesome. If I had extra coin, I would get one of their t-shirts from Cafe Press.

But shame on Pearson for doing such shoddy research. That is assuming, of course, that the research that has been reported is actually legitimate. I can't help thinking that an educator group would never actually do this. That they didn't, knowing if they actually GIVE the children a resource the children will USE it, instead give the children an assignment in which the only resource is not legit but the children must find the resource themselves and then determine the legitimacy of the resource by doing further research.

As such, I think the joke is on the news media reporting it. I think the report about the assignment that was a hoax is, in actuality, a hoax itself. Or I hope so. Because if it's NOT, the people who should be labeled dumb are not the subjects of the research, but the researchers themselves.

But thanks to Yahoo! News for reporting on it, hoax or not, because I got a creature at just the right time . . . and if you read the next ArmorQuest graphic novel and see a tentacled beast attacking unsuspecting travelers from the treetops, you know where the idea came from.

~ Ben

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