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?)