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Friday, August 19, 2011

What is Information Literacy?

If you ask someone “What is information literacy?” they will respond with simple description of finding and using information. I guess before I started my Masters of Education (TL) I had never really thought much about a proper definition, in fact the word or phrase was hardly used as part of pedagogical discourse in the schools that I taught in.

Despite the many research papers that identify information literacy (IL) as the driving force behind enhanced student learning (Langford 1998, Grafstein 2002), there still seems to be no agreed definition of information literacy in schools (Herring 2011, Buschman 2009).

Often Information Literacy is misunderstood or substituted for concepts such as “information technology literacy, computer literacy, library literacy, information skills and learning to learn” (Bruce 1997 p21).

It is important for a teacher librarian to have a clear definition of Information Literacy as often the teaching and learning of these skills form the foundation of many learning tasks. Eisenberg (2008) makes the point that “every person in every possible setting” uses information and the skill in being able to filter out inaccurate information means that IL is an important life skill to develop. 

Langford’s (1998) description of information literacy as being literate in the field of information is often interpreted as the information skills that Bruce (1997) talks about. Ryan and Wall(2010), p32 have defined Information Literacy in familiar terms, “students can access, use, organise, create, present and evaluate information”, which is supportive of the descriptors given by both ALIA (2006) and ALA (1989).

ALIA’s (2003) descriptor includes efficiently as a key term in regards to how the information is used. Tessmer’s (1985) descriptor includes the word effectiveness and identifies that information is used for a specific or given need. This is supportive of Badke’s (2010) descriptor that identifies that the reason why we would seek information is to solve a problem. Wolf (2007) identifies Information Literacy as “the ability to access, evaluate, and use information efficiently and effectively”. The introduction of the words efficiently and effectiveness implies that higher order thinking skills are part of the attributes of an information literate student.

Behrens (1994) identifies that a definition of Information Literacy has expanded to “accommodate the growing requirements for the effective handling of information”. Pariser (2011) makes an important point that developments in technology may impact unknowingly on the quality of information.

A definition of Information Literacy must acknowledge that the skills are more than just a “way of thinking and reasoning about a subject”; they need to be both contextual and must be adaptable (Grafstein 2002).

Both Bruce (1997) and Eisenberg’s (2008)’s descriptors resonate with me as they both identify that Information Literacy does not stand on it’s own. Bruce talks about the multiple literacies within the school environment that influence how IL skills are developed and similarly Eisenberg talks about IL as a process that needs to be seen within the context of learning. Kuhlthau and Maniotes (2007) identifies that IL is just one of several literacies that occur during the inquiry learning process.

I have put a list of references on my research and references page.

Further reading to digest

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