To be literate in historical terms has meant that one has the ability to read, write and comprehend effectively; however in a rapidly changing information environment students must make sense from multiple sources of information (Kuhlthau & Maniotes 2010) and demonstrate diversity in presenting and evaluating this information. To do this effectively makes one not just literate in the traditional sense but information literate in a contemporary sense.
Information Literacy (IL) is more than a set of skills and has far reaching implications for learners in the 21st century and while there seems to be no agreed definition for IL, the most widely held view is that it is a set of skills and processes as well as an approach to learning (Herring &Bush 2011). While IL may be taught initially as a set of skills it transforms into much more than that over time. It becomes a methodology for learning and problem solving and as Langford (1998) suggests, it produces students who know not just how to gather and use information but students who can reflect on the way that knowledge is collected and applied. Abilock (2004) proposes that Information Literacy is a transformational process, crossing the boundaries of subject areas, grade levels and time, promoting lifelong learners who are able to use these skills and processes throughout their education and into adult life.
The Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (2004) provide an IL framework which encompasses six principles that an information literate person would demonstrate.
1. Determines the nature and extent of information needed
2. Finds information effectively and efficiently
3. Critically evaluates information
4. Manages information collected or generated
5. Applies prior and new information to create new understandings
6. Understands and acknowledges cultural, ethical, economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information
While these principles contain vital skills, they also reflect a holistic approach to the lifelong learning process.
There are many models of IL in use across schools including Herring’s PLUS Model, Kuhlthau’s ISP Model, Berkowitz & Eisenberg’s BIG 6 and the NSW Department of Education’s K-6 ISP Matrix. Regardless of which one is used they all aim to assist students deal with the information overload of 21st Century technology and communications. This however, does not just happen and as Kuhlthau & Maniotes (2010) recommend, when uncertainty and confusion is observed it is essential that intervention by the teacher takes place to deepen the learning experience of the student. Over time students learn how to learn not just what to learn and while the age of the students is no barrier to using IL models, it will determine how much is expected and the amount of intervention required.
Literacy is at the centre of education, it enables students to function well in society and find and use information appropriately but it is capricious (Langford 1998), a constantly evolving concept which requires more than just a set of skills taught in isolation. If students are to gain control of the vast amount t of information available, it is essential that a shift in educational pedagogy take place so that information literacy is viewed as a transformative, constructive approach to acquiring, managing and evaluating information.
Abilock, D. (2004). Information literacy: an overview of design, process and outcomes.
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. E., & Bush, S. J. (2011). Information literacy and transfer in schools: implications for teacher librarians. Australian Library Journal, 60(2), 123-132.
Kuhlthau, C. &. (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly , p. 26(5).18.
Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal