First, students evaluate a very real-looking website on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide as part of an assignment to take a position on whether or not dihydrogen monoxide should be banned as a dangerous substance. Subsequent comparison to other sources reveals dihydrogen monoxide as an obscure name for water. After a brief teacher-led discussion about what they’ve learned about evaluating websites, students assess additional websites to determine whether they’re legitimate or a hoax and present their findings to the class. The lesson takes 90-120 minutes of class time, depending on presentation options chosen. It may be completed in one block or divided as necessary.
- Pair students or allow them to self-select pairs. Direct students to “How Dangerous is DHMO?” in the bookmarks of the computer. (Alternatively, teachers may use a tool such as Portaportal (http://portaportal.com/ ) or add the link to the library website if desired.)
- Make sure students know how to navigate through the activity, using either the navigation menu on the left side or the links embedded on each page. Stress that the steps of the process should be completed in order.
- Read the Research Question and Project Task as a class, asking students to summarize the task to ensure understanding. To generate interest, ask for a show of hands on their positions on whether or not to ban DHMO and discuss their reactions to dihydrogen monoxide, based on the introductory information. Mark the tally on the board.
- Distribute evaluation questions. Discuss as needed to check for understanding.
- Allow time to complete the activity, answering the evaluation questions for each website they evaluate. (Teacher option: direct students to stop after completing Process step 3 and complete step 4 – listening to an interview with the site’s creator – as a class.)
- Remind students to note after each website whether or not the new information changed their opinions about whether DHMO should be banned. (Teacher option: have a “tally” section on the board or chart paper for each website assigned (DHMO.org, Friends of DHMO and wikipedia) where students can indicate their opinions after gleaning new information from each website.)
- After students read the information in the final website assigned, Wikipedia, ask them what information they learned about DHMO that was not included on the other sites. Poll the class again to answer the question: Should DHMO be banned?
- A sk students to write down their personal reactions to the activities, then discuss their reactions with a partner, then briefly engage the whole class in a discussion. Some students might be angry about being fooled. Be prepared to acknowledge those feelings, and then lead the class in a discussion of why it's important to understand how to evaluate websites.
- Listen to interview with the site’s creator, linked from process step 4. Ask students to listen particularly for information about why he created the site. (Transcripts are available for purchase at NPR for use with hearing impaired students or if closer study of the interview is desired.)
- Project the FAQ page DHMO.org (http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html ) and ask students to consider the “Dangers of DHMO” in view of the information that DHMO is more commonly known as water. Discuss briefly.
(up to 60 minutes)
- (3 minutes) Tell students that there are ways to look for “clues” that a website is not offering factual information, and you’d like to use their experiences with dhmo.org to identify some of them, and that then they’re going to look at a new set of sites and try to determine which ones deliver genuine, if unusual, information, and which are a hoax.
- (20 minutes) Show PowerPoint presentation: DHMOwebsitethoughts; if desired, after discussion of the slides, distribute a “slides” view handout to help them remember ways to avoid being “DUPED.”
- (10-30 minutes, depending on teacher options selected) Tell students that they are to prepare a brief evaluation of the credibility of a set of websites. Direct students to the following, and allow time for them to evaluate the websites to determine their credibility. (Teacher option: if time is short, direct different pairs of students to only one of the sites, rather than all of them.) Remind them to check for all the factors in the DUPED acronym presented in the PowerPoint as well as consider the evaluation questions used in the DHMO activity in determining the accuracy of the information presented.
- Jell-O Museum http://www.jellomuseum.com/
- RYT Hospital http://www.rythospital.com/
- Spamarama http://www.spamarama.com/
- Mike the Headless Chicken http://www.miketheheadlesschicken.org/
- Case Analysis of a Historic Killer Tornado Event in Kansas on 10 June 1938 http://www.cimms.ou.edu/~doswell/Conference_papers/SELS96/WoO.html
For additional hoax sites, see Kathy Schrock’s excellent “Guide for Educators” http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/eval.html ; for additional bizarre but accurate sites, review “Eccentric America” http://www.eccentricamerica.com/ , particularly the Event Calendar http://www.eccentricamerica.com/events.htm (Note that this is not an educators-reviewed site, and preview choices carefully; some will not be appropriate for school use.)
Students may present their evaluation either orally (recommended) or in writing, or both. The time required will depend on options selected. Written presentations prepared as homework will take very little class time, but oral presentations will generate valuable discussion. Students may work individually or with others. One option would be to have all students review all websites with a partner, and then “jigsaw” students together to compare notes and prepare an oral presentation evaluating one website. Students as well as the teacher may assess the quality and thoroughness of the oral presentations.
American Association of School Librarians. Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.
Schrock, Kathy. â€œGuide for Educators.â€ Available: http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/eval.html. Accessed June 7, 2006.
Small, R.V. Designing Digital Literacy Programs with IM-PACT. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2005.
Small, R. V. and Marilyn P. Arnone. Turning Kids on to Research. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2000.