Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Hoax Websites

Following on from my Theory of Knowledge resources post, I wanted to share some resources and ideas for some information literacy/website reliability lessons, which could also be used for TOK.
In my last school I often taught lessons about website reliability using some hoax/fake websites. I usually start with a presentation about website reliability, which usually includes a screenshot of a wikipedia page I have altered, (for example, making myself the principal of my school, changing the uniform to gold and pink and changing the school motto to something about the library being rad...).

After this introduction I tell students they are going to investigate different websites to work out if they are reliable or not. I then give students a website each to investigate. It is hilarious, because even with the training, the fake wikipedia and the silliness of the sites, they still think half of them are credible, reliable sources.

This website is probably my favourite, because it has so much great information. The websites contains videos, links, news articles and more. I recommend everyone spend some time playing around on this website!

This website advertises a cosmetic surgery which gives you elf shaped ears - apparently its very trendy in New York, as it not only makes you look better, but enhances the music listening experience!

"Since 1887, the Ova Prima Foundation has existed for the sole purpose of exploring the mystery and the beauty that is the egg. 
It is the Foundation's primary objective to continue to build a body of scientific evidence that will shed light on the egg-and-chicken controversy, that most basic of conundrums."

You can buy exotic animals, like baby seals, which you can either keep as pets...or you can eat.

Although this website is probably one that students easily figure out - they also find it really interesting and enjoy analysing the purpose of the site and why someone would make it!

"Tired of paying pump prices? So are we! Welcome to Petrol Direct - the UK's leading supplier of all varieties of petrol, diesel and even biofuels delivered direct! We save you money by sourcing all our fuels from other countries in the EU that have a much lower tax rate than the UK" Students get a bit confused by the language on this website and tend to think it is real!

Another hilarious site - though again the language does fool some of my younger students!

I am not sure if this website was intended as a joke, to teach about website reliability..or to show children when their pets died... either way - I love it! It's full of information, including loads of great photographs, which make the site seem more believable.

Students tend to believe this, because they often hear or read about people complaining about the negative impact caused by video games.

Students believe this because the style of the website is similar to a small campaign website, (as this are often not made by people with website experience).

"Welcome to the web site dedicated to saving rennets from unnecessary torture and slaughter. Rennets are small hamster like rodents which are intensively factory farmed and slaughtered for the production of cheese."

"This site has nothing to do with the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, except for very scientific research purposes only. It would be too complex to explain our research, so you'll just have to trust us there. That we share a similar interest in these graceful, intelligent, fascinating and yet scrumptious mammals is purely a coincidence."

I like this site because it has false reviews/recommendations from other sites. Also students could try and do further research to see if this site is reliable and they would come up with steampunk websites which could easily fool them.
"Read illustrated accounts of the world's first robot, the Steam Man, created in 1868! Subsequent automatons such as the Electric Man and the Automatic Man are also profiled. The most comprehensive section, with more than 20 pages, concerns the mechanical man known as Boilerplate--described as "deliciously detailed" by The New York Times, "charming" by U.S. News and World Report and declared "cool" by NASA!"

A fantastic article about the BBC advertising iPlayer with new footage of penguins flying. This is very convincing - you could show the video alone and see how students react.

Again this website looks believable, as it could be made by an interested member of the public, it's full of images and it has adverts that relate to the topic.

Hopefully students will realise straight away that this is not factual, but you should aim to get them to prove Belgium's existence, through other sources. 

If students are familiar with cheese racing in the West Country or bog races, then they might just fall for this site! Also I found that students blindly believed the Haggis was an animal, so it it a good way to teach them to fact check!

This site is definitely for older students, because it has a little bit of sexual content, (selling thongs with Jesus on for example). This is also a good site to teach about bad website design, because it has way too much information on one page!

As there's so many cats and so much weird stuff on the internet I wouldn't be surprised if there is a serious website about feline yoga!

How could I forge the following:

Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division
This website educates people about the dangers of...water.

"This is the First Page of the Internet.
Everything starts here!"

Use science to create your perfect baby!

Male Pregnancy
I first showed this to students around the time that the stories were circulating about transgender Thomas Beatie giving birth, which meant that many fell for this site!

Games for stupid babies...

Driver’s License Search

I like this site a lot, but once they do a search, they should be able to see that it is a hoax website. However, you could get them to analyse the site first, then allow them to explore.

If anyone knows of any good hoax/parody websites, please share them with me. Many of my favourites, including Sellafield Zoo, don't exist anymore, so I am keen to find some new resources.