August 2012 Archives

I recently read the book unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, in preparation for an eXtension webinar I am co-teaching on assessing the reliability of online information. This book does a nice job presenting various spin tactics used by advertisers, media, and politicians to tell their stories. Librarians aid in developing students critical thinking skills. This could be a nice textbook for an information literacy course, writing course, or communications course. Here are a few spin tactics used include:
• Deception: False or misleading claims 
• FUD factor: fear, uncertainty, doubt (Example: Pop-up virus warning windows to buy a product.) 
• A story too good to be true usually is. 
• The Dangling Comparative: larger, better, faster 
 • The Superlative Swindle: smallest, highest
 • The Blame Game 
• The Glittering Generalities 

The authors proceed to outline nine rules to detecting spin. Personally, I liked tips four and eight the most: cross -check primary sources and check everything that matters. These steps could be used in developing rich instruction around visual literacy and critical thinking. Another text that would tie nicely and goes into more in-depth discussions is Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from Media, Politicians, and Activists by Joel Best.

Help me not buy a textbook!

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I have already gotten 2 textbook questions this week so Stephen Bell's blog post seemed timely...especially considering the CEHD Open Textbook project (

"Alternate textbooks can mix resources from existing textbooks, licensed library collections, primary research content, open textbooks, multimedia or faculty's self-authored material. What the final product looks like and how it is used is entirely up to the individual faculty member, but librarians are available to help with identifying and organizing resources."

My Questions: 
Do any subject librarians pitch this message to faculty? What timing would be most beneficial? What would the process look like if we were really a partner in trying to create an entire semester of "alternatives"? Should we create a page to highlight this as a formal service? What is the relationship with Course Reserves? 

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