" UndoDog: Website evaluation lesson: Who's behind this site?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Website evaluation lesson: Who's behind this site?

One of my favorite website evaluation lessons: I send kids to the website healthyfridge.org, and ask them to figure out who or what is behind it. (I try to do this around the time that 5th graders are studying nutrition, so there's that tie-in. That's actually how I discovered the site--when a teacher recommended it for a nutrition study before evaluating it herself!)

It seems like a friendly little educational website to teach kids about nutrition, right? But no, I tell them, there is more than meets the eye! I encourage them to use common sense, to scour the website like detectives, and to think about what the people who made the site might be trying to "sell" us. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes before they start getting close (sometimes they get distracted by the word search, but even that has clues in it), and if they aren't, I'll ask questions like "Do you notice any particular food they mention a lot? Or anything that stands out or seems strange?"

Sometimes they'll do a separate search for the organization named at the bottom of the page, sometimes I teach them about whois, sometimes they find the "about" page, but it's always a fun mystery to solve. I won't tell you who's behind it, so you can have the fun of discovering the nefarious masterminds for yourself!

(Also, there are usually a couple of kids who have never heard of the thing they're trying to promote, so I usually do a few minutes at the end about what it is and why it's not healthy.)

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