Fake facts

Early on in the year, I decided I wanted to teach my class about being aware of false information on the Internet. We’re constantly hammering home the message about not talking to people you don’t know online and not giving away personal details, but I actually wanted to touch on the subject of false, although not necessarily dangerous, information on the Internet which could hinder them when doing research online for example.

We started off by talking about how anyone can make a website and so theoretically can put anything on the Interent for others to see, true or not. We found “fake facts”  and looked at the real life example of the Guardian journalist who, when writing composer Ronnie Hazlehurst’s obituary, used Wikipedia to do some research. In the final article, the aforementioned journalist included a fact about Hazlehurst  co-writing the S Club 7 hit, Reach, which was completely untrue despite being on Wikipedia. Cue egg on your face and a post-press correction, which you can read here.

So onto the project… I divided the class into mixed ability teams ( I seem to do that a lot I’ve noticed!) and asked them to create an imaginary creature. Their challenge was to come up with a name for it, a drawing of it, with its distinguishing features labelled and other facts such as where it can usually be found, what it eats etc.  After that, we made models of the animals and photographed them in their ‘natural habitats.’ E.g. bushes, trees and other places around the school grounds – that part was a lot of fun. The final step was to bring the photographs and creature facts together to create a website about imaginary creatures that appeared to be real.

The idea is that this shows children that anyone can create false information on the Internet by getting them to do it themselves. I probably don’t need to point out the big cross-curricular links with science, habitats and D.T. here either. Another variation of this would be to create a website about a handful of real animals, but mix up real facts with made up facts and challenge the rest of the school to sift the false from the true. In fact, why limit it to animals? The point is, get your children to create a completely realistic looking website, full of completely false information and that should help get the point across!

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