Friday, October 5, 2012

You Can't Believe Everything on the Internet

This photo is from the Field Museum Library and is in the Public Domain

This lesson started several years ago when one of my students was convinced that there was a 1600 pound man-eating bear.  When I questioned her further, she told me she learned about it in email.  This sparked a conversation about Urban Legends and  I showed her how to verify information she received.

Every year since then, I teach how to critically read information.  I don't usually have to plan to teach it.  The topic comes up naturally teaching nine to twelve-year-old students. 

Here are three websites that I show and we discuss during these lessons:

Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division
If you know that dihydrogen monoxide is another name for water, you can see how facts are twisted in this website.

Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
Since I teach in the Pacific Northwest, my students know from the beginning that this website is false. I have wondered about using this in another part of the country.

Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie
Every now and then I hear a second or third hand story about someone who actually wears a foil hat or a steel bowl to protect one from aliens or rays.

If you have another favorite site that helps students with critical thinking, please post it in the comments.


  1. We are on the East Coast - pretty far away from the Pacific Northwest! - so I wondered what my daughter would think of the tree octopus page. She's almost 12, and my kids are pretty savvy. (They are accustomed to a daddy and granddad who make up explanations deadpan, and used to sorting out Daddy's/Granddad's REAL explanations from the fake ones.) But she completely bought into the site.

    1. That's funny.
      Yesterday I took my students to the beach on a field trip. It's 15 minutes away, so I don't think anyone would believe that an octopus lives in a tree.

      The bear story took a little longer to disprove with another group a few years ago. I guess it was what you are familiar with.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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