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The invisibilty of Information Literacy

24 Apr

Having taught English in school contexts, literacy is front and centre in my advocacy as THE most important aspect of schooling. I argue vehemently that without literacy across the curriculum, then all other subjects are impossible. For instance, the study of mathematics would be impossible without an ability to read problems and comprehend what the task is asking of a student. If literacy is ignored in science, where there are quite specific understandings to be taught, then students are being let down in achieving to the best of their ability in science.  Beyond this, there is certainly a case for the argument that science literacy is quite specific to the science curriculum and it would be difficult for a teacher that is not science trained to be able to effectively teach these specific literacies. This reasoning naturally  extends to all specialist subject areas across schooling and it is this precise reasoning that justifies a whole school approach to literacy development and mastery. As a teacher of English, I feel strongly that literacy should be taught across the curriculum and take a whole school focus and not be assumed as the responsibility of English teachers alone.

However, information literacy was never on my radar as a teacher in schools. I have been aware of the process of research and resource based learning but the understanding of information literacy was always a bit hazy. Following is an excerpt from one my of my posts this week on my university forum with regard to these ideas;

As a teacher, I don’t think I ever paid too much attention to the information literacy ideas beyond a skill set. Yes, I tried to work with the ideas in my tasks set but not to the extent that I now realise I could have focused.
Like Langford (1998) points out with regards to information literacy and its lack of prominence in schools, information literacy was not on my radar. I had not even considered the term information literacy prior to this subject and if you asked me six months ago I probably would have related it to IT skills. ISP and other terminology that I had come across were somewhat disconnected and purely viewed as skillsets to introduce and pass on to students. Now I realise it was not effective enough. However, I considered the other literacy ideas such as visual, media, critical, social, cultural and other literacies. I was definitely concerned with literacy but the ideas were certainly disjointed.

At this point in my investigation, I ask myself why? I realise like most things I have already discovered, all things library have somehow been separated; or not integrated well enough into the whole school approach.

In terms of literacy, I now feel if you have literacy to do with information; that is how to define what you need to know, locate information, evaluate information, decide if it is relevant, and then make choices about relevance to your purpose, leading to what you will create and finally reflect on the process, then this literacy will help with all the other literacies.
Somehow it is still not clear enough and I am still working on my position, but if we are all (predominantly) relying on the super information highway for our information, then surely we all need to be educated in how to deal with this information and ensure that the information we are dealing with is the best information it could possibly be. Who better to provide this information or learning than the expert, that is the teacher librarian.

In my learning, I have discovered that this hazy understanding and application of information literacy is not too uncommon across the teaching profession. It appears to be one of the great challenges that need to be addressed along with the challenge of integrating information literacy across schooling.

In our information rich world, the cartoon below sums up experiences as teachers we may have come across.  It is a humorous presentation but adds the complexity of Web 2.0 challenges.

Langford, L. (1998), Information literacy: a clarification, accessed at http://www.fno.org/sept98/clarify.html

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