View Full Version : The seal of approval

Paul Beardsley
2005-Apr-01, 01:00 PM
I'm doing an essay as part of my adult teacher training course. The essay is about the role of computers in education.

Part of the essay is concerned with the Internet. I've pointed out that you can get accurate and up-to-date information online, but it's difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. To illustrate the point, I thought I'd contrast Bad Astronomy with Godlike Productions. An extreme comparison, I think you'll agree, but a complete newcomer with limited time might not know which one to go for.

So, what purely objective indications are there that BA is the one to go for? I'm thinking in terms of honourable mentions in respected journals, awards and so on.

2005-Apr-01, 03:12 PM
I dunno about awards, but the fact that Phil is a PhD astronomer and walks the walk is a pretty good sign that his site is to be trusted.


and no, I'm not just sucking up... too much...;)

Paul Beardsley
2005-Apr-01, 03:31 PM
I dunno about awards, but the fact that Phil is a PhD astronomer and walks the walk is a pretty good sign that his site is to be trusted.
Oh, I agree absolutely, but what's to stop someone putting together their own website and then claiming to have qualifications? I'm thinking in terms of a 17 year old student who has to write an essay on space exploration, and the first website he stumbles across begins with, "I am Dr Jenkins, an expert in rocketry, computers and radiation. In the 1960s I worked for NASA; I had the job of advising the film crew who faked the lunar landings."

Here's the relevant bit in my essay:

A more serious problem is that, whereas accurate information is readily available on the Internet, it is not easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Anybody with Internet access can create a website; all they need is the ability to use Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) or a web designer such as Elibriumís Web Page Designer Gold. There is no universally-recognised quality control over the information content in any website. This is also true of bulletin boards and discussion groups.

To illustrate the range of quality of websites, I will consider two. www.badastronomy.com is run by Dr. Philip Plait, an astronomer and author who is widely respected in the field. The bulletin board is frequented by a diverse number of people who are interested in astronomy, spaceflight and related matters, including authors, scientists, and engineers. Anyone asking a relevant question can usually expect a friendly and informative reply, often from an expert in the field. Politeness is enforced; members who use abusive language are banned. Speculative discussions that go outside the scientific mainstream are welcomed, but posters who make radical claims are required to back these claims up with evidence.

By contrast,

...And I'm about to do the GLP bit. It will probably be quite short!

2005-Apr-01, 04:50 PM
Part of the problem is that people have to be able to understand some of what is objectively true and what is not. So they have to have some understanding of how the world works.

An example of sorting the wheat from the chaff this way could be considering IDW's claim that heat can't be transferred through space via radiation. This is an error of the most fundamental sort, and can be definitively debunked through non-Internet sources with minimal work (pick up any elementary physics textbook). But IDW is pretty representative of the kind of poster GLP attracts.

Next, consider the examples given by Jay or infocusinc or many others during some of the Apollo hoax threads on BABB. Look at their non-hysterical tone. Look at how they refuted elementary points by walking through their counterexamples, rather than simply denying or making counteraccusations or endlessly repeating "I'm about to expose you for the fraud you are!"

Finally, compare the way boards run by the likes of Aulis or White, who stomp out any discussion but sycophantic agreement, compared to BABB, where many anti-mainstreamers post away simply because they are able to do so civilly and responsively - even though mainstreamers like JSPrinceton can get banned for TOS violations.

2005-Apr-01, 05:12 PM
You may want to emphasize that internet research can be very rewarding if one goes to "trusted" websites. My university (http://www.dpg.devry.edu/campus_info/library/) offers a wide range of online information from databases linked from its main website. 8)

Library Databases

DuPage Library Information


Voyager Catalog
Search the Voyager online catalog for books and audiovisuals in the DuPage DeVry Library and from other DeVry campuses as well.

For help with Voyager , click here: Online Help

netLibrary is a collection of 12,000 electronic books covering technical as well as general subject areas.

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Safari Tech Books Online
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Periodical Databases:

Proquest 5000
ProQuest includes numerous databases offering full text magazines, journals and newspapers in a wide variety of subject areas, including current and social issues, business, accounting and taxation, banking, computer science, telecommunications, education, psychology, and other social sciences. Also included in ProQuest is a newspaper database with the full text of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and other prominent papers.

For detailed information on how to use ProQuest, click here: ProQuest Help

EBSCO host
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First Search
A collection of full-text databases for periodicals and electronic resources. One database, WorldCat, represents the combined online catalogs of thousands of libraries around the world.

For detailed information on how to use this database, click here: FirstSearch Help

IEEE Xplore
IEEE Xplore provides full-text access to IEEE transactions, journals, magazines and conference proceedings published since 1988 plus select content back to 1950, and all current IEEE Standards.

Chicago Tribune
Complete full-text content of local and regional news, including community events, schools, politics, government policies, cultural activities, local companies, state industries, and people in the community. Coverage is from 1985-present.

For detailed information on how to use this Newsbank database, click here: Chicago Tribune Help

Other Databases:

Britannica Online
With even more articles than the 32-volume print set (also in our Library), Britannica Online includes over 200,000 Web links from Britannica articles plus online access to journals and magazines. Also provided is Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary & Thesaurus, and updated world atlas, and thousands of video clips. A Guided Tour is provided on the main page for assistance in using this database.

Faulkner's Advisory on Computer and Communications Technologies is an information resource providing a number of different types of reports, including technology tutorials, marketplace reports, implementation guides, standards, timelines, directories, glossaries, and product, service & company profiles and comparison guides.

For assistance in using FACCTs, click here: FAACTs User Guide

Hoovers Online
Hoover's delivers comprehensive company, industry, and market information for thousands of public and private U.S. companies. Students in Career Development classes find Hoover.s particularly useful in preparing for interviews and learning more about potential employers.

For assistance in using Hoovers, click on the Help button on the first search screen.

A Matter of Fact
The award-winning A Matter of Fact database covers approximately 1000 print and more than 2000 Web sources, including the Congressional Record and the Hansards of the Canadian Parliament. A Matter of Fact contains approximately 150,000 full-text statements presenting statistical evidence on current social, economic, political, environmental, and health issues. Demographics, agriculture, and education also are emphasized.

Tips for searching A Matter of Fact are available on the main search screen.

Paul Beardsley
2005-Apr-01, 05:44 PM
Thanks Candy and sts60.

sts60 - I hadn't made it clear in my essay that it's difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff until one has spent some time on a given website. Without that qualifier, it sounds as if I'm contradicting myself, because it's very obvious which is wheat and which chaff when comparing BA with GLP!

I totally agree with your other points, but again, if a subject is entirely new to you, it can take time to work out which are the worthwhile opinions. If you were studying musical performance, for instance, you might find that the passionate, arrogant and abusive poster actually knows what he's talking about - he's done tough gigs and he knows you don't get a hostile audience on your side by using reasoned arguments! (I don't know if this is true but I'm sure you can see what I mean.)

Candy - thanks for the university link. I have adjusted a line in my essay to read, "An independent catalogue of approved websites would be a useful means of determining which sites offer real learning potential; some universities already provide this."

I've got 1400 words to go. I'll be touching on the untapped educational potential of computer games...

Anyway, thanks again to all the responses. They have helped focus my mind.