I’m sure you’ve heard about Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to give away $4.5 million to Facebook users who share a “thank you” message, right? Or, maybe you read about Facebook’s plan to start charging a monthly fee for using their social network. Did you know you can post a legal notice on your Facebook wall that protects your copyright and privacy rights?
Last year, Pope Francis famously said that belief in God is not necessary to be a good person. Donald Trump claimed in a 1998 interview that Republicans are the “dumbest group of voters.”
Meanwhile, NASA confirmed last year that the earth will experience 15 straight days of total darkness. Those terrorists posing in UPS uniforms will likely have a field day. Fortunately, we can simply enter our pins backwards into any ATM to immediately summon law enforcement.
When we first encounter these hoaxes, we are amused that so many people fall for them. The novelty quickly wears off, and we reach the point where we just paste the Snopes link or a news article debunking the myth without comment and move on. Eventually, we stop responding altogether and start ignoring the people who post this tripe.
But consider these gems, which you’ve also heard widely circulated as undisputed fact:
We tend to remember 10% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 75% of what we do, and 90% of what we teach.
People have different learning styles. Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners benefit from instruction that is tuned to their individual learning styles.
Today’s students are digital natives, born into a hyper-connected world of information abundance. Their brains work differently from those of the “digital immigrants” that make up their parents and teachers. They need an education system that takes advantage of technology and social networks.
There isn’t any proof that any of these statements are any more true than the outrageous ones about Facebook and terrorism. But they sound credible. They explain things we have observed. We want to believe them. So we base our instructional decisions on them, and will ourselves into applying them, without spending too much time worrying about how accurate they are.
But then along comes someone like Pedro De Bruyckere. Challenged by a student teacher who asked for a source, he started investigating the origin of the learning pyramid. It was invented by Edgar Dale in 1946, and later adopted by the National Training Laboratories. But it was a fabrication from the beginning.
The learning styles theory has also been challenged on a number of fronts. Psychology Professor Daniel T. Willingham offers this explanation of the research behind learning styles:
Prensky’s Digital Native argument, of course, was debunked long ago. Even he has distanced himself from it, though the argument could be made that his initial paper was taken out of context. Ultimately, there is no evidence that today’s youth is wired any differently from their parents. There may be differences in the ways in which people interact with technology, but those differences are not necessarily generational, and they’re certainly not biological.
As educators in the age of information abundance, we have to be just as skeptical as we want our students (and parents) to be when they’re interacting online. We need to do a better job of challenging theories, citing research, and backing up our beliefs. We know more than we’ve ever known before. We have a better understanding about how the world, and the brain, and our society works than any previous generation. We should be applying those lessons to provide the best learning environment for our students that we can.
Let’s keep the urban legends out of the schoolhouse and leave them on Facebook where they belong.