Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oh Look, Another Example of Poor Critical Thinking Skills

The whole creationism/intelligent design thing really pisses me off.  If you wanna believe it, go ahead.  But do not, DO NOT, try to get this stuff passed off as science.  Anyone who has any ability to distinguish between bunk and relevant resources should know better.

One of Ken Ham's buddies will be in Minnesota promoting falsehoods today

Thanks to PZ Myers for the info on this topic. 

An Example of Poor Critical Thinking Skills

Human beings see patterns-even when they don't exist.  It's an evolved trait that has helped us survive.  However, it does have its bad side.  Without basic critical thinking skills and information literacy, the human mind can warp itself into a slobbering conspiracy theory loving mess.  On a personal level, I've seen this happen with my biological father and one of my older brothers  (the world is ending every few years and the government is watching everybody).  On a national level, we can see this in people like Glenn Beck

See, this is why I promote teaching critical thinking skills and info lit.  This is why I studied to be a librarian.  I wish more conservatives and Republicans would stand up and denounce this jerk.  He's doing nothing but harm to their reputations at this point.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to bang my head against my desk and throw back a few tylenol.  grrrr....argh....ugh

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Critical Thinking and Video Games???

I would have loved any teacher that assigned a game for homework or as an in-class test. 

I’ve been involved in one form of gaming or another since I got a Nintendo and a Sega back in the eighties and computer games since I got my first computer back around 1993.  I didn’t have internet until a few years later (dial-up).  I’ve played all sorts of games but always find myself coming back to the puzzle and hidden object games.  Games that involve some level of problem solving ability or pattern recognition but that are still simple enough to complete in a short amount of time. 

Old school gamers might remember two of my favorites:  the original Quest for Glory and King’s Quest series.  Those were some awesome games.  I still think they’re neat games, even with the terrible graphics (by today’s standards).  Those type of games involved problem solving and puzzles.  You were sent on all sorts of minor quests in order to complete the main objective of the games.  Today, I play puzzle games and hidden object games for fun.  I usually download those from PopCap and BigFish Games online.  I also play games like Harvest Moon on the Wii.  I know that seems silly in some respects.  However, these games do involve the ability to figure out patterns and solve puzzles and riddles.  If they’re difficult enough, this forces the gamer to use at least a basic level of critical thinking skills.  Of course, I do love a nice “shoot’em up” game from time to time (one word-zombies).

See, games are a good thing.  I should see if I can find something to back this up. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Fallacy Introduction

I found this nice website listing and reviewing logical fallacies.  It hasn’t been updated since 2001, but it still has relevant info.  It gave me an idea for my logic postings.  Because many people learn best by figuring out what NOT to do or at least by recognizing faults in reasoning, I think it’s best to focus on fallacies while doing my logic posts.  I already know several from teaching composition courses, but I’ve also encountered some on this list I don’t know.  Every Friday (starting next week) I’ll post a fallacy with a definition and some links.  It’ll kind of be a mini-tutorial.  I may also add some worksheets or exercise ideas.  If I get crazy, maybe I’ll make a PowerPoint.

Here are two more links on fallacies:

And so, Friday Fallacy is born.    

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Critical Thinking Exercises: The Gossip Series 1 & 2

Wonderful new idea for critical thinking exercises.  This is the start of the gossip series.  These are very general exercises that can be tailored to suit course needs and requirements.  I would encourage class discussion of these exercises.  Papers may also encourage individual reflection but aren't exactly necessary.  I'm also promoting the use of a critical thinking and information literacy journal.  Such a journal could be kept by students during the semester and used for discussion sessions.  It's also a great way to get students more aware of their skills and where they need improvement. 

Critical Thinking Exercises:  Gossip Series 1 & 2
When it comes to critical thinking, everything is fair game.  Gossip may seem like a simple and inconsequential activity in several cases, but it is a great place to practice critical thinking skills.  It’s also a great time to start working on critical thinking because gossip is so easy to break down.  In the following exercises we’re not necessarily looking for answers.  We’re looking for questions and patterns of thinking.

Exercise #1
Find two entertainment stories.  These will ideally be short articles pertaining to persons in the film or music industries.  One should focus on a person you admire or at least like on some level.  The other should focus on a person you cannot stand.  Summarize both articles (one paragraph per piece). 

Next, go through the articles line by line.  Write down any questions or thoughts that come to mind as you read (no matter how sappy or snarky) in a journal entry.  I will not be looking at these entries for substance.  I just want to know you got your thoughts down on paper. 

Write a brief paper discussing the following:  What kinds of questions did you ask for each article?  Did the questions and thoughts you had vary from article to article?  Did you find yourself agreeing with one article more than the other?  Which one?  Do you know why?  Provide some examples from your journal entry.

Exercise # 2
The next time you hear gossip at home, work, etc. write it down in your journal when you have a chance.  Summarize what you heard without using real names or identifying information.  When you were listening to the story, did you think of any questions or ask any out loud?  Did you think something you didn’t share with the gossiper?  Did you participate in the gossip?  Why or why not?

After you’ve written everything down, review over the event a few times.  Write down any new questions that come to mind?  Do you trust the story?  Why or why not?  Does it matter if you trust the gossiper?  Can you see your opinion of the story changing based on your feelings toward the gossiper or your feelings toward the subject of the story?  Why or why not?  How does this influence your view of fact versus opinion?  How could you go about finding out whether or not the gossip is true?

Write a short paper detailing your experiences. 

I need to give credit to my fabulous Mother for inspiring the gossip series.  She uses her critical thinking skills to shred gossipers.  Seriously, it always ends in metaphorical blood and guts.  She does beautiful work.

Comments and Post Update

I’ve been informed of a problem in the comments.  Some people are having trouble posting even though I’ve allowed anonymous comments.  It has something to do with BlogSpot, and other people have complained.  Some people are having no luck commenting unless they have Google accounts or change their web browser.  And some people aren’t having any luck at all posting comments.  If you do want to contact me about a post or to provide feedback, just email me.  You can find my email on my profile page (link on the left).

I have managed to get an email from another LIS person regarding my last critical thinking and information literacy worksheet/chart posting.  I’ll post her comment as an edit to the post. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm still Here!

I know I haven’t posted in a little while.  The non internet world caught up with me.  It involved all sorts of crazy, including running and injury and minor illness and more running and the near screaming smack down of one of the in-laws.  Really, it’s been a hell of a week.

I was able to write up several posts while waiting in the doctor’s office, so they should be up as soon as I get them typed.  The only thing from my to-do list not ready is the first summary series.  However, I will be starting Friday Fallacy this week and posting some critical thinking exercises. 

In the meantime here’s a post from PZ explaining why muscles hurt after exercise.  Really, it’s relevant to my recent lack of internetting.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day!

So, I haven’t finished On the Origin of Species.  I’ve only finished the introduction and first chapter.  I know, I’m a lazy lazy monkey.  But the bone chilling cold and non-stop snow this past week give me an excuse.  I kind of hibernated when I wasn’t being blinded by all the shiny light-reflecting snow.  It gave me a headache.  I want spring!  Now!

Ok.  I’ve given my lame excuses and whined a bit.  On to the post.

I’m reading the Penguin Classics version of the book published in 2009 and edited by William Bynum.  It’s a good edition so far.  The intro had lots of neat information. 

Chapter I is titled “Variation under Domestication” and is a nice way of easing readers into Darwin’s findings.  Instead of thwacking his readers over the head with something new and, at the time, potentially shattering, Darwin starts with something many of his readers will be familiar with – Domestic animals and their various forms.  This chapter sets up the rest of the book nicely and gave me lots of great “I’m gonna pause here and look this up” research moments.  For fun I’m including some of these moments and links to relevant information for each:

Esculent:  I had to look this word up.  It’s amazing how many words exist in the English language.  I’ll be learning new ones until the day I die. 

Pigeon Breeding:  Darwin was a pigeon fancier and used the little buggers as examples throughout much of the first chapter, along with other animals and plants.

Doggies:  Darwin brings up dog breeds and his take on their possible ancestry.  I decided to look up information on the evolution of dogs.  This became a family project which involved my Hubby and me taking turns reading information out loud and pondering doggie nature ( has a humorous article about this) and human-dog interactions over thousands of years.  The corgi-pup also participated.  Mainly by looking at us like we were crazy and insisting that dogs only became “domesticated” because they felt sorry for humans and thought we’d make nice pets. 

Breed standards:  Darwin mentions breed standards while discussing inheritance and variation.  I have a Bengal Cat and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, so I decided to do a little more digging on breed standards for these two.

Thoughts on the ancients:  “The pear, though cultivated in classical times, appears, from Pliny’s description, to have been a fruit of very inferior quality.  I have seen great surprise expressed in horticultural works at the wonderful skill of gardeners, in having produced such splendid results from such poor materials; but the art, I cannot doubt, has been simple, and as far as the final result is concerned, has been followed almost unconsciously.  It has consisted in always cultivating the best known variety, sowing its seeds, and when a slightly better variety has chanced to appear, selecting it, and so onwards.  But the gardeners of the classical period, who cultivated the best pear they could procure, never thought what splendid fruit we should eat; though we owe our excellent fruit, in some small degree, to their having naturally chosen and preserved the best varieties they could anywhere find” (42-3).  I never thought about the taste of fruit over the centuries.  Neat!  Another reason living in the present is better than living in the past.  It always bothers me when people paint the past with a utopian brush.  Things have mostly proceeded to get better over the last few thousand years of civilization, not worse.  Even a simple thing like a pear demonstrates this.  Yummy.  Now I want pears.

Final thoughts:  Variation occurs in large enough populations.  This is easily seen in large herds and gardens.  Some variations may be selected for by breeders as being beneficial or better fitting of breed standards or improving breed standards.  These selections can also be made on an unconscious level for various reasons.  Over generations an accumulation of selected variations can create a new breed.  It seems pretty simple when you think about it.

Obligatory Evolution Links:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Library Humor

If you’ve ever worked at or frequented a public library overrun by loud teenagers, you’ll appreciate this comic.

And this has got to be one of my all time favorite clips. 

A little Friday humor.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Information Literacy - Resource Ranking Chart

OK.  Here it is.  I finally finalized (sort of, kind of, maybe) that resource ranking chart I mentioned last week.  I'm posting it via Google documents.  You can find it here in PDF.  You can download or print the document from there.  It might be a useful tool when dealing with resource selection in information literacy courses or in any course requiring research. 

I would really like some feedback on this since I know I have at least one librarian reading this (I'm looking at you C).  I waffled between four and five ranking sections before finally settling on four.  However, there's lots of room for flexibility and movement in this chart.  The rankings can break down by decimal if necessary. 

Making a general chart for this sort of thing is more difficult than I originally thought.  I think modifying the chart to be subject specific would take away some of the ambiguity.  However, any little bit of guidance I can create to help students or other curious people is still a good day's work in my book.  Unless, I've managed to confuse them more.

EDIT:  I'm posting a comment from C below.  She was able to email me the comment, but couldn't get anything to post in the comment section.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Future Blog Posts

After 7pm central time, I am taking a weekend break from the internet.  I’m betting I’ll last about five hours before I’m crawling on my hands and knees asking the interwebs to please take me back. 

Before I take my break, I thought it’d be a good idea to post a to-do list to motivate me for the next couple of weeks.  I have readers (according to my stats page), and if I don’t deliver on my promised posts, I’m sure you’ll be very disappointed. 

Here’s what I’m working on now for future posts:

2)     Summary Series:  I think it might be cool to read and summarize some scholarly articles available in the library science journals.  I’ll focus mainly on information literacy and critical thinking but may summarize whatever other articles tickle my fancy.  This is my way of keeping current in the literature and doing a kind of literature review.

Is that enough for now?

Have a great weekend.

Blood Donation at Red Cross

I donated blood today!  I made an appointment online at the Red Cross and spent about an hour getting questioned, tested, signed up, and poked with pointy objects.  I should receive a donor card in a month or two (that’ll make the process faster), and I plan on donating every two to three months from now on.  I really should have started something like this sooner.  I’m just so used to donating money that I never think about other forms of donation (I think that makes me lazy).  However, with the Hubby the only one employed at the moment, I needed to find another way support my favorite organizations.  Donating blood was the best way I could think of doing that.  And, like the nurse at the facility said, blood is priceless. 

I feel a little woozy and was cold for a couple hours.  I’m just tired right now, but I feel wonderful that I was able to do something helpful.  And I got a neat red bandage. 

Everyone who is able should donate.  You don't have to wait for a blood drive.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ken Ham and Kentucky

I hate Ken Ham.  I'm not going to be nice or PC about this.  The man is a disaster for the world and for the state of Kentucky.  He and his creation museum and ark theme park make me fear for my state and, more importantly, my job search. 

I have this horrible nightmare that all my applications will be thrown in the trash when the hiring managers and committees see I'm from Kentucky.  The state's current associations make me cringe.

PZ Myers (yes, I get many posting topics from him) posts about Ken Ham's "teaching" style.  Ham is very good at not teaching critical thinking skills.  The video is terrifying.

Lapsing Academia and Woo

PZ Myers posted about bouts of failure in the academic world.  I know that universities and other institutes of higher learning require money to function.  Doesn't everything?  But this selling out to homeopathy and other woo is rather ridiculous. 

My dream job is in an academic library.  I just hope I don't end up at a university that promotes learning through osmosis or astral travel.