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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.

Spacewriter
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!

sts60
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.

Candy
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)


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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.