Posts Tagged ‘UCONN’

The Post – The Rare Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, Part II

February 6, 2011

The site that started it all is:

and includes these “photos.”

The Wikipedia entry for Pacific Northwest tree octopus,, adds that the site was set up in 1998 by Lyle Zapato. Even though he included a number of falsehoods on the site, such as “its affiliation with People for the Ethical Treatment of Pumpkins (P.E.T.PU.)” most students who read the site believed it.

Two sources were listed at the Wikipedia entry that give the actual research study information should you want to read those studies:

  1. ^ Beth Krane (November 13, 2006). “Researchers find kids need better online academic skills”. UComm Advance (University of Connecticut) 25 (12). Retrieved 2008-01-11. “Don Leu, Chair in Literacy and Technology at UConn, “… anyone can publish anything on the Internet, and today’s students are not prepared to critically evaluate the information they find there.””.
  2. ^ Matthew Bettelheim (March 14, 2007). “Tentacled Tree Hugger Disarms Seventh Graders”. Inkling. “Of the 25 seventh-graders identified as their schools’ best online readers, 24 recommended this bogus website to another class that Leu had told them was also researching endangered species.”.

Given this, even though the site was not intended for use as such, it is often used in Internet Literacy classes. Internet Literacy, as defined by the American Library Association and quoted on on Wikipedia’s entry for this, is: “To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”

The article at Wikipedia goes to note that Terry Pratchett even referred to the tree octopus in his novel, Nation:

“The concept of “nation” can be extended to embrace all of humanity, anchoring Nation in the philosophy of humanism as an answer to the question of “what is the role of the individual in society?” As with the Tiffany Aching series, Nation contains an undercurrent of passive faith transforming into active scientific enquiry, without losing moral dimensions in the process. Pratchett reinforces this theme with an offhand reference to outspoken atheist and humanist Richard Dawkins as “that nice Professor Dawkins” who was bitten by a tree-climbing octopus).”

Anyways, just a really entertaining and interesting example……

The Post – Save the Rare Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, Part I

February 6, 2011

There is a great interview with UCONN professor Donald Leu, who participated in a study of online internet reading skills. He sent his students to a website for saving the “Rare Pacific Tree Octopus” and many of them believed it was the truth, even after he told them the whole thing was bogus.

When asked if he felt the current day’s students were less knowledgeable and more gullible than previous generations, he discounted that idea, instead noting that they’re actually brighter and more aware. The real need  is to teach strategies for evaluating websites and showing healthy skeptimism in the face of online information. One must validate with several sources and also question the origin of the source of information…ie a biased source such as medical information provided by pharmaceutical companies only, etc.

He further pointed out that it isn’t just young students not checking their sources. In fact many adults don’t bother to question the sources and information they look up on the web.

To see “pictures of the rare Pacific Tree Octopus” and to hear the interview, visit: