May 8, 2013 by patriciawhite84
If you were to ask somebody what it means to be a literate person, the most common answer would be the ability to read and write competently. But does that mean a literate person is automatically information literate as well? No. This is because information literacy requires not only a set of skills, but involves regulating our emotions too. How we understand and feel about the information that we receive, will dictate how we use it. However in order to identify, locate, evaluate and process this information will depend on a set of skills that must first be taught. Developing information literacy is a critical component of the 21st century learner. It leads to higher order thinking that in turn becomes lifelong learning, transferable across all educational disciplines and applies to all avenues of life. The steps to becoming a lifelong learner illustrate how the concept of information literacy develops out of skill and emotion.
The traditional notion of literacy, the ability to read and write competently within a range of contexts, lays the foundation skills for information literacy. Even though the definition of literacy itself has evolved throughout history, the most widely accepted view is the ability comprehend and interpret information to form knowledge (Langford, 1998). Thus literacy is a fundamental educational skill necessary to develop information literacy.
The concept of learning is not something that students are taught, it is a survival instinct. Infants learn to walk, talk, eat/drink and socially interact in response to their natural surroundings. How this learning is nurtured, requires tapping into a child’s innate sense of curiosity. As Eisenberg (2008) illustrates humans are processors of information. Our ability to question the world guides us to seek out information and answers, the initial steps of information literacy.
A person’s culture and the society in which they exist impact upon the availability of resources and therefore information. A large part of becoming information literate is the ability to view and evaluate information from a wide variety of sources. But if social structures such as religious, moral and ethical beliefs censor access to information, can a person truly form a balanced and informed view? These relationships must be taken into consideration when information is transmitted through filters (Reed and Stavreva, 2006, p. 437). Understanding the cultural and social implications of information literacy is critical in order to progresses to the next step.
Forming research habits that guide students through the inquiry process is a necessary skill to becoming information literate. There are a variety of information literacy models, but they all have the same purpose, to help students become wise and critical users of information through a variety of mediums. These skills teach students when to identify a need for information, where to find it, how to evaluate, validate, adapt and use information to suit their particular purpose. It is crucial that during this step students are guided through the emotional turmoil that can occur during research, such as frustration and lacking interest, in order to develop coping strategies.
The concept of information literacy is a transferable process that can be used throughout life to explore information. It does not occur in isolation but actively interacts amongst a variety of literacies, such as social, computer and visual, in order to map out meaning about the modern world (Ipri, 2010, para. 3). Being able to process these complex notions critically in order to reach solutions, leads to the development of higher-order thinking. With this knowledge and understanding of how literacies are interconnected and communicate knowledge, a person finally has the tools, skills and emotional reflection that enables them to become a lifelong learner.
Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.
Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567.
Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: A clarification. Retrieved from http://www.fno.org/sept98/clarify.html
Reed, S. L. & Stavreva, K. (2006). Layering knowledge: Information literacy as critical thinking in the literature classroom. Pedagogy. 6(3) 435-452