Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Impetus for Information Literacy at the School Level

The Borderless Society

The rapid growth of technology changed the way people think and use information. It created new knowledge and modes of communication. It spawned diverse communities in virtual and online environments. The borderless society is ever growing and it is known by many names – global community, information society, electronic era, etc. The most dominant characteristics that it constitutes, given the labels and definitions, are the following; the proliferation of Information and Communications Technology (ICTs); information and knowledge; and use and access of ICTs (Singh, 2003).

These characteristics permeate all aspect of society and human activity. It has an effect in teaching, in learning and in the way information is created and communicated. More and more teachers are exploring ways to improve instruction by using ICTs. Learners today are very much different from the ones we had ten years ago. They are more visual, more interactive and are able to tap different modalities of learning. The basic skills of reading, writing and mathematical reasoning remain paramount as foundations of learning. However, different kinds of literacy are inevitably emerging in the borderless society. Computer literacy, technology literacy, family literacy, cultural literacy, media literacy are examples. Information is present in all these kinds. In a borderless society, the necessity to handle and use information and the acquisition of these competencies is intertwined with another kind of literacy – INFORMATION LITERACY.

Information Literacy

Simply put, the American Library Association (ALA, 2000) defines it as a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information. In the report of a study conducted by a team of Southeast Asian librarians (2004), Information Literacy (IL) does note end with the critical and effective use of information. It includes the communication of (created) information and that, the process by which information were gathered and derived from a variety of sources was done ethically and responsibly.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) provides a conceptual framework and guidelines for describing the information literate student. It has three categories with nine indicators. The three categories are a) Information Literacy Standards; b) Independent Learning Standard and c) Social Responsibility Standards. Below are the nine indicators:

The learner who is information literate:

a. accesses information efficiently and effectively

b. evaluates information critically and competently

c. uses information accurately and creatively

d. appreciates literature and other creative expression of information

e. strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation

f. pursues information related to personal interests

g. contributes positively to the learning community and to society and thus recognizes the importance of information to a democratic society

h. practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology

i. participates effectively in groups to pursue and generate information

The indicators are actually the core skills required of librarians.

Libraries have information and ideas. Librarians evaluate collection and organize it; write abstracts, make indexes – this is a way of analyzing and synthesizing information. Finding, locating and gathering information is a basic readers and reference services. Librarians also campaign for the ethical use of information and are involved in networking and resource sharing. Librarians are models of Information Literacy. Librarians are living testimonies of Information Literacy and how it works. In this case, librarians are information specialist called upon more frequently to consult with teachers and learners, and to provide training and guidance toward the sharpening of information literacy skills not only in school and academic libraries but in public and special libraries as well.

Since librarians’ roles change, so do libraries. Libraries are no longer repositories of materials but activity centers. It is an extension of the classroom and a laboratory for life long learning.

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