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I was asked:

What about an authoritative source written by experts in the field such as World 
Book Online or Student Resource Center.

Good question. 

> Wikipedia is about as good a source of accurate information as 
> Britannica, the venerable standard-bearer of facts about the world 
> around us, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature.
> In response to situations like these and others in its history, 
> Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has always maintained that the service 
> and its community are built around a self-policing and self-cleaning 
> nature that is supposed to ensure its articles are accurate.
> Still, many critics have tried to downplay its role as a source of 
> valid information and have often pointed to the Encyclopedia 
> Britannica as an example of an accurate reference.
> For its study, Nature chose articles from both sites in a wide range 
> of topics and sent them to what it called "relevant" field experts for 
> peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles--one 
> from each site on a given topic--side by side, but were not told which 
> article came from which site. Nature got back 42 usable reviews from 
> its field of experts.
> In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as 
> general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of 
> those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series 
> of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, 
> Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123.
> That averages out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 
> for Wikipedia. 

This creates a problem. If there is a perception that information 
included in an "authoritative source" like an encyclopedia is "accurate" 
what about the times when it is not accurate? When students conduct 
research on Wikipedia they must keep in mind that people can edit the 
material on Wikipedia, so it is always important to check the actual 
cites and to look in a number of places to see if the information is 
consistent. If we teach them to trust an "authoritative source" are we 
merely misleading them?

So how should we teach abut information credibility?


Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Beth Martin wrote:
> Beth Martin
> Teacher Librarian
> DC Everest Middle School IMC
> 715-241-9700 ex.2320
>>>> Nancy Willard <nwillard@CSRIU.ORG> 5/22/2010 5:15 PM >>>
> Sometimes I say too much. There are two questions:
> Where do you think you will find the most complete and accurate 
> information about Martin Luther King?
>     * A textbook that meets the standards of the Texas Textbook Commission.
>     * The web site hosted by Stormfront.
>     * A web site set up to honor the legacy of the leaders of the civil
>       rights movement.
>     * A Wikipedia entry.
> Recognize that each has deficiencies. But in my opinion that the 
> user-generated and edited approach on Wikipedia has the greatest chance 
> of being the closest to complete and accurate. Recognize also that 
> students are going to find information on all of these kinds of sites. 
> So what skills do they need to ensure that the information they find and 
> rely on is credible.
> How can we best prevent students from accidentally or intentionally 
> accessing pornography? Given that ...
>     * Filters have demonstrated a 10% failure rate under conditions of
>       intentional access.
>     * Students can easily bypass filters - search for "bypass Internet
>       filter."
>     * Students are accessing the Internet from school, from home, from
>       friend's homes, and through their personal devices.
> Nancy

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