“If it’s on the internet, it must be true!”
OK, so it’s a ridiculous statement. But I guarantee that students think like this! Even my 10 year-old daughter gets caught up in this when her friends pass on email chain letters promising great fortunes. (By the way, I monitor her email using epals.com… that’s right, no privacy in my household!)
Students have a tough time discerning the validity of a website. Even for many adults this can be a real challenge!
I have created this lesson (Revised-Expand Your Horizons) to demonstrate for students that you can’t always believe everything you read. In short, students will form groups with each group investigating one of the following fake/hoax websites:
Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (save the endangered tree octopus)
Dog Island (send your dog away to eternal bliss to roam free and natural on this paradise island)
Republic of Cascadia. (a new republic in the Northwest Terrirtory)
Music Faun Ear Enhancement (modern plastic surgery to enhance enjoyment of music)
DHMO.org (research page for Dihydrogen Monoxide, better known as water)
The groups will research each of the sites using the sheet as a guide. They will then present their findings to the class, followed by a Q & A. What a bluff! Students fall for this all the time. It’s up to you when to let the cat out of the bag and discuss how to evaluate their findings. You might want to refer to Teaching Zack to Think, an article by Alan November. It’s an outdated article (1998) but has some great methods for evaluating websites for validity!
A few more fake/hoax sites to come soon!