Information Literacy – theory and practice for 21st Century learning

Information Literacy (IL) is more than a set of skills. The difficulty of this argument lies in the fact that there are so many definitions for the concept of IL (Langford, 1998). However, whilst IL is comprised of many skills, it has been acknowledged that it is not just a set of skills but also a learning process (Herring, 2006). In the process of becoming information literate a learner moves a long a spectrum of skills, each building on top of one another, from the ability to recognise a need for information to the transfer of skills and creation of new information in a different context. This is recognised by the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework (Bundy, 2004). In addition the framework includes the concept of life-long learning as an integral part of IL (Bundy, 2004). Other aspects affecting the process of becoming information literate have been recognised, such as attitudes and feelings of learners, (Kuhlthau, 2004) and also their beliefs and values (Bundy, 2004). If one considers all the different skills and aspects that have an impact on the learner in attaining IL, it may be more useful to consider IL as a theory of learning which comprises many concepts and also skills.

One of the more interesting ideas about IL is that as a concept it is continually evolving to keep in line with the changes in our information and technological age (Langford, 1998). If we acknowledge that IL is not a static concept then it must be more than a set of skills and instead is a way of thinking. A framework called Dimensions of Learning (DOL) has been used successfully in Australia specifically to support the development of IL skills (Twomey & Salisbury, 2004). Dimension Five is Productive Habits of Mind (thinking skills) which in combination with Dimension One, Attitudes and Perceptions, have been acknowledged as essential in attaining IL skills acknowledged in Dimension Two, Three and Four (Twomey & Salisbury, 2004). DOL is a framework which acknowledges that IL skills need to be addressed on a more holistic level and the framework also includes the consideration of what is termed Virtues for Life which addresses values such as acceptance of others and justice (Twomey & Salibury, 2004). The DOL framework supports the question of whether IL should be regarded as an “umbrella phrase…that contributes to the holistic development of the individual” (Langford, 1998).

It has been argued that IL should be embedded within the curriculum (Bundy, 2004), that it should be the goal of all educators (Badke, 2005) and it is a key competency for individuals and by extension vital for a well-functioning society (Langford, 2004). Standard Six of the Australian and New Zealand Information and Literacy Framework advocates for the notions of social, ethical, legal, economic and cultural responsibility in the use of information (Bundy, 2004). This standard thus introduces another aspect to the concept of IL, placing it far beyond a set of skills and emphasising its importance in producing independent and responsible citizens. Langford’s argument then that teachers need to incorporate the belief of the power of IL to produce life long and independent learners is certainly one that this writer subscribes to (Langord, 2004). IL is more than a set of skills, as a concept and learning theory it provides the basis for education in our century.

Badke, W. B. (2005). Can’t get no respect: helping faculty to understand the educational power of information literacy. Reference Librarian, 43(89/90), 63-80. doi: 10.1300/J120v43n89•05
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 (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).
Herring, J. (2006). A critical investigation of students’ and teachers’ views of the use of information literacy skills in school assignments. School Library Media Research, 9.
Kuhlthau, C.C. (2004). Learning as a process, in Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services, Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, pp.13-27
Langford, L. (2004). Information literacy: a clarification. From Now On – the Educational Technology Journal. Retrieved from http://www.fno.org/sept98/clarify.html
Twomey, M. & Salisbury, M. (2004). Thinking through the thing you do: creating a thinking culture. Constructing Communities of Learning and Literacy. ASLA Online Conference Proceedings.

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