There seems to be many and varied constructs of what information literacy seems to be – the definitions exclude and include many different areas and come under different titles – transliteracy, digital literacy, information fluency, 21 century fluency, digital inquiry models and so on. Langford uses the idea of the Indian story of the blind men and the elephant to analogise that one’s definition of information literacy depends on what part of the elephant you seem to be grasping! What a sobering thought but a clear one – every stakeholder and academic has a spin on what constitutes information literacy and defines parameters accordingly.
So from what I have read so far…
Barbara Stripling has broadened the term of information literacy to “digital literacy” and states that students should be able to “gather information from any format and more importantly, make sense of that information, use it, and communicate it to others.” (Stripling, B. 2010 p.1).
The Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework states that information literacy is identified as an “essential element for lifelong learning”. Herring citing Doyle in his paper Improving students’ web use and information literacy: a guide for teachers and teacher librarians, states that information literacy means the ability to “access, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources, to recognise when information is needed and know how to learn” (Doyle as cited by Herring, J. 2007 p.33). Herring in his book Improving Students’ Web Use and Information Literacy (2011) updates this to “a critical and reflective ability to exploit the current information environment, and to adapt to new information environments” (p.63), which he describes as an ability and not a simple set of skills. (Herring, J. 2011)
Abilock (2004) determines that information literacy is a “transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for personal, social or global purposes.” (Abilock, D 2004 par. 1)
A few authors discredit the term information literacy – changing it into a broader term – transliteracy, which is defined as, “read, listen, view, understand, synthesise and apply what [they] gather across all different platforms” (‘Transliteracies Project’ website, 2013).
Most minds that have considered information literacy and have tried to define it have more in common than not. All subscribe to the point of view that it is an essential element in any education, with Langford stoutly making the point that “literacy is but one way of articulating the many facets of literacy, which is a whole-school concern” although goes on to lament the idea that there is a disconnect in many schools and educational institutions between the agreement that information literacy is an essential element but provision is not made for its prioritisation in the curriculum (Langford, 1998).
It is interesting to note that the millennial’s carry the weight of expectation on their shoulders to be up for the task/s of mastering so many of these literacies and walk into many classes, headed up by teachers who assume that they a) have mastered the skills to use the platforms on offer, b) can interpret the information they find, c) can filter what they find, d) can utilise and assess what they read or view. I know in my own teaching how large the gap is between assumption of skills/process/ knowledge and the reality. Being in the same room as a computer doesn’t necessarily mean you can use it, and using it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a proficient user, and being a reasonably proficient user doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t improve! Insert teacher librarian here? Or perhaps as Langford suggests it is an entire cross curricula extravaganza – a ubiquity!
Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga
Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Herring, James E. (2011) Improving students’ web use and information literacy: a guide for teachers and teacher librarians London : Facet Pub.
Stripling, B. (2010). Teaching Students to Think in the Digital Environment: Digital Literacy and Digital Inquiry. School Library Monthly, 26(8), 16-19.
Transliteracies Project. http://nlabnetworks.typepad.com/transliteracy/ Accessed July 24, 2013
Tweed W. Ross and Gerald D. Bailey (1994) Wanted: A New Literacy for the Information Age NASSP Bulletin 78: 31