Sunday, September 21, 2008

Information Literacy Education

Week 4: I have read to the end of the Web! As a serendipitous librarian, I am used to scanning and surfing the Web in search of both topical information and serendipity. Following links from the Information Literacy Webquest this week and following links from those links and following links from those, etc. opened my eyes to the expanse of literature on the topics of IL and collaboration.

Someone in our discussion group noted that IL is “education for life!” Wow! Well put! Certainly much of the subject area content is valuable but if the sign of an educated person is one who is capable of learning, then IL is arguably one of the most important lessons a student can learn!

I see a teacher population divided: some, who want the librarian to give students basic database instruction, a very few who want information on source evaluation, and many who are willing to accept poor quality sources and citations. Very few are interested in true collaboration to teach information literacy.

The causes of this disconnect appear to be many, from the lack of a research or information literacy requirement for teacher certification to the lack of state mandated IL requirements for students and many, many more. This array of barriers needs to be the targets for our attacks.

Many of us have suggested that we need to win over teachers “one at a time” to teach IL. The problem with this is that only subsets of students have opportunities to learn strategies. Even within these subsets, it often appears that some students receive duplicated segments of instruction but never receive other valuable tools & instruction. Too often even teachers who appear cooperative do not want real collaboration to teach information literacy.

The question I posed to our discussion group was regarding the possibility of developing a curriculum, at the school or district level and hopefully one day at the state or even national level, whereby information literacy strategies would be taught in chewable chunks through the years and across the curricula. The strategies taught each year would build upon those already learned and would be tied directly to subject area instruction.

Things like this don’t just happen. They will not happen if motivated parties do not act. The lobby groups that will make this happen some day will involve librarians as leaders, motivated teachers who have seen the value of IL education, parents and students who have seen the benefits, and even business leaders defining the competencies required for employment.

While we may have to win teachers over one at a time, I believe it is imperative to set goals and make plans toward this greater goal. If we do not keep our sights on the goal of true information literacy education as described by the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner and do not focus our efforts toward reaching every student with progressive instruction toward IL competency, we will never achieve this goal.

By no means an exhaustive list, but listed below are a few starting points I discovered from the Webquest. -- Great tutorial on information literacy -- a great list of links to sites discussing information literacy -- one of many starting places for website evaluation. -- Fantastic tools / information for & about collaboration. Also check out sections on the “The Ethical Researcher” and “21st Century Literacies”.

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