Information Literacy Defined

What is information literacy?  A concept or process?  A process within a concept?  There are a number of varying definitions of information literacy.  The one thing that they all have in common is the fact that we, as students, teachers, employees, and overall members of 21st Century society require the abilities associated with accessing, evaluating and using information in dynamic and continuously evolving sources.

Some definitions of information literacy are neatly packaged in easy to remember acronyms:

The ‘BIG 6’ which was developed by the American Association of School Librarians addresses the skills needed for information literate students as follows:

  1. Task Definition
  2. Information Seeking Strategies
  3. Location and access
  4. Use of Information
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Another checklist for information literacy skills developed by James Herring is PLUS –

P – purpose

L – location

U – use

S – self-evaluation

The PLUS system emphasizes the main abilities required for information literate students to gain success using a variety sources of information in various modes.

Abilock (2004) also describes information literacy as a ‘problem-solving process’ where “learners need to find, understand, evaluate and use information in various forms”.  Again, there is a step-by-step process involved in gaining information literacy.  The process guides the learner in the systematic pursuit of information, in this case, through the following stages:

Engaging

Defining

Initiating

Locating

Examining, selecting, comprehending and assessing

Recording, sorting, organising, interpreting

Communicating, synthesizing

Evaluating

It is clear that becoming ‘information literate’ is much more complex than it was thirty, or even twenty years ago.  The students of the 2020s will most likely be facing even more complex and technologically advanced modes of information gathering.  They will need to be critical problem-solvers who are able to purposefully access relevant information for their information needs in the society in which they live. Teacher-librarians possess a major responsibility and play a vital role in providing 21st Century learners with the tools and guidance needed to successfully navigate through the everchanging landscape of information literacy.

Information Literacy

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Traditionally, ‘information literacy’ is defined as the ability to read, write and comprehend.  In the world of Web 2.0, the concept of information literacy is ‘dynamic’ (Kravik & Gee).   The evolving ‘concept’ of information literacy is, as stated by Langford, ‘the ability to read, write and develop the capacities to understand, absorb, assimilate, and digest the images being transmitted electronically with the added capacity to communicate these images electrographically’ (Langford).  It becomes quite clear that today’s learners require a variety of skills in achieving literacy, let alone fluency.    To be literate, one needs to have skills involving critical thinking, computer, information problem solving along with those we view as traditional.

Warlick also agrees that the skills sets are changing in becoming information literate in the 21st Century.  He refers to ‘information fluency’ as possessing the three skills of:

1)  Basic information technology skills (including computer literacy)

2)  Information literacy skills

3)  Critical thinking skills

He also stresses the importance of critically assessing ‘what’ we are reading.  What is the source?  Is it reliable?  Where did it come from?  All those things that ‘NetGeners’ may take for granted (Lorenzo).  This is where the TL and team of educators comes in.  If we use the metaphor of a journey toward information literacy, and pathways to knowledge, then the teacher librarian can be viewed as a guide who can help navigate through a myriad of obstacles and dead ends, by using well researched and reliable ‘route maps’.  The kinds of ‘route maps’ are suggested by Lorenzo in Catalysts for Change – Information Fluency Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the New Education Culture.  There is a need for ‘contained spaces’ in ‘web environments’ where information can be easily accessed and referred to rather than trying to navigate through the ‘wild and chaotic web’ (Lorenzo).

The following portals allow students to get to the stages of evaluating, analyzing, reconciling, and synthesizing without becoming knee-deep in information overload (Lorenzo)

  • California Digital Library
  • INFOhio
  • Virginia Centre Digital History (VCDH)

Critically evaluate two standards of ASLA

Just like giving birth to my first child, the delivery of this first assignment for ETL401  is proving to be long, agonising but hopefully rewarding in the end result!

I have been looking over the Standards for professional excellence for teacher librarians and decided to evaluate 2.1 Learning environment and 2.2 Learning and teaching.

The development of a ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ was in response to the need to help teacher librarians ‘find their place in the professional teaching standards agenda’ (Mitchell, 2006 p.1).  The standards are a benchmark or goal for teacher librarians that encourage quality improvement in areas such as ‘knowledge, skills, and ongoing professional practice’ (Mitchell, 2006 p. 5)

Within the learning environment there are several dot points which indicate to me that these must be dealt with.  They are as follows;

  • create and nurture an information-rich learning environment which supports the needs of the school community
  • provide access to information resources through efficient, effective and professionally-managed systems
  • foster an environment where learners are encouraged and empowered to read view, listen and respond for understanding and enjoyment
  • appreciate the dynamic nature of ICTs and their role in education

To critically evaluate, I suppose, means to read and assess what is written then look at the strengths and weaknesses of each.

An excellent teacher librarian then needs to create and nurture an information-rich learning environment which supports the needs of the school community.  If we look at what the needs of the school are, they would begin with developing successful and literate learners.  These learners need to be able to function in the 21st century, amidst 21st century technology.  Being literate is a constantly evolving state which has become to mean so much more than reading and writing.

Excellent teacher librarians also need to provide access to professionally managed systems.   If the school library web page is your second front door (Valenza 2005, introduction), then teacher librarians need to ensure that it is accessible and welcoming when entering.  Teacher librarians should have the skills to establish a school intranet (Herring p. ) as well as work with both teachers and students to create links to assignments and other information resources that can be accessed beyond traditional school hours.  The expectations of principals and leadership within the school community will determine whether or not the teacher librarian will be allocated the time to develop online systems.