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  • Writer's pictureJane Powel

JBOP: MISINFORMATION

Jane’s Brain on Pedagogy - Understanding the black box, aka, the brain.


In this series I discuss various pedagogical perspectives and what makes the OmniLearn model so effective. Humans are social animals and our brains are hard-wired for learning. Multi-sensory learning across disciplines is more than a pleasant experience. It leads to the formation of long-term memories and fosters new questions. But the greatest outcome of all of this experimentation and social interaction is becoming a self-motivated, life-long learner whose cognitive and affective skills are well-honed!  


If there is one thing I absolutely CANNOT abide, it is misinformation. It is so damaging! And when it comes from teachers it can be incredibly hard to undo.


Raise your hand if you think that half your blood is blue. 

I posed this question to a class not long ago and 100% of the hands went up. As soon as I said “Nope! False!” hands started shooting up and kids were pointing to their veins in their arms saying, “We can SEE it! Look! It’s blue!” I said, “If I'm wearing a green outfit, does that mean my skin is green?” 


Crickets.  


And I said, “Tell me the day that you got a cut and you were spurting blood that came out blue.” I am sure you can guess what the reply was, “It's blue inside the body and once it hits the oxygen in the air it turns red!”


This is all misinformation. Here is the truth. The blood cells in your body are always red. We have all been brought up (teachers included) on diagrams of the circulatory system that use the colors red and blue to symbolize oxygenated and deoxygenated blood as it travels through the body. It's a closed system! All the designers want you to know is that when the blood comes out of the artery, it's oxygenated, so they color it red. Then the blood delivers oxygen to your whole system, and picks up carbon dioxide that you need to exhale. They make the deoxygenated blood blue so you can see it's coming back to the lungs and out of the body, and the process will start again. It's a representation. This is something they made up and they stick to it and you bought it. You can find a million adults who think the same thing. 



When students have been told something repeatedly by their parents or their teachers, it runs deep and you have to constantly battle that misinformation. Common phrases can lead to misinformation being internalized and passed on. We talk about the leaves “changing color” when they don’t really change at all! The green chlorophyll fades away as the leaves stop photosynthesizing and the lack of green reveals other pigments that were there all along. 


So why is this dangerous? Because when you teach science you have to counteract what parents and teachers have been telling students for years. It's in all of the books, everywhere, it's online.


Misinformation is worse than ignorance.

At least with ignorance you can say, “Well, they just don't know anything. I'm going to give them something.” Ignorance is a blankness. But with misinformation the vessel is full. You have to crack the vessel AND undo what was put in there before you can even start to rebuild. And the only way you'll be able to do it is to prove it.


For years I have been preaching to kids the absolute benefit of being a critical thinker. No one can take advantage of you if you can think critically. I know some teachers might be giving lessons on how to find reliable sources on the internet, which is important, but we need to take it further. How can we discern truth from untruth? How can we make the search for truth empowering for students? Of course science is a great platform for that. I keep asking students, “Why do you think that? What is your evidence?” Because that's what we keep telling them: claim, evidence, reasoning. Instead of it being some kind of mantra from the state education department, let's make it part of their lives


What if we only did one trial in our experiment? Can we accept the results as fact? Why not? We can push students to dig deeper and think critically about all things. 


Who wants to be an idiot? Nobody.



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