Saturday, May 1, 2010

Information literacy is the basis for all learning

These past few weeks I have had to do some soul searching regarding information literacy. I have had a few lively discussions regarding what it is with people who did not see it with the same eyes that I do and I have been part of a professional development team leading a workshop on the topic. I have spent a considerable amount of time in the past 10 years researching it, reading about, teaching it, living it, so when I am challenged it is a good thing as I can re-evaluate where I am and my understanding.

It all came to a head last week when I read the futurelab document "Digital literacies across the curriculum" which is an interesting and useful document, however something in this document caused me to take my ponderings a step further. The authors have labelled literacies or skills that I have always perceived of as being information literacy based as "digital literacy".

Some of the information literacies that are being repackaged as digital literacies include the steps defining, finding, evaluating, creating, communicating.

The handbook explores a number of themes such as :
"the ability to find and select information"
"critical thinking and evaluating"
"cultural and social understanding"

I don't want to keep information literacy as a separate entity, or get possesive about the terminology, but these skills are not exclusively digital literacy based. In this document and curriculum they are skills to be learned using digital tools.

The bee in my bonnet is coming from my belief that information literacy is the basis of all learning - doesn't matter if you have tools or not. A child in a developing country can still learn to "find and select information" without using any digital tools, or any tools for that matter - so why is it labelled as being an exclusive digital literacy skill in this document?

We need to look at learning in a broader context - what is it and how does it happen?
We learn through processing information - whether it be through print, music, movie, sounds, life experiences, movement etc. It is information. The information is still information until we process it and transform it into knowledge that we can use later in different situations. Knowing how to find, select, evaluate, think about, transform and use it to improve, learn, present, act on information are the basic skills for learning anything in any domain at any time of your life.

I have created a graphic / visualisation of how I believe Information literacy is the basis of learning in all domains. If you can have a look at it and comment if you think it does or does not illustrate how information literacy is the basis of all learning. It is my understanding of information literacy and is a work in progress, so I will be revisiting it often with your comments and my new understandings in mind.
This link will take you to the pdf document Information Literacy as I understand it.


Greig said...

Information literacy is NOT just digital information. Even in the twenty first century you may have to crack open a book!

Judy O'Connell said...

Of course you are right Diane - information literacy exists with or without technology tools. The criticism of the FutureLab document, however, is possibly misplaced. Rather we should be excited that a document specifically looking at digital literacies has at last recognised the vital elements that information literacy contributes. As you know, this has not always been the case! Yes, let's continue to promote information literacy,but also let's be excited when we see information literacy related/incorporated/acknowledged/promoted more widely.

Knit1Purl2 said...

When I look through the FutureLab document, I see lots of children with "digital" things in their hands or screens in front of them--these items are tools with which to gather, evaluate, or manipulate information. They do not constitute any sort of literacy unto themselves. A child may be proficient at using a form of technology while remaining clueless about the authority of information accessed via that technology. A second concern I have with the implied parity of digital literacy and information literacy is that "digital literacy" seems substantially Western-centric-- don't have the gizmos? Guess you're not literate! Haven't we made this mistake often enough already?

Dianne said...

This post and related graphic was reposted on Stephen Abrams "Stephen's lighthouse" Didn't mean it to go quite so far!

Penelope said...

I'm writing my dissertation on IL in primary schools and coming to the inescapable conclusion that to be IL is actually to be educated! If children leave school without an understanding of the basic skills of IL, what have they learned?

Dianne said...

Penelope - I would love to read your dissertation when it is published! Please do let me know.