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The Scotsman is reporting: Falling exam passes blamed on Wikipedia 'littered with inaccuracies'
WIKIPEDIA and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland's falling exam pass rates.
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.
The group singled out online encyclopediADVERTISEMENT a Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.
Standard Grade pass rates were down for the first time in four years last year and the SPTC is now calling for pupils to be given lessons on using the internet appropriately for additional research purposes "before the problem gets out of hand".
Eleanor Coner, the SPTC's information officer, said: "Children are very IT-savvy, but they are rubbish at researching. The sad fact is most children these days use libraries for computers, not the books. We accept that as a sign of the times, but schools must teach pupils not to believe everything they read.
"It's dangerous when the internet is littered with opinion and inaccurate information which could be taken as fact.
"Internet plagiarism is a problem. Pupils think 'I'll nick that and nobody will notice', but the Scottish Qualifications Authority has robust ways of checking for plagiarism and parents are worried their children will fail their exams."
Ronnie Smith, the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said there was a higher risk of inaccurate information on the internet than in books. He added: "We need to make sure youngsters don't take what they read online as fact."
Several further education institutions have already banned students from using the interactive encyclopaedia. At one college in Vermont in the US, a history professor found several students repeated the same error in exam papers. On discovering the information came from Wikipedia, the college outlawed its future use.
Ms Coner said overuse of the internet also meant students did not develop interpretative skills.
She said: "Pupils are in danger of believing what they read. It's part of our short-cut culture, where we will do anything to pass a test, without properly engaging with the information or questions that are being asked.
"It's all very well to glance at a website for research, but you have to check what you are reading is correct. Anything can be untrue. I can claim to be a world expert on anything if I set up a website on the internet."
Alan Johnson, the UK Education Secretary, was lambasted earlier this year for suggesting the website could be a positive educational tool for children.
He described the internet as "an incredible force for good in education", singling out Wikipedia for praise.
A disclaimer on Wikipedia states "it is important to note that fledgling, or less well monitored, articles may be susceptible to vandalism and insertion of false information".
Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites, such as those of newspapers. Its articles are mainly edited by a team of volunteers.
The Daily Texas Online is also reporting: Wikipedia elicits complaints of inaccuracy, unreliability
A 10-page Wikipedia article titled "Reliability of Wikipedia" cites 51 sources, but is it reliable?
The open-source online encylopedia, which allows anonymous users to create, review and edit articles, boasts more than 10 million articles in 250 languages. With the ease of access and egalitarian philosophy have come increasing accusations of unreliability and a host of ethical and academic dilemmas.
The site has also become, in some cases, a source of breaking news.
An Internet Broadcasting Services employee was fired last week for updating Tim Russert's entry with his death date more than 30 minutes before NBC, which was waiting to inform the news host's family.
"Everyone has heard about the problems [with Wikipedia]," said Jim Brown, a graduate student and assistant instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. "It's well-documented and well-founded that you should take it with a grain of salt. But it's also a great starting point for research and general facts."
Brown, whose dissertation concerns Wikipedia, said he encourages students to focus on the articles' footnotes, which can guide them to more credible sources.
Government professor David Edwards said that speed is part of Wikipedia's appeal and that he allows his students to access current information on Wikipedia on international relations that they can't find in last year's print encyclopedia.
"It's a very uneven resource, constantly undergoing revision and expansion, but it's also a valuable one," Edwards said.
History senior Elise Sasser said she uses Wikipedia to find other sources and for quick, easy information.
"Once I used it as my only source to write a paper for an online class, and I never got into trouble for it, but it was the most ridiculous class and the most ridiculous paper," Sasser said. "The teacher didn't really care, I guess. She never said anything, and I did well on the paper."
Journalism professor Rusty Todd said Wikipedia is "often right, sometimes wrong and occasionally the victim of pranks." He tells his students never to use it as a source.
"If you use it as source material, whether for a history timeline or for a scientific paper or for journalism, I think you're on thin ice," Todd said. "It's not an authoritative source. I have no confidence in anything I read on Wikipedia. But it is what it is. When you search for anything on Google, it's generally one of the first things that comes up."
Despite its shortcomings, Brown said he prefers to focus "more on what [Wikipedia] does do than what it doesn't."
"It's not all bad or all good," Brown said. "If you take Wikipedia at face value, you're going to come away with a lot of faulty information, but if you ignore it altogether, you're going to miss out on a valuable resource."
Re: Falling exam passes blamed on Wikipedia 'littered with inaccuracies'
Honestly, evidenced based practice in the medical and alied health fields should rely on good quality primary and secondary research, not on unreliable sources like this. Fortunately, we have many critical appraisal tools and heirachies of evidence that can be applied to research to ascertain it's usefulness, relevence and accuracy. A good clinician will have no use for non-reliable sources like Wikipedia in their practice, save for useless lunchroom facts. Think about what you're reading!