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Author: Eric Plotnick
[This Digest is based on "Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age" by Kathleen L. Spitzer with Michael B. Eisenberg & Carrie A. Lowe. Monograph ordering information is noted at the end of this Digest.]
Definition of Information Literacy
Although alternate definitions for information literacy have been developed by educational institutions, professional organizations and individuals, they are likely to stem from the definition offered in the Final Report of the American Library Association (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information"(1989, p. 1). Since information may be presented in a number of formats, the term information applies to more than just the printed word. Other literacies such as visual, media, computer, network, and basic literacies are implicit in information literacy.
The Evolution of a Concept
The seminal event in the development of the concept of information literacy was the establishment of the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy whose final report outlined the importance of the concept. The ALA Presidential Committee precipitated the formation of the National Forum on Information Literacy, a coalition of more than 65 national organizations, that seeks to disseminate the concept. The development of information literacy in K-12 education began with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983. This was soon followed by Educating Students to Think: The Role of the School Library Media Program (1986), a concept paper outlining the role of the library and the role of information resources in K-12 education. Kulthau's Information Skills for an Information Society: A Review of Research (1987) included library skills and computer skills in the definition of information literacy. The American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) 1988 publication, Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs, and its 1998 publication Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning emphasize the notion that the mission of the school library media program is "to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information."
Information Literacy Research
Three themes predominate in research on information literacy:
An Economic Perspective
The change from an economy based on labor and capital to one based on information requires information literate workers who will know how to interpret information.
National and State Standards
With the passage of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994), subject matter organizations were able to obtain funding to develop standards in their respective subject areas. Information literacy skills are implicit in the National Education Goals and national content standards documents.
K-12 Education Restructuring
Educational reform and restructuring make information literacy skills a necessity as students seek to construct their own knowledge and create their own understandings.
Information Literacy Efforts in K-12 Education
Information literacy efforts are underway on individual, local, and regional bases.
Information Literacy in Higher Education
The inclusion of information competencies as a graduation requirement is the key that will fully integrate information literacy into the curricula of academic institutions.
Technology and Information Literacy
Information Technology is the great enabler. It provides, for those who have access to it, an extension of their powers of perception, comprehension, analysis, thought, concentration, and articulation through a range of activities that include: writing, visual images, mathematics, music, physical movement, sensing the environment, simulation, and communication (Carpenter, 1989, p. 2).
Technology, in all of its various forms, offers users the tools to access, manipulate, transform, evaluate, use, and present information.
"In this next century, an "educated" graduate will no longer be defined as one who has absorbed a certain body of factual information, but as one who knows how to find, evaluate, and apply needed information" (Breivik, 1998, p.2). Our ability to be information literate depends on our willingness to be lifelong learners as we are challenged to master new technologies that will forever alter the landscape of information.#
American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1988). Information power: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago: Author. (ED 315 028)
American Library Association and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1998). Information power: Building partnerships for learning. Chicago: Author.
American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. (1989).Final report. Chicago: Author. (ED 315 028)
Barner, R. (1996, March/April). Seven changes that will challenge managers-and workers. The Futurist, 30(2), 14-18.
Breivik. P. S. & Senn, J. A. (1998). Information literacy: Educating children for the 21st century. (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Education Association.
Carpenter, J. P. (1989). Using the new technologies to create links between schools throughout the world: Colloquy on computerized school links. (Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom, 17-20 Oct. 1988).
Hashim, E. (1986). Educating students to think: The role of the school library media program, an introduction. In Information literacy: Learning how to learn. A collection of articles from School Library Media Quarterly, (15)1, 17-18.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1987). Information skills for an information society: A review of research. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources. (ED 297 740)
National Commission of Excellence in Education. (1983). A Nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. (ED 226 006)
Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. (ED 332 054)
This Digest was prepared by Eric Plotnick, Associate Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology.
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