I know it’s true…I read it online

real or fake

Photo by: Phillip Pessar

Recently I came across an interesting article.  The headline read: “Lawsuit Paid In Full: Samsung pays Apple $1 Billion sending 30 trucks full of 5 cent coins” (from The Blade Brown Show). Outrageous, right?  Well, this got me thinking – how would students react to this article?  Would they question it or accept it at face value?

I’ve been meaning to do some lessons with my junior classes on website evaluation, and this article just reminded me how important that skill is in today’s digital world.

I’ve dug up some great resources I’ve found over the past few months and I’m currently attempting to organize them so that I can teach the lessons in January.  Here is what I have so far:


To introduce the lessons I plan to show my students some photographs and have them assess if they are real or photo shopped.  Here are a few examples:

A tornado sucking up a rainbow

Photo by: Barnopottamous

For an interesting article about the authenticity of this photograph click here.

Michelle Obama


Click on the picture for more photo shopped pictures of the first lady.

Two websites about extraordinary animals:

The Jackalope Conspiracy

The Jaglion Hybrids

One website is full of ‘information’ that is totally fabricated, the other is amazingly true.  My goal in the lesson is to have students read and discuss the information from both websites, then decide which one is true and which is false, with reasons why they think so.  I’d like students to collaboratively come up with a set of guidelines for evaluating the validity of information they find online (see below for a great guide to help teachers moderate the discussion).

Michael Gorman’s (@mjgormans) Seven Steps to Website Evaluation for Students:

A is for Author

B is for Bias

C is for Currency

D is for Domain Anatomy

E is for Effectiveness for Purpose

F is for Facts and Content

G is for Good Links

This is That:

This website is full of articles ranging from plausible to totally ridiculous, all in a news style format, that students could evaluate using the criteria they created. Here is a sample:

California paramedic told he can no longer use his bicycle as an ambulance

Ontario politician shocks her constituents by getting face tattoo

Standing-Room Only Airline Announced

Finally, I’ll have students visit the website I mentioned at the beginning of this post:

The Blade Brown Show

They will be asked to read the article from the website and convince me and their classmates that the information contained there is true or false, giving reasons for their choice.  I’m hoping through these lessons students will think twice before taking everything they see online at face value.


Posted on December 29, 2013, in Critical Thinking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I was reminded that many many people are fooled by Onion articles. In that case, maybe don’t have enough experience discerning satirical intent.

    A website…Failbook, I think? Is full of outraged responses to peoples’ posting of Onion articles. They are simply trusting their Facebook friends as reliable sources!

    In any case, important work you’re doing!

    Now, if I a Google “liger”, is that a real animal, or not?

  2. Yes, onion articles and @stats_canada posts.
    Thanks for commenting Matthew. I don’t know about ‘liger’ but I know that jaglions exist, have seen them with my own eyes at the sanctuary in Barrie, ON. To quote a famous Seinfeld line, ‘they’re real, and they’re spectacular!’

  3. Great resources, thanks for sharing them. One of my favourites is The Spaghetti Harvest video aka Spaghetti Trees which you can find on YouTube

  4. Wow, I just looked it up. It’s from 1957, how have I never seen this before? It’s like the War of the Worlds 1938 broadcast. I guess critical thinking never goes out of style 😉

  1. Pingback: Using Picture Books to Teach Tech, Part 2 | (Up)Front and Centre

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