Did you know that:
Tree octopuses have eyesight comparable to humans. Besides allowing them to see their prey and environment, it helps them in inter-octopus relations. Although they are not social animals like us, they display to one-another their emotions through their ability to change the color of their skin: red indicates anger, white fear, while they normally maintain a mottled brown tone to blend in with the background.
I read it on the Internet, so it must be true!
Really, it's important to be a skeptical consumer of information, especially given the fluidity of the Internet. Kids need to learn that not everything that they read on the Internet -- or through other media -- is true. And so this website was used as part of an experiment that examined the critical thinking skills of seventh graders:
Pearson's release explained that the Department of Education funded the study and that it was administered by Dr. Donald Leu, a former teacher and "national authority on integrating technology into instruction." Leu's study highlighted fallacious reports on the fate of the "tree octopus" -- an allegedly endangered species roaming the treetops of the Pacific Northwest -- as a key illustration of this baleful trend.
Researchers on Leu's team asked a group of students to hunt down information on the critter, which of course does not exist. But the same researchers pulled a bit of trickery on the students -- they directed them to a website dedicated to saving the mythical tree octopus from extinction. And presto: the kids taking part in the study fell for the hoax and even continued to believe in the tree octopus after the study's leaders explained that there was no such thing.
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