Web Site Authenticity

Jun 18, 2005 by

This is a topic that is covered in almost every corner of the online educational world. Schools, ed tech consultants, and teachers have all produced hundreds of web sites, lessons, and activities that lead students through the process of evaluating online resources. The reasoning behind the lessons is simple; the Internet is a free space for individuals or groups to publish whatever they like without the checks and balances of editors, publishing companies, and researchers. It is necessary for students (and ourselves) to have the ability to discern fact from fiction, especially when material from the Internet could and is used for material in countless research papers. However, I’m writing this because it can often be difficult to find websites that have the semblance of authenticity without giving away their blatant “bogus” content. Many educators purposefully choose over the top “joke” sites that are presented in a humorous manner, or have a “gag” that gives away the sites as fake.

I found a few websites that are all fake, but present the information in such a way that it is quite difficult to discern whether the information is fact or fiction (alright, a pregnant man is a giveaway). Included on the sites are all of the usual signs of authenticity that we teach students to look for; copyright information, contact info, opinions and quotes from “experts”, newsletters, and even telephone numbers can be found on the sites. This requires students to break out of the “go through the evaluation steps” that I’ve seen on many web evaluation forms and lessons. Students visiting these sites must use common sense (something that we as educators sometimes forget they don’t fully possess yet) as well as an analytical approach. Blending the two leads students to have a better understanding of how to assess online content.

Fake Sites (that look incredibly real) to Evaluate:
Dog Island (A home for dogs to live a free and natural life)
Lake Michigan Whale Watching (and dolphins too!)
First Human Male Pregnancy (doesn’t need a description, but this site looks VERY professional and will probably fool many students)
Ova Prima (A group dedicated to solving which came first; the chicken or the egg?)

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9 Comments

  1. Shawn Knaack

    Here are a few of my favorite:

    http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.html – Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

    http://www.dhmo.org/ – Dihydrogen Monoxide (also known as Water)

  2. Thanks for this list of fake sites. Another good one is http://www.dhmo.org An informative site on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide.

  3. Ben

    Nice sites. I had heard about the tree octopus before, but had forgotten about it. As for the H20 site; I love that they even have a press kit! I’m going to have to use that one if I’m ever teaching middle school Chemistry.

    (Sorry about your comments being held for moderation Shawn. Part of my anti-spam measures send any comments with two or more links into the “holding tank” to be checked and moderated.)

  4. Susan

    Thanks for those links. I’ve used the tree octopus and the dihydrogen monoxide ones before and had been looking for some new ones.

    Zapatopi has some other good articles such as http://zapatopi.net/metrictime.html Almost all my students fall for this one. Zapatopi has a great page on how Belgium doesn’t really exist. A couple of others I’ve found on places that really don’t exist: http://www.molossia.org/countryeng.html and http://descy.50megs.com/mankato/Mankato.html

    Others I’ve used:
    http://www.improbable.com/airchives/classical/cat/cat.html
    Feline reactions to bearded men. Looks very believable – looks scientific, has a bibliography – but look closely and the references are to writings by people like Dr. Seuss 🙂

    New invention allows humans to live forever http://www.alexchiu.com/eternallife/index.html

    Whirled History http://www.whirledhistory.com/ has some wonderful sites. Unfortunately their Asylum for the Criminally Insane is now closed 🙁 I have my students compare their site http://www.phomonastery.org with a real monastery’s website http://www.tengboche.org/ to decide which one is real.

    http://www.lacunainc.com/home.html was created to accompany the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    Then there’s the serious-looking article about the California velcro crop http://home.inreach.com/kumbach/velcro.html

    But what I’m really looking for right now is more sites like http://www.takara-usa.com/gifts/dreamworkshop/index.php – real sites that look fake. My students have started to assume that any site I give them to evaluate is going to be fake so I’d like some real ones to throw into the mix. Any suggestions?

    This site:
    Aspartame – Would You Use it? needs some revision, but it’s another exercise I have my students do – specifically looking for scientific evidence on the sites they are evaluating.

  5. Ben

    That’s a good task Susie; looking for real sites with a fake appearance. There are no limit of amatuer web designers out there tending to the needs of smaller businesses (who can’t afford a design firm) that have created plenty of questionable sites. I’ll have to do some searching and see what I can come up with.

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  7. BridayBreanny

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    Can diabetes seriously be cured? The source looks like a reliable healthcare news website

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    BridayBreanny

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