The Information Literate School Community
by Jamie McKenzie
Networked schools quickly learn that their investments in technology will pay off most handsomely when they focus on the formation of an information literate school community.
Information literacy has three major components, all of which contribute to learners being able to "make up their own minds."
1. Prospecting: The first component of information literacy relates to the discovery of relevant information. This prospecting requires navigation skills as well as the ability to sort, sift and select pertinent and reliable data.
2. Interpreting: It is not enough to locate numbers, text and visual data. The learner must be able to translate data and information into knowledge, insight and understanding. The learner must be skilled at interpretation. Huge number sets have little value if we do not know how to "crunch" the data and convert it into charts or other forms which show relationships and help us to resolve issues and questions.
3. Creating New Ideas: True information literacy includes the development of new insights. We cannot be satisfied with rehashing the ideas of others. We expect to see fresh knowledge. We expect more than thinly disguised plagiarism.
It may take several years for a school to approach the goal of universal information literacy. The journey requires a substantial and sustained commitment to professional development and program development.
How does a school know when it deserves to be called an information literate school community? When the following characteristics are abundantly evident, the phrase is well deserved . . .
- Invention: Much of the school program is dedicated to problem-solving, decision-making, exploration and the creation of new ideas. Both teachers and students are increasingly engaged in the discovery and building of meaning.
- Fluency: Teachers are becoming more comfortable with the need to move back and forth between an array of instructional roles and strategies. Sometimes they take advantage of efficiencies associated with direct instruction (the sage on the stage). Other times they facilitate more active student participation and inquiry (guide on the side). They are building a toolkit of strategies.
- Support: The school provides ongoing support for all learners to develop thinking and information skills. These opportunities are rich and frequent.
- Navigation: Teachers and students are developing efficient navigation skills. They can find their way through the new information landscape (as well as the old) with little lost time.
- Searching: Teachers and students are sharpening search skills. They apply Boolean Logic. They search with appropriate syntax. They employ powerful search engine features to carve through mountains of information on their way to the most relevant sources.
- Selection: Teachers and students are honing selection skills. They know how to separate the reliable from the unreliable source. They recognize propaganda, bias and distortion.
- Questioning: Teachers and students are extending questioning skills. They know how and when to employ dozens of different types of questions. Some are best to solve a problem. Others help in making a decision or building an answer. Some work best early in the search. Others come into play toward the end.
- Planning: Teachers and students are acquiring additional planning and organizational skills. They sort, sift and store findings to enhance later questioning. They make wise choices from a toolkit of research strategies and resources. They learn when a particular stage in the research process might prove most timely and when a particular strategy might produce the best results.
- Interpretation: Teachers and students are improving in their ability to interpret information. They convert primary sources and raw data into information, and then they proceed further (beyond information) to insight. They translate, infer and apply what they have gathered to the issue at hand. They are skilled at making new meanings. They pass beyond mere consumption of information. They create new knowledge.
- Deep Thinking: Teachers and students combine deep thinking and reading with a wide ranging search for relevant information. This quest for information is but the prelude to the more important work . . . solving a problem, creating a new idea, inventing a product or composing a symphony. Information literacy includes awareness of the limitations of information and the types of thinking required to move beyond those limitations.
- Commitment: All curriculum documents include clear statements regarding the information literacy expectations that are developmentally appropriate for each grade level.
How can we tell that our school is approaching a mature level of information literacy? We assess the Traits of an Information Literate School, rewarding between zero and four stars for each trait according to where our school has progressed on what is for most a five year journey.
Zero stars = Not an explicit goal. No journey started.
One star = Starting out on the journey with good intentions.
Two stars = Making good progress with observable results.
Three stars = Highly developed and effective
Four stars = World class. Not much room for growth or improvement.
Note: In the table below, the term "learners" applies to both staff and students.
The Traits of an Information Literate School
||Much of the school program is dedicated to problem-solving, decision-making, exploration and the creation of new ideas.
||Teachers are becoming comfortable with the need to move back and forth between an array of instructional roles and strategies.
||The school provides rich and frequent ongoing support for all learners to develop thinking and information skills.
||Learners have the navigation skills to find their way through the new information landscape (as well as the old) with little lost time.
||Learners apply Boolean Logic. They search with appropriate syntax. They employ powerful search engine features to locate pertinent information.
||Learners know how to separate the reliable from the unreliable source. They recognize propaganda, bias and distortion.
||Learners know how and when to employ dozens of different types of questions in the search for understanding and meaning.
||Learners possess planning and organizational skills. They sort, sift and store findings to enhance later questioning. They make wise choices from a toolkit of research strategies and resources.
||Learners convert primary sources and raw data into information, and then they proceed further (beyond information) to insight. They translate, infer and apply what they have gathered to the issue at hand.
||Learners combine deep thinking and reading with a wide ranging search for relevant information. This quest for information is but the prelude to the more important work . . . solving a problem, creating a new idea, inventing a product or composing a symphony.
||All curriculum documents include clear statements regarding the information literacy expectations that are developmentally appropriate for each grade level. The school community persists with the literacy goal over time.
© 1999, J.McKenzie, all rights reserved. This table may be duplicated and used on paper only by schools and teachers. All other uses, distribution or publication are prohibited without explicit permission from the author.
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Note: For an excellent overview of information literacy, consult Linda Langfords article, "Information Literacy: A Clarification" in School Libraries Worldwide, Volume 4, Number 1.
It was Lindas article and her mention of "an information literate community" which prompted the writing of this article. Volume 4, Number 1, January 1998.
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INFORMATION LITERACY BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bibliography from ATLC's publication, Information Literacy: An Advocacy Kit for Teacher-Librarians. Compiled and edited by Victoria Pennell.
As is stressed in "Learning for the future" p.4- Libraries should provide the services and technologies needed to gain access to information in order to develop an information-literate community. Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information Association (1993) Learning for the Future: Developing Information Services in Australian Schools. Melbourne : Curriculum Corporation.
Research Skills and Research Tools Using Information
Technology. Noela Steele. Computing Across the Primary Curriculum project. Computing Across the Primary Curriculum (CAPC) is an extended professional development program of ten sessions, each of two hours on the application of learning technologies to primary teaching and learning. The project is an initiative of the Professional and Leadership Development Centre of the Victorian Department of Education, Australia.
Leadership for collaboration: making vision work.
61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995
Lyn Hay and James Henri - Lecturers in Teacher Librarianship
School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University - Riverina
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
This paper provides the framework for discussion of the Principal's role in developing and supporting an information literate community.
A successful school library program requires the active support of the Principal who is best positioned to nurture the collaborative culture within which an integrated library program is able to flourish. Likewise, the leadership provided from the Principal is a key ingredient in a school's successful adoption of the information technology that enables a school to pursue the goal of information literacy.
The authors provide the background to a research project and provide some preliminary evidence that identifies the strategies adopted by Principals who seek to place information literacy at centre stage. They will also identify a range of potential strategies that might be employed by Teacher Librarians to further involve their Principal in the development of effective school library and information services.
Understanding principal patronage: developing and piloting a quantitative instrument.
63rd IFLA General Conference - Conference Programme and Proceedings - August 31- September 5, 1997
James Henri and Lyn Hay
In this paper the authors provide the background that led to the implementation of this project. The problems associated with the pilot of the instrument and the choice of a convenience sample are discussed. Extracts from two of the instruments are given and a detailed account of the reason for changes is provided. An overview of the statistical measures that can be used is included.
Learning for the Future: Developing Information Services in Australian Schools.
St. Nicholas Place
141 Rathdowne Street
Carlton VIC 3053
Scott, Catherine and Tierney, G.(1996) School Libraries Worldwide 2 (1) : 95-103
DESCRIPTION: The article discusses " Learning for the Future: Developing information Services in Australian Schools(1993), a contemporary standards and guidelines document that could be used to monitor the effectiveness of school library resource centers in a range of educational settings across Australia. Describes how outcomes-based education can provide a process framework to develop and improve school library information services This item should be available in most school libraries. Also at RMIT Central Library using Clearinghouse No. IR533189 or the title, on microfiche.
Order from: Curriculum Corporation (http://www.curriculum.edu.au/catalog/catlibr.htm)
Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie. Copyright Policy: Materials published in From Now On may be duplicated in hard copy format for educational, nonprofit school district use only and may also be sent from person to person by e-mail. All other uses, transmissions and duplications are prohibited unless permission is granted expressly.