We live in a digital age. Our students have more access to information, and a wider variety of information, than any previous generation. Furthermore, the ways we use and access information are changing constantly.
If the next generations of students are to become effective digital citizens, it is vital that, at whatever age they leave formal education, they are equipped to engage with an ever-changing information landscape:
[Information literacy is] one of the beacons of the Information Society, illuminating the courses to development, prosperity and freedom. Information literacy empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion in all nations. Alexandria Proclamation
Traditionally, Information Literacy has been defined simply as the ability to find, evaluate, and use information (ACRL, 2000). However, changes in the information accessibility, the professional environment, and our understanding of the purposes of education, have led to educational contexts where we value meaning making rather than simple knowledge acquisition. Therefore, as students interact with information (audio, digital, visual, multimodal, or printed), they need to think about, learn from, and create new information for a range of disciplinary and digital (and, in the future, professional and civic) purposes.
What does this mean for teachers? It means we need to teach our students not just how to find information but how to engage with it. We need to help them identify the features of quality information. We need to teach them to critique information and use it effectively within their own texts.
But we also need to work differently. For effective information literacy education to take place, we need to bring all our resources together. We need to bring teachers together with libraries and librarians, digital information tools, and institutional learning contexts to create capable, critical, information literate learners.
Our classrooms and our libraries, and the people working within them, need to change. That is the focus of our work. And the transformation of our libraries will be the subject of our next blog post.