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Disinformation in the information age

October 22, 2013 • Features

The Internet has opened up public access to endless research resources and information on just about anything, from anywhere and at any time. Student generations of yesterday with a thirst for knowledge scavenging endlessly through dusty archives have now been replaced with ‘Generation Google’.

Anton Vukic, Sales Director at Phoenix Distribution (image: file)

Anton Vukic, Sales Director at Phoenix Distribution (image: file)

Learners today tend to believe that there is very little need to venture through the hallowed halls of libraries and sift through tomes of encyclopaedias to garner information for projects or assignments.  To them, information is available in an instant and knowledge-gathering has been replaced with a read/copy/paste culture where loose editing of published work is the norm, integrity is only a word in the dictionary, and plagiarism is OK, as long as you don’t get caught…

Therein lies the rub. With the explosion of the information age, everything available on the Internet is not necessarily based on verified facts backed by integrity, but often camouflaged with pseudo-research, disinformation and biased views with hidden agendas. Often, informational websites cite watered down references relating to just about any conceivable topic as the correct and legitimate source, when in fact it is not.

In the past, teachers and class-room instructors at educational institutions had a tough time to ensure that assignments submitted by students were correctly referenced and maintained integrity as original work, rather than watered-down versions of a quoted website online. With the use of modern Web technologies, such as Grammarly, Turnitin.com or SafeAssign, schools and universities today are turning to tools to snuff out off-line and online plagiarism and sloppy reference endeavours.

These tools trawl the Internet for similar sources and sentence structures that can very well thwart even the most promising student’s career aspirations if they are caught stealing information word for word and claiming the information as their own, or presenting assumption as fact. Penalties vary from institution to institution, but one thing is certain, it disqualifies the students’ work and can lead to expulsion.

For students to succeed academically, they must literally return back to ‘old school’. While the methods of information gathering have advanced with the use of the Internet, the fundamentals of gathering fact-based information are still the same: using sources that are credible.

One such resource has always been the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which since its inception in the 1700s has been a continuously updated resource that is considered to have the greatest authority. Keeping with modern times, it has found its way into the digital age, with electronic versions on CD-ROM, DVD, mobile and the World Wide Web. Today, while it discontinued its print editions in 2012, the Encyclopaedia Britannica remains the de facto relevant and reliable informational resource for students and learners across the globe.

Encyclopaedia Britannica’s flagship product on DVD-ROM, Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Edition, features over 100 000 articles from the 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica print set. It offers three age-specific databases for ages 6 to adult, with more than 16 000 entries tailored to school subjects. In addition, it has interactive games and activities to help students with subjects such as Maths, Science and Social Studies. Fully integrated with the Web, the DVD has links to over 166 000 trusted sites, thousands of videos and magazines filled with additional information.

Anton Vukic, Sales Director at Phoenix Distribution

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