Thinking about Information
What I find interesting is the abundance of information we have available to us, and the fact that a lot of it is free. Because anybody can post, anybody can create information. How do our students navigate this information overload? As stated, a lot of this information is social commentary and thus highly opinionated and biased. The four inherent properties of information discuss these properties as multiplying the information we have available to us, and it really is an information overload. Giving students the skills to be critical readers so that they can discern the authenticity of information is paramount in providing them with digital literacy skills. I have found this with the work I am doing currently with our students, by showing our students how to engage with our on-line databases that provide peer-reviewed articles as opposed to Google, where there is such a plethora of information. The challenge in our school at the moment is trying to show students the value of researching through quality databases that have already started to ‘sift’ through the vast quantities of information, be selective and specific in how they search and show them the value of being critical readers and researchers in a digital age.
The data-knowledge continuum is also interesting, particularly the understanding of what to do with information, how we organise it, make meaning of it and use wisdom to make sound judgements (AEW. 2008. Community of practice: Part B. The Information Hierarchy). This certainly highlights the importance of TLs in schools and how we provide our students with the knowledge and skills to navigate online information.
Discussion Forum 2.2
Information society – what do you think this means?
The information society is such a complex one! We are, by definition, social creatures and with the explosion of the information, it has created a world that is much more ‘local’. The information society relies on a myriad of networks and information of some description, that enables us all to be connected in some way. What is interesting is that it isn’t just a social construct, but also an economical one. We just have to consider countries less fortunate than our own, who don’t have the economic means or infrastructure to be connected in the way that we are. I also think that the information society can also be exclusive to those in our own backyard. How do our octogenarians cope in the information society of today? They may not rely on the information society today the way that we do, but it certainly is the backbone of functionality in society and the dependence created by it is staggering. The exchange and accessibility of information is what drives our society and it is used to meet our needs on so many different levels. What we need to remind ourselves of is that we must possess the skills to critically evaluate the information available to us and be discerning in how we use it.
This is where our jobs of TLs necessitates a solid understanding of the information landscape. It is our job to ensure how this complex landscape works, so we can provide our staff and students with the skills to navigate the information available to them. Because this is a constantly changing entity, TLs must be abreast of this constant evolution and be at the top of their ‘game’ when it comes to informing the school community. Sharing invaluable knowledge on how to access information and be discerning in what they do with this information, will provide students and staff alike, with lifelong and fundamental skills when living in an information society.
Discussion Forum 2.3
Why is it important to have an understanding of the broader information landscape?
It is important to have a broader understanding of the information landscape because if we don’t understand it at length now, how will we effectively cater to the needs of our students, especially those who are digitally illiterate? If we don’t have a sound understanding, how can we help our students? Having a broader understanding of the information landscape allows us to be aware of this constantly evolving entity. We see where it has come from and hopefully, we can predict with at least some certainty, where it is heading. I have just realised that my study and learning will never end as a TL. Well beyond this course, I will need to constantly upskill and stay abreast of change. As teachers, we continue to learn and grow, that’s what I love about teaching. But I think as TLs, we won’t have a choice and I think the pace and urgency will be far more significant.
If new technologies have a lifespan of less than 3 years now, what will it be like in 10 years from now? Our responsibility as TLs will be to create digital literate students. Shenton’s fourth paradox states that ‘despite the sophistication of today’s information age, youngsters frequently follow a basic formula for action when finding and using information (Shenton, 2007). They are a generation who seek instant gratification! They want it and they want it now. TLs need to respond to the needs of students and equip them with lifelong skills of digital literacy that shows them what to do with information. We need to change the culture of technology use, whereby google search and Wikipedia is students’ number one go-to, and show them how to search elsewhere, whereby they exercise the skills of interpretation, critical literacy, evaluation and selectivity. Every school should have a TL that can show students exactly how to navigate the information landscape.
Shenton, A.K. (2007). The paradoxical world of young people’s information behaviour. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2) 1 -17.