Authentic information in a socially networked world

Transformational learning does not need a lot of money, nor a three year plan (Heick, 2015), it just needs to change the approach to learning. It is a massive shift, but it can be done with the tools that are available through Web 2.0, and the library 2.0 paradigm.

Wikipedia has been part of the transformation of knowledge. It’s the most widely used online resource (Garfinkel, 2008), and information professionals need to address the challenge it presents. While it’s clear that a large majority of its articles are accurate, their commitment to the philosophy of verifiability is troublesome. This is a fairly complicated standard to explain to young people – but add it to the reasons why Wikipedia appears so highly in a Google search, and a compelling argument for dissuading students to use Wikipedia emerges (Garfinkel, 2008). We do live in a connected world, one that allows for open and transparent collaboration, but teaching children and young people to be critical about sources like Wikipedia for assignment work is an important part of the role. The implications extend from small ripples such as the concern about plagiarism, right through to the extreme end, where journalist are interviewing fraudsters due to not checking credentials. Crediting sources and verifying information must happen if we are to maintain a high standard of the traditional notion of accurate news and information (Garfinkel, 2008).

As well as alerting students to be discerning about the misrepresentation of information, educators need to also be mindful of the implications of personal misrepresentation. Creating online identities is almost second nature to these ‘NetGenners’ (Lorenzo, 2007) and young people can be pressured into making ill-informed choices about how to present themselves. The furore over the MySpace angle shot (Sessions, 2009) showed the level of anger directed towards people who used such deceptive methods. It’s interesting that of all the issues young people could get upset about, this is the one that stirs them up. Wanting others to represent themselves ‘authentically’ (Sessions, 2009) is a legitimate desire, and yet some of the comments, the exposures can only be described as mocking and cruel. Not only can informational professionals conduct a dialogue about the merits of being authentic on-line, but they can also discuss the importance of tolerance and compassion towards others who may not have very high self-esteem.

Making use of Web 2.0 tools to reach out to students to support their information requirements, and to teach them positive digital citizenship makes the job much easier. These are the platforms where young people reside. This is their domain. We need to get a foothold into them.


Garfinkel, S. L. (2008). Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth. Technology Review, 111(6), 84-86.

Heick, T. (2015, May 21). Tomorrow’s Learning Today: 7 Shifts To Create A Classroom Of The Future. Retrieved 21 May 2015, from

Lorenzo, G. (2007). Catalysts for change: Information fluency, Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the new education culture. (March). Retrieved from

Sessions, L.F. (2009). “You looked better on MySpace”: Deception and authenticity on Web 2.0, First Monday, 14(7), 6 July. Available


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