Thursday, June 25, 2009

Information Literacy...What a Mixed Bag

Information literacy has, unfortunately, become a "hyper-term". There are so many varying definitions and interpretations of information literacy, that it's become sidetracked in its own meaning and self-analysis by well-intentioned academics and information professionals. And there's nothing wrong with refining the theoretical framework of an increasingly salient phenomenon, but we believe there's a very basic and real thread of human/user experience which can connect the various definitions; and especially when applied to the contexts of information technology and the classroom.

Information literacy is well documented in the context of library studies, and in its most basic form a service concept mapping user to information need, and which emerged out of generations of librarians working to help their users learn how to research. The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), an American Library Association division, defines information literacy as "the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information", and sets of standards have been created that outline in detail the skill set needed to be information literate.

However, the definition that most appeals to us is the one put forth by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in 2005. Known as the Alexandria Proclamation it proclaims that "Information Literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments and to all levels of education..." The report (The final report of the High-Level Colloquium on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning) argues that information literacy is part of the basic right to lifelong learning, that it is far more than a library or education issue, and that in a digital world it should be considered a basic human right.

The association between information literacy and lifelong learning seems to resonate best in the present context of our students' digitally-infused social, play, and learning activities. Exchanging information has now become central to play, "throwing sheep" at your friend on Facebook, or sending an emoticon-ladden IMs to your friend for them to decipher, there are many steps and connections they have to learn to participate in these activities and we need to translate this energy into classroom activities and learning.

Here are some really useful sites focusing on information literacy: