Fact or Fiction: Apollo Moon Landings?

NOTE: THIS IS A DRAFT LESSON! THIS IS NOT COMPLETE / WE ARE ACTIVELY TESTING & REVISING THIS! (9 July 2020)

This is a media literacy lesson and workshop by Brian Turnbaugh (@wegotwits) and Wesley Fryer (@wfryer), shared under a CC-BY license. Please use and remix this with your students and colleagues! This lesson is part of the media literacy project, "Conspiracies and Culture Wars."

Background:

Watch and compare these two videos, looking for common elements of conspiracy theories identified by researcher John Cook and colleagues.

In addition to these common elements, consider these questions as you watch these videos:

  1. Is the number of YouTube channel subscribers or video views a good basis for deciding if something is FACT or FICTION?

  2. Why do conspiracy theories capture our imagination and seem 'thrilling?'

7 minutes long, from the YouTube Channel, "AwakenWithJP," uploaded in Sept 2018. 1,090,000 channel subscribers as of July 2020, video views: 737,921.

13 minutes long, from the YouTube channel, "sgcollins," uploaded in Oct 2018. 13,000 channel subscribers as of July 2020, video views: 16,372.

Adventure Path 1: YouTube Search Quest

Your challenge steps:

  1. Watch the video: "How Customized are YouTube Search Results?"

  2. Choose a search phrase from the list below.

  3. Choose a Google/YouTube account to use for the searches. This can be:

    1. Your school Google account

    2. A personal Google/GMail account

  4. Create a screencast (<60 seconds) showing and narrating / describing:

    1. Your Homepage Recommended Videos (based on your subscriptions / view history / search history)

    2. Search results for a selected 'search phrase' and looking for PRO-HOAX videos

    3. Viewing related videos for "13 Reasons Why the Moon Landing was FAKE - Ultra Spiritual life episode 125" (click on at least 2 related videos)

Adventure Path 2: Google Search Quest

Your challenge steps:

  1. Watch the video: "Google Searches are Customized" (link coming)

  2. Choose a search phrase from the list below.

  3. Choose a Google/GMail account to use for the searches. This can be:

    1. Your school Google account

    2. A personal Google/GMail account

  4. Create a screencast (<60 seconds) showing and narrating / describing search results, selecting 5 different auto-complete suggestions.

Search Phrase Choices

Path 1 - YouTube Searches

Choose one of the following search phrases for your challenge:

  1. Was the Moon Landing Faked

  2. Did we really land on the moon

  3. Moon landing hoax

  4. Truth Apollo moon landing

  5. Apollo conspiracy

Path 2 - Google Searches

Choose one of the following search phrases for your auto-complete challenge:

  1. moon...

  2. apollo...

  3. did we...

  4. moon hoax...

  5. hoax...

Lesson Plan Details

(mainly for teachers)

Overview

In this media literacy project, students will use a "choose your own adventure" approach to iteratively search YouTube and Google to learn about the Apollo Moon landings (1969-72), the prevalence of "Moon hoax conspiracy theories," the radicalizing potential of Internet search and media platforms, and ways search results are customized for different users.

Goals

  1. Understand the personal, customized nature of both Google and YouTube search results

  2. Understand the tendency of Internet search and media platforms to radicalize users and amplify outlier, 'fringe' content over mainstream / scientifically accepted perspectives

  3. Develop screen capture and screecasting digital literacy skills

  4. Highlight factual and scientific reasons to reject "Moon Hoax conspiracy theories"

  5. Develop awareness of the prevalence of conspiracy theories online, and the 'playbook' with which conspiracy theory advocates attempt to dupe people

Preparation

Teachers should read and view as many of these articles and videos as possible. Students can optionally be provided with these links in advance of the lesson, or as lesson extensions.

Articles

On Google and YouTube:

  1. How Google autocomplete works in Search (Official Google blog, April 2018)

On Apollo Moon Landing Hoax Allegations:

  1. Apollo Moon Landings: Pseudoscience and 6 Reasons Why There Was No NASA Hoax (Barry Vacker, Oct 2017)

  2. The Soviet Response to the Moon Landing? Denial There Was a Moon Race at All (History.com, July 2020)

  3. Moon-Landing Hoax Still Lives On, 50 Years After Apollo 11. But Why? (Space.com, July 2019)

  4. Moon landing conspiracy theories (English WikiPedia article)

  5. Many people still believe the moon landing was fake. But who’s profiting? (Vox.com, June 2019)

  6. Millions Still Believe the 1969 Moon Landing Was a Hoax (VOA News, July 2019)

  7. They Kinda Want to Believe Apollo 11 Was Maybe a Hoax (NY Times, July 2019)

  8. One giant ... lie? Why so many people still think the moon landings were faked (The Guardian, July 2019)

On Conspiracy Theories

  1. The Conspiracy Theory Handbook by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook

  2. Coronavirus, ‘Plandemic’ and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking (The Conversation, 15 May 2020)

  1. Moon Hoax Not (13 min - background from Earth and Sky, July 2019)

  2. Was the moon landing faked - Mythbusters (4 min)

Procedures

  1. Sstudents to choose a "lesson adventure" path: YouTube Search or Google Auto-complete Search.

  2. Students watch the video, "Search Results Are Customized" for their challenge path.

  3. Students follow their lesson path procedures. (listed at the top of this page.)

  4. Students document and share their results via a screencast video (<60 seconds long) and our project Google Form (link coming)

Extensions

See articles and videos from "preparations" links above. In addition, check out:

  1. VIDEO: Astronaut Chris Hadfield Debunks Space Myths | WIRED (11 min, 30 sec)