Information Literacy: Greater than the sum of its parts

Information literacy is not a new concept. The definition of it however, has developed and evolved to encompass the growing information landscape. Information literacy is essentially a set of skills which enable information users to locate, select and evaluate the information they access, while building upon their knowledge base (Bundy, 2004; Langford, 1998; Coiro, 2014). However, it also extends to how we use the information and importantly, how this can be applied to other contexts.

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The above definition only describes part of what information literacy is. Entire articles, chapters and books have been written on the subject, each with their individual interpretation of the concept. Therein lies the challenge of information literacy; the sheer wealth of information we can access means we have to be selective and critical of what we find, thus, being an information literate person.

This is where the teacher librarian can play a vital role. Skills such as summarising, note taking and methods to present information can be taught and supported by the TL, through assessment and programming support. The transfer of these and other skills to other contexts is seen more and more as an essential and growing component of information literacy.
To ensure these skills are taught comprehensively in schools, and also that the TL does not shoulder all responsibility for them, a number of measures need to be implemented. These include the creation of a whole school policy on information literacy, making connections across the curriculum and collaboration (Herring, 2011). These measures will allow for consistency in how these skills are taught, giving students the much needed repetition of them, as well as the ability to apply them to a range of contexts.
The end result of a school including such measures is the creation of lifelong learners. Lifelong learning has become part of today’s labour market, with a growing number of jobs requiring skills which are transferrable. Additionally, learners who are well versed in information literacy skills and strategies will possess a solid understanding of the information needs of themselves and others.
While it would be easy to see information literacy as a set of discrete skills and strategies, it is necessary to view it as a continuous process. The information landscape is continually changing, which has seen learning occur through online realms such as social networking sites (Kinash & Brand, 2014). Information creation is now a two way process, where the original document on the internet for example, can be critiqued openly by users. Wikipedia and blogs are two such examples.
TLs in this case need to ensure that while they embrace and adopt new technology where applicable, they also remain sceptical of the purported benefits of a resource or application (Kinash & Brand, 2014; O’Connell & Groom, 2010). By applying a set of selection criteria to a resource, TLs are being information literate and modelling these skills for students and colleagues alike. As we know, it is essential to practise what you preach (Coiro, 2014).
Information literacy is a dynamic concept which will continue to change to suit the information needs of the time. As professionals, we know that our role is to teach the skills and strategies for information access and use which can give learners a more meaningful and transferrable set of skills. These can be used over and over, today and tomorrow.
Bundy, A. (Ed.). (2004). Australian and New Zealand information literacy framework: Principles, standards and practice (2nd ed.). Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy.
Coiro, J. (2014, April 7). Teaching adolescents how to evaluate the quality of online information [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/evaluating-quality-of-online-info-julie-coiro
Herring, J. (2011). Improving students’ web use and information literacy a guide for teachers and teacher librarians Facet Publishing London.
Integrating Information Literacy into your classroom (n.d.). In Information Literacy Across the Curriculum. Retrieved from http://bunchlibrary.pbworks.com/w/page/6284026/Information%20Literacy%20Across%20the%20Curriculum
Kinash, S. & Brand, J. (2014, March 11). Does social media breed learner laziness? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2014/03/11/does-social-media-breed-learner-laziness/
Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification. In School Libraries Worldwide, 4(1), p. 59-72.
O’Connell, J. & Groom, D. (2010) Connect Communicate Collaborate. In Learning in a changing world. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Peters, K., Jones, R. & Matthews, D. (2007). Info skills: Training for independent learning. Learning and Teaching in Action, 6(1), p. 4-8.

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