Misinformation travels like a virus, says a Red Deer science teacher who has enlisted his dogs to help set the record straight about COVID-19.
Jason Zackowski, a teacher at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, recently released videos online, featuring his two dogs Bunsen and Beaker, to combat some “misconceptions and myths” on the internet about the virus.
“Science teachers are always telling kids that there’s a big difference between a meme on Facebook and … the consensus of scientists. There’s good information and there’s bad information,” said Zackowski.
With students in Grades 7-12 learning from home until Jan. 11, Zackowski had the idea of filming videos to teach students about misconceptions surrounding the virus. He ran the idea by the school’s principal and then began filming.
“I didn’t have much of a budget and I didn’t have to much time. I conscripted my dogs to help,” he said.
After the videos were put together, he decided to post them online – one of the videos has 25,000 views on Twitter alone, said Zackowski.
— Bunsen and Beaker (@bunsenbernerbmd) December 15, 2020
The videos are posted on a Twitter page made for Bunsen and Beaker – Zackowski describes the dogs as “science communicators.”
“They’ve been really communicating about COVID-19 in language that everyone can understand,” he said.
“People just seem to be way more understanding and open to the information that comes from dogs as opposed to maybe a human. That’s why I got them in the video – people are drawn to animals and if animals have a science message then that’s great.”
The Twitter page (@bunsenbernerbmd) was started a couple of years ago, with Bunsen being the sole face. It saw slow growth initially, before it “exploded” in popularity the past year-and-a-half, said Zackowski. Earlier this year, Zackowski and his family got Beaker as a “COVID puppy.” The two dogs then became the faces of the Twitter page, which has more than 75,000 followers.
Misinformation can be dangerous, Zackowski added.
“Without fact-checking you can say literally anything, especially on Facebook. Facebook has been really slow to clamp down on misinformation,” he said.
“There was one person who was augmented on Facebook saying people have died during the vaccine trials … and it’s going to change your DNA and it’s going to give you bat DNA. The further you go down the rabbit hole, the crazier the conspiracy becomes.
“With Bunsen and Beaker, I’m using the power of their cuteness to spread information against that.”