Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Commentaries On Sci-Hub, The Tool Providing Access to 50 Million Academic Papers For Free

This post’s first title was “It’s Now Possible To Access 47 Million Academic Papers For Free, But Should We?”

I have since turned it into a Best list on the topic.


Anybody who is outside of universities and colleges in the Western world, and who has attempted to do academic research, knows about how expensive it is to gain access to many studies. Though there is an on-going effort by many researchers to make their work freely available, the lure of publication in prestigious journals is very tempting and often necessary for career enhancement.

Now, a Kazakhstan researcher – with allies from around the world – has devised a method that allows anybody to gain access to pretty much any published research paper – for free. Later in this post I’ll be sharing links to articles that explain how it works in more detail, but my understanding is that allies in institutions that do subscribe to these journals have shared log-in credentials. Once you copy and paste the url address to the paywalled paper into the “pirate” site, it automatically searches and mixes-and-matches until it gains access.

It seems unbelievable, but does appear to be extremely easy to use and works within minutes.

But it does raise obvious ethical and legal questions:

Yes, the publishers act like bandits, but how ethical is to get research for free – through subterfuge -that is being sold  (even though the people who wrote the study receive none of the the money – at least according to the articles written about this issue)?

When the movie industry began trying to shut-down pirate film sites, they were able to identify some who downloaded copies and prosecuted them. Is that a possibility here, or is the technology completely different?

Since these papers are about science, do ethical questions around pirated movies, books, and music not apply?

Are my questions reflective of a First World Problem mentality?

I’m raising these questions not only for me, but because I plan to discuss this site and these questions in my IB Theory of Knowledge class as we examine ethics….

Let me know what you think…

Here are articles about the site:

The website that offered 47 million pirated academic papers is back is from Quartz, and shares the new url address of the site.

The Research Pirates of the Dark Web is from The Atlantic.

Meet the Robin Hood of Science is from Big Think.

Why one woman stole 47 million academic papers — and made them all free to read is from Vox.

Expensive Journals Drive Academics To Break Copyright Law is from NPR.

Should All Research Papers Be Free? is from The NY Times.

February 8, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Disappointing New TED-Ed Video & Lesson On Henrietta Lacks

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of TED-Ed videos and lessons – if you search this blog, you’ll find 145 posts sharing them.

For any organization with such a prodigious output, there are going to be some hits and misses, but TED-Ed has maintained a very high standard.

Which is why I was very surprised and disappointed at their newest video and lesson on “The immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks.”

You probably are somewhat familiar with the story of the young African-American woman whose cells were taken from her (without her knowledge) and are now used around the world for medical research and which have generated huge profits for drug companies. Shockingly, the video only spends seconds on these issues and the lesson itself only briefly touches on those ethical and racial issues.

Check the video and lesson out and let me know if you think I’m over-reacting. Below the video, you can find additional resources on the issue that can be used to help students learn more…

Henrietta Lacks’s cells were priceless, but her family can’t afford a hospital is from The Guardian.

Ethical Justice, But No Financial Rewards, For The Henrietta Lacks Family is from Forbes.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Sequel is from The New York Times.

Henrietta Lacks: the mother of modern medicine is from The Guardian.

February 6, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Five Videos Demonstrating The McGurk Effect


The McGurk Effect demonstrates how we can “hear with our eyes.”

It’s perfect when teaching Perception in IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

Here are some articles and videos talking about it – you can never have too many videos because of District Internet content filtering:

This simple illusion shows that you can literally hear with your eyes is from The Washington Post.

When Your Eyes Hear Better Than Your Ears: The McGurk Effect is from Slate.

February 4, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Videos On Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments – Not Blocked By YouTube Safety Mode


I’m beginning to teach about the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

I’ve always has a rich collection of related resources at our class blog, but many of the videos are blocked by YouTube’s Safety Mode (see The Best Ways To Deal With YouTube’s Awful Safety Mode) and, before I took the time to download the videos and upload them again to the blog, I decided take a few minutes to see if there were some equally good ones that were not blocked.

Here’s what I found:

The Milgram Experiment from Johannes Jørgensen on Vimeo.

Disclose TV Video on Milgram experiment

Stanford Prison Experiment Overview (13 min) from Ryan Beck on Vimeo.

Stanford Prison Experiment-Zimbardo from Sansa Morse on Vimeo.

Stanford Prison Experiment Video

January 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New ELL History “What If?” Projects


I’ve often blogged about our What If? History projects (see The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons).

As I do every year, my IB Theory of Knowledge students first create ones, and then I make arrangements for them to come to my English Language Learner history classes for one or two periods to help them create their own.

Here’s the research planning form my students use, and here’s the outline they use for their PowerPoint presentations.

Here are a few simple presentations my ELL students created:

What Would Have Happened If The Aztecs Had Killed The Spanish?

What If Columbus Didn’t “Discover” America?

What If Genghis Khan Didn’t Unite The Mongols?

What if Muhammad Did Not Experience A Revelation?

You can see many other examples of presentations created by both my ELL and TOK students at the previously-mentioned “Best” list…

January 17, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Four Intriguing Perspectives On History


Over the past two months, I’ve seen a few tweets that have provided an interesting perspective on history. I thought it would be useful to collect them in one place and perhaps use them in my Theory of Knowledge or Social Studies classes (the first one refers to the second):

This next one was in response to the last tweet:

January 17, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s A Nice Lesson I Did On Ethics In My Theory Of Knowledge Class


This past week, I did a lesson on ethics that I do every year with my IB Theory of Knowledge students. It went very well, and I thought readers might find it useful to hear what I did.

I borrowed and modified it from the IB Theory of Knowledge Course Book. Though we don’t use that textbook with students, I use some of the ideas in it for lessons.

I introduced students to the idea that there five primary sources from where we derive our personal morality:

1. Human Nature
2. Religion
3. Observation & Reason
4. Emotional Empathy
5. Social & Political

I actually had not heard of this list prior to reading the textbook but, after looking it up, it appears to be relatively common (though I can’t find an original source and would love it if readers could identify one).

I then divide students into five groups and assign one of the sources of morality to each one. They have a class period-and-a-half to work together and research online their “source” and each prepare a poster and two-to-three minutes presentation on it. How they research is up to them – they can divide up parts of it and work on their own. Most divided up parts. The one-page listing in the textbook provides examples for each of the five, and those are very helpful (for example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for human nature and the UN Declaration of Human Rights for social and political). If you do this lesson, I’d suggest you either get the book or identify your own examples for students to use (you can find additional info online that might be useful here, here, and here).

After spending one period researching the info in the library, students had twenty minutes to meet in their groups and create a poster – each student in their group had to create their own, but it was okay if they all looked the same. I gave students in each group a letter, and then the A’s from each group got together, as did the B’s, etc., to meet and present to each other — in other words, it was a “jigsaw.” I told people to listen carefully because the culminating project would be for them to write an explanation using the info they learned saying what they believe are the sources of their own personal morality and why. Oddly, I thought, the textbook has students doing this prior to their investigations.

It all went quite well with a high-level of engagement.

Here are some of the evaluative comments students wrote:

I found it really interesting because I never looked at my morality from all those perspectives. I didn’t realize that there were as many ways to describe and identify our morality.

This morality project helped me understand the people around us and ourselves better.

I learned a little about myself. This enabled me to reflect upon myself and see how I reason with myself.

It was useful because I did not recognize or think about most of these sources.

I really liked learning about the sources of morality because I had never thought about my morals coming from anywhere other than my parents/family.

I liked this activity because it was individual and group work.

Any suggestions on how to improve it and/or where I can find more examples demonstrating each of those five sources of morality — even the textbook doesn’t offer enough of them (in my opinion, at least).

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