First we are going to watch a video about the North American House Hippo…
When this video started, for a moment did you believe that this could be real or did you know immediately that it was not? What were some of the reasons you did or didn’t believe it? How could we be sure?
Some of the most important skills we need to be a great digital citizen are our critical thinking skills. A big part of critical thinking is our ability to find out if what we are seeing, reading, or hearing is true or not. There are some easy quick tricks we can use to verify (which means to check out or investigate) information.
So let’s try one of the easiest tricks.
Here is a picture that I found online a Cabbit. Online it says it is a cross between a cat and a rabbit. Isn’t it adorable?
So let’s run a Google Search on the information we want to verify. So open up Google and type the word cabbit in the search box. Or, if you’re on an ipad or have a home assistant, ask it out loud what a cabbit is. What did you discover from a simple search? Is it real or fictious (not real, imaginary). Type your answers in the comments on this page.
This shows us that the fastest way to check if information is true or not is to look around… look in other places! Check a couple of different websites. See if what else you can find out. Websites we use to find information are called our sources. Always check more than one source, especially if something sounds fishy!
Here is a video that offers you a few more special tricks you can use when you are choosing websites and videos to use for your research projects. Write down the 5w’s so that you can remember them when you need them!
Here is a picture that’s been floating around online. It is a photo of a Sea-Rex.
What is your first reaction when you see this picture? Do you think it’s real or fake? Why? What are some of the reasons you think people might post a photo like this online? This is actually a photoshopped piece of art called SeaRex by Rastroboy.
It is not hard for people to use special photo editing software to change photos into something that isn’t real. This is called digitally alteringa photo. There are lots of times when changing pictures this way is just for fun or to be silly. But sometimes pictures are changed to make us believe something that isn’t true.
Look at this photo which was used as an ad for cologne. Why do you think George Clooney was digitally altered?
Did you notice that the wrinkles were taken off? That the hair was made darker and less grey? That there are no shadows under his eyes? These are all ways that digitally altering a photo can make someone look younger or better looking. Another word for this type of photo editing is called retouching. This is done in most magazines and advertisements to make people look perfect. Especially when trying to sell face creams and cosmetics so that you believe that they work! It is even done in our school photos!
But we need to understand that this isn’t real life. Nobody looks that perfect. It is impossible to look at yourself in a mirror and see this kind of flawless image (until they invent mirrors that do this electronically and that is my million dollar idea!) Understanding that these images are not real is one way that we can be kinder to ourselves when we look in the mirror. We can’t compare ourselves to what we see in magazines and online because almost every celebrity has used a special filter or had their photos professionally altered.
Sometimes people post photos of themselves online that have been heavily edited to make them look perfect and sometimes it doesn’t even look like the same person! It only took me a minute to alter my own photo on my phone. Bigger eyes. Slimmer face. No dark circles. If I post this version of myself online, do you think my friends would notice? Most of my friends, especially women, tend to do this for every photo they post up. But what does this say about the kind of high standards in beauty we hold ourselves to?
Editing faces in videos has become extremely simple too. You may have seen examples of this with the app Snapchat. You can record a video of yourself as an old person, as a hamburger, or even as a celebrity!
Here is a ridiculous video that has been edited to look like the little girl is Donald Trump!
These kind of videos are called Deepfakes. Sometimes they are harmless and funny. But often they are posted to make people think that someone did or said something that they didn’t do or say! That can lead to the person’s reputation to be ruined or worse. Imagine there was a video out there of a kid saying bad things about his/her teacher and someone put your face over it and posted it online! This could get you in a lot of trouble.
Here is one of my favourite videos about the importance of not believing everything you see and hear online. You may have seen it on TV.
This video was made to educate students about the importance of critical thinking. Critical thinking is our ability to find out what’s true and what’s not. It is really important that we always think about what we are seeing. Seeing should not always mean believing… especially when you’re online.
Your assignment this week is to drastically edit a photo of yourself! Send them to email@example.com and I will post them on this page.
“Don’t believe everything you read” parents often scold their kids, and we are giving them the skills to do exactly that! Grade 2 came for a visit to learn about how to use critical thinking and the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where and why) when evaluating if information on a website is credible or not.
I was impressed at how quickly this group of grade 2s suspected that our website was indeed a fake (I guess it isn’t that much of a surprise, their teacher is media savvy Ann-Lynn!) Working through a checklist of questions, we investigated the credibility of the website as a group.
The library has kicked off this year’s middle school research skills workshop series with a lesson on credible websites vs. non-credible websites and identifying fake news. The students were asked to be detectives and jot down some of the ways you can identify which sites and articles are real and which are fakes.
Developing critical thinking is a skill that needs more attention than it gets. Forbes reports that 75% of adults are fooled by fake news.
I had students looking at websites about explorers. One of them was completely fake. What I found interesting was that even information that seems very obviously ridiculous to an adult, such as a claim that Samuel de Champlain went to Disney World to celebrate winning ‘Best Fort of the Year’ from ‘Better Forts and Ramparts Magazine’, caused students to actually need to look up how long Disney World has been open because they weren’t sure if this could actually be a possibility.
On our fake news exercise, some students weren’t sure if Justin Trudeau was building a wall or not. That is why it is so important to follow the rule of three and always compare three sources of information.
Is Justin Trudeau building a wall? The kids don’t know!
These videos show a few clever teams who immediately went to the ‘About’ page on the news article or website they suspected was fake to learn more about the source. It is important that they learn to look outside of the site to find out more as well.
I think it is also important not to take for granted when you are working with kids that something that seems very obvious to an adult is not very obvious to students in a time where when information is presented in a way that looks legitimate it is taken seriously.
My favourite part of this activity was showing the students the fake website Pets or Food where you can buy exotic animals either alive or dead. It is scary just how realistic this site is and that’s what makes it such a great example.
I think we all had fun and it was very eye-opening; from my perspective as an observer of this exercise to see how much work we need to do, and their perspective when they came to see how easily they could be duped. This workshop series will tie in nicely to future topics such as being safe online.