Skills Every Student Needs: Information Literacy

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 12:23 -- Emily Johnson

For the final post in our series on important skills that all students need, we will explore information literacy.

Information Literacy:

the ability to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information

(Introduction to information literacy, n.d., p. 1)

As illustrated in a previous blog post on Career Readiness, success in today’s colleges and workplaces is not about just ‘knowing facts’, but being able to analyze and properly use these facts, locating the sources of facts and evaluating them, and documenting all these steps along the way. The ever-expanding digital world gives students access to almost any piece of information they could wish, but without the tools to efficiently find, retrieve, analyze, and use this information, the students are like Ariel – The Little Mermaid who found all kinds of human artifacts but had no idea how to use them.

Information literacy is a critical component of College and Career Readiness, as evidenced by these elements – finding, retrieving, analyzing, and using information – appearing again and again in both the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Here are just a few examples:

College and Career Readiness Standards

·      II.C.2. Explore a research topic.

·      I.B.3. Gather evidence to support arguments, findings, or lines of reasoning.

·      II.A.5. Analyze textual information critically

·      I.F.1. Attribute ideas and information to source materials and people.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills

·      113.41.c.29. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to:

o   113.41.c.29.A. use a variety of both primary and secondary valid sources to acquire information and to analyze and answer historical questions.

o   113.41.c.29.B. analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing and contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations, making predictions, drawing inferences, and drawing conclusions.

o   113.41.c.29.E. evaluate the validity of a source based on language, corroboration with other sources, and information about the author, including points of view, frames of reference, and historical context.

 

Improving Information Literacy with CRAs

Information literacy is at the core of all College Readiness Assignments (CRAs); every CRA requires students to locate or produce some piece of information and analyze it critically. Some CRAs require locating information on the Internet and using resources to evaluate bias, e.g., A Comparison of Two Interest Groups, while other CRAs ask students to analyze the validity of claims, e.g., Japanese-American Internment Revisited. Still more ask students to use research to document and extrapolate costs, e.g. All in a Day’s Work.

Here are three CRAs that are cornerstones of building information literacy:

 

Words, Words, Words: Learning and Using New Vocabulary

Before students can analyze and apply texts they read, they must first understand the texts, so this is a great introductory CRA. This assignment asks students to predict and confirm meanings of words – using context, word parts (roots and affixes), and dictionaries – reflect upon appropriate contexts in which to use their new words, and construct brief passages in which the words are used appropriately. Students carefully work through the process of discovering the meanings of new words in a way that builds their ability to examine roots and context, so each new word is a little easier to discern. As a Cross-disciplinary CRA, this assignment can be used in ANY course.

 

Interrogating the Text: Reading Closely, Reading Critically

Once a student understands a source at its basic level, the next step is understanding the purpose and meaning of the text and evaluating these critically. This assignment guides students to become more expert readers by asking them to analyze a passage by breaking it down into its component parts, looking at how each part functions in the overall performance of that text. The goal of this assignment is for good questioning to become common practice in the classroom so that students develop as active readers who critically explore each text they read.

 

Choosing the Best Websites to Support Your Argument

Finally, understanding ideas like bias and credibility is key to information literacy. This assignment asks students to locate, evaluate, and Internet resources. Students will use guided activities to assess websites for credibility, validity, and reliability. They will then select sites on these criteria and defend their choices in group discussions. Then, students will research one side of a controversial issue and select three sources that they feel offer the most credible and useful information in support of their position. This assignment is particularly useful for digital natives, for though today’s students are adept at accessing websites, they are rarely asked to evaluate them.

 

We encourage you to look through these and other CRAs for tips on improving your students’ information literacy, for this is critical to their success after high school. As noted by the Association of College & Research Libraries, “It has become increasingly clear that students cannot learn everything they need to know in their field of study in a few years of college. Information literacy equips them with the critical skills necessary to become independent lifelong learners” (Introduction to information literacy, n.d., p. 1). This is precisely the goal of the CRAs – not to teach students everything they need to know (clearly impossible), but rather to teach students how to learn new information on their own.

 

Our next post on June 13 will begin a four-post series on pedagogy. Stay tuned!

 

References

Introduction to information literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2014, from Association of College & Research Libraries website: http://www.ala.org/acrl/issues/infolit/overview/intro

The Walt Disney Company. (n.d.). The little mermaid [Illustration]. Retrieved from http://images2.fanpop.com/image/forum/59000/59070_1271618173655_full.jpg