This project started off as the Conspiracy Investigators project. The whole project was focused on why we believe in conspiracy theories, what makes them appealing, and how to find the truth in this crazy world. We initially didn't know what our final product was going to be but we knew we wanted to identify tricks in order to spot fake news.
We made up the idea to hoax the school and after a week of planning, we decided to back track and think about the core of our project and what our learning goals were. From this we got the Borderline Cases project. Each one of us wrote a fake article, some were based off of current events and some were very relevant to popular trends in the media. We created a baloney detection toolkit that included everything we learned in order to come to the conclusion that an piece of writing was fake.
Essential Questions How do I find the truth in this crazy world? How can I use my new powers to deceive others?
Airplane Brace Conspiracy Theory
We launched our project by researching a conspiracy theory and creating a presentation about it. I researched the airplane brace conspiracy theory. People believe that the airplane brace position is designed to kill you because of the benefits it will give the airline companies. While researching this it got boring after reading maybe two articles because the evidence wasn't very extensive. I felt like I was reading the same thing five times.
At the time I didn't believe in the conspiracy because of a test that Mythbusters conducted. After learning more about fake news, I am certain that it is not true because of the lack of evidence all of the websites had to show for the theory.
One day in class Dr. P shared a link to this website called Chula Vista: Unexplained. It covered a lot of paranormal things that have happened in Chula Vista, including that our school could be on top of a Kumeyaay burial ground. He asked us to take a look around the website and determine fi we can trust it.
Right when I read the part about our school I got suspicious. Our class was pretty certain that Dr. P made it after maybe about five minutes. A lot of the text sounded exactly how Dr. P writes and the author was, I think, and actor when we searched up his name. Also, we automatically thought something was up when we saw that the website was made with Weebly.
After Dr. P tried to hoax us with his fake website we decided we wanted to hoax the school. As small groups, or individuals we created fake ideas we could get the whole school to believe in.
While researching hoaxes online, I came across this fake website that claimed to sell human meat. While scrolling through it, it gave me the idea to create a hoax where someone is stealing student's artwork at school and selling it online. Since coming to High Tech in fifth grade, a lot of my artwork has gone missing and I never really know where it goes. I know this has happened to a lot of my peers so I thought this hoax idea could be convincing. It was definitely hard to think of all the little details because those are the things you don't think about initially. Especially because I worked alone, it was difficult for me to figure out simple things like where he was selling the art and how he came up with the idea.
My Story So Far
After a very long and stressful week of planning to hoax the school, our class made the decision to not go through with it. We realized that our hoax idea was something that wouldn't stay within the walls of our school, but something that would spread and eventually give High Tech a bad reputation. We also realized that we were straying away from our learning goals and we needed to regroup. Regrouping meant writing these pieces to see where we stood and where we could go from there.
What happened to Winston?
We were given a picture and little explanation about the murder of Winston and we had to use that evidence and our basic knowledge of the world and how it works to determine what happened to him. Through this, we learned if we can trust all the sources we have and if not why we can't trust them. This goes hand in hand with the fake news that surrounds us today. There are so many news outlets and articles but we don't know if they're all reliable.
What is the biggest threat facing journalism right now?
We watched Dan Rather's lectures about journalism and at the end of the week we had to write an essay on this big question: What's the biggest threat facing journalism right now and what should we do about it?
I still agree with what I wrote because I think once we have our minds set on something it's really hard to change it. And changing our minds means exposing ourselves to the other side which we don't do anymore because of today's technology.
Ad Campaign for Colette
We were given the task to create an ad campaign for these vitamins that made you live longer. There was no science or tests to prove it but we had the power to target a specific audience in order for it to be believable.
My ad campaign was targeted to 20-30 year olds because I feel like that's the age when you have found yourself and what you love to do and are starting to appreciate life more. There newfound love of life will encourage them to take these pills in order to extend their lifespan.
Fake News Olympics
In my group, for the Fake News Olympics, I focused on the main piece of paper. I drew and wrote the things in marker and cut and pasted all of the paper. I also helped with finding the article and making executive decisions in whether or not to do big things.
Fake News Story + Baloney Detector
My idea for my fake news story is an interesting one. During CIF this year for wrestling, a girl didn't make it in time for weigh ins on Day 2. The rules are simple, if you don't make it on time you're out. She was angry, her parents were angry and they sent an email to CIF claiming it was outrageous two weeks after the tournament. This got me thinking, "What do they want? There's nothing they can do now, it's over. Unless they want to hold another tournament..." At this point, there was a lot of talk about the transgender wrestler and I decided to apply my fake story to his true one.
My red flags included bias subline, fake author, fake website designed to look like a trustworthy one, quoted designed to have deep emotional reaction and no evidence of where this information is coming from. I struggled to find places where I could put red flags into my article so definitely throughout my drafts, that was my focal point. Sharing my article with the middle school students made me realize juts how much we learned about identifying fake news. Some things that they didn't pick up on were what had become natural to look for since the beginning of this project.
Our exhibition was called Café Faux. When visitors walked in they would pick up a baloney detection sheet, a fake article on the whiteboard and a coffee or tea if they liked. They would sit down, read the article and try to figure out what made it fake. A student would sit down next to them and explain clues in the article that makes it sound not trustworthy.
For exhibition, I helped by editing all the articles. This was very important because grammatical and spelling errors already scream not trustworthy. Probably my favorite memory from exhibition is sharing my article with my mom. I had been telling her about the idea of mine for so long that when she was finally able to read it she probably knew everything I wrote. But nonetheless I still was happy for her to read something I was very proud to make.
If someone read my article I would first ask them what they thought the red flags were and then once they named a few I would go ahead and tell them what they missed and why they are red flags.
If someone were to do an exhibition like this I would recommend for them to be shorter stories because I feel like a big piece of writing could scare visitors and they wouldn't want to come in and check it out.