Digital Literacy Lesson

I had a great morning in Mrs. Natalie Eshkawkogan’s class this morning.  We were talking about websites and the reliability of them as sources of information.  Using a lesson from Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence (K-12) pages,  we assigned the students (in pairs) websites to evaluate.

The students rated the websites individually at first, using the rating system provided, then they met with the other person in the class who evaluated the same website.  They compared their evaluation, discussed the differences, came to a consensus (if necessary), and presented their review to the class.  All standard -right???

Did I mention that two of the websites were fake?  Hoaxes? Not real???

Yup – Here they are:

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Save the Rennets

We spent most of our time looking at and talking about the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  I thought it was great that the students were using the tools available to them to determine if the site was real.  We discussed Sasquatch as the Keeper of the Forest, investigated the author -went to his Twitter profile; looked at the website for the Republic of Cascadia (where the author lives); and talked about what we know about Octopus.  We were all surprised that they would be able to survive out of water and climb evergreen trees.

As the conversation progressed, I began to realize that it was going to be more difficult for the students to conclude that the website was a fake than I originally thought.  We decided to pull the proverbial bandage off in one quick motion:


Museum of Hoaxes

To further emphasize the point that the students should not believe everything they read on the internet we went to Wikipedia.

Once on Wikipedia, I went to the John A. MacDonald page and changed it so that it said that he was born in the Northwest Territories in 1815, lived to be 1000 years old, and died while eating a ham sandwich (flashback to my age).  The students then opened their laptops, went to Wikipedia, navigated to the John A. MacDonald page and proclaimed “It really says that there.”  “The changes you made are really there.”

It did not take Wikipedia long to revert the page back to normal.**

Point: Don’t always take what is written on the internet at face value.  Question the things that seem to good (or strange) to be true.


I hope that no octopus were harmed in the making of the Tree Octopus website.



** (Please note – when saving the changes to a page on Wikipedia, you have to outline the changes you have made – I stated that I made the changes as part of a lesson for students to demonstrate that they should not always believe what they read on the internet. When creating an account to edit Wikipedia, you do not need to provide your name, an email account, or activate your account- it goes live immediately.)