I recently came across this post: 4 Fake Sites to Teach Students Website Evaluation, which includes some of my favourite fake websites, and wanted to share some of my experiences using them, and an idea for extending how we teach website evaluation.
DHMO is a classic. I have to always bite my tongue as I just want to tell them that Dihydrogen Monoxide is just another way of saying H2O. In my experience one of the best parts of this site is that includes links to what seems to be supporting evidence, but is really just another page of the DHMO website. This forces kids to look at the URL. Some of the other links go to legit websites like the Environmental Protection Agency, which can be confusing to kids, who think the first site must be real because it links to an actual real site. This is a good chance to discuss links, and that any website can link to a legit website. At this point I like to show students how to use the link: prefix in a Google search to find out which websites link TO the site they are trying to evaluate.
The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is another great one. In the past I have always shown this to my students in the Pacific Northwest, usually accompanied by loud howls of disbelief as they all know intuitively that this is a fake site. After all, my students spent most days in the forests described in the website. The conversation in this case usually focused on HOW they know it is fake. I want my students to understand that their intuition about ‘fakeness’ is based on their personal experiences, and that they have to be very aware of when they can trust their judgement because they have sufficient experience, and when they need to use the toolbox of strategies that I try to teach them. Interestingly, this year I had the opportunity to show this site to students in Malaysia, and they had a difficult time deciding whether this was a true site.
One thing I always try to do when I am teaching students about website evaluation is try to include real websites that look fake. In my experience, if we just expose students to fake websites they quickly catch on and only engage with the skills we are trying to teach in a surface manner. But if they are given a list of real and fake sites mixed up, and are asked to use their ‘internet detective skills’ to figure out which is which, they are more engaged and use the strategies in more sophisticated ways. This has led to a search for real sites that look fake, as I want my students to realise that the way a site looks has very little to do with the information being reliable and valid. Here are some of the real sites I have found so far:
Blinkee.com – It sells things that blink. Seriously.
Penny Juice – An awful looking site that sells Fruit juice concentrate designed for childcare centres (update: this site has had an upgrade and unfortunately looks more professional).
Pacific Northwest Xray Inc – A legit site for selling Xray Equipment. As an added bonus it is also in the Pacific Northwest.
I am always on the lookout for real sites that look fake to use in my website evaluation lessons. Does anyone have any more good ones?