ERIC Identifier: ED392463
Publication Date: 1996-03-00
Author: Eisenberg, Michael B. - Johnson, Doug
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse
Computer Skills for Information Problem-Solving: Learning and Teaching
Technology in Context. ERIC Digest.
There seems to be clear and widespread agreement among the public and educators
that students need to be proficient computer users--students need to be "computer literate." However, while districts are spending a great deal
of money on technology, there seems to be only a vague notion of what computer
literacy really means.
- Can the student who operates a computer well enough to play "Doom"
be considered computer literate?
- Will a student who has used computers in school only for running tutorials
or an integrated learning system have the skills necessary to survive in
- Will the ability to do basic word processing be sufficient for students
entering the workplace or post-secondary education?
Clearly not. In too many schools, most teachers and students still use
computers only as the equivalent of expensive flash cards or electronic
worksheets. The productivity side of computer use in the general content
area curriculum is neglected or grossly underdeveloped (Moursund, 1995).
There are, however, some encouraging signs concerning computers and
technology in education. For example, it is becoming increasingly popular
for educational technologists to advocate integrating computers into the
content areas. Teachers and administrators are recognizing that computer
skills should not be taught in isolation, and that separate "computer classes"
do not really help students learn to apply computer skills in meaningful
ways. This is an important shift in approach and emphasis. And it's a shift
with which library media specialists have a great deal of familiarity.
Library media specialists know that moving from isolated skills instruction
to an integrated approach is an important step that takes a great deal
of planning and effort. Over the past 20 years, library media professionals
have worked hard to move from teaching isolated "library skills" to teaching
integrated information skills. Effective integration of information skills
has two requirements: (1) the skills must directly relate to the content
area curriculum and to classroom assignments, and (2) the skills themselves
need to be tied together in a logical and systematic information process
Schools seeking to move from isolated computer skills instruction will
also need to focus on both of these requirements. Successful integrated
information skills programs are designed around collaborative projects
jointly planned and taught by teachers and library media professionals.
Computer skills instruction can follow the same approach. Library media
specialists, computer teachers, and classroom teachers need to work together
to develop units and lessons that will include both computer skills, general
information skills, and content-area curriculum outcomes.
A meaningful, unified computer literacy curriculum must be more than
"laundry lists" of isolated skills, such as:
- knowing the parts of the computer
- writing drafts and final products with a word processor
- searching for information using a CD-ROM database.
While these specific skills are certainly important for students to
learn, the "laundry list" approach does not provide an adequate model for
students to transfer and apply skills from situation to situation. These
curricula address the "how" of computer use, but rarely the "when" or "why."
Students may learn isolated skills and tools, but they will still lack
an understanding of how those various skills fit together to solve problems
and complete tasks. Students need to be able to use computers flexibly,
creatively and purposefully. All learners should be able to recognize what
they need to accomplish, determine whether a computer will help them to
do so, and then be able to use the computer as part of the process of accomplishing
their task. Individual computer skills take on a new meaning when they
are integrated within this type of information problem-solving process,
and students develop true "computer literacy" because they have genuinely
applied various computer skills as part of the learning process.
The curriculum outlined below, "Computer Skills for Information Problem-Solving,"
demonstrates how computer literacy skills can fit within an information
literacy skills context (American Association of School Librarians, 1995).
The baseline information literacy context is the Big Six Skills process
(see below and Eisenberg & Berkowitz cites). The various computer skills
are adapted from curricula developed by the state of Minnesota (Minnesota
Department of Education, 1989) and the Mankato Area Public Schools (Mankato
Schools Information Literacy Curriculum Guideline). These basic computer
skills are those which all students might reasonably be expected to authentically
demonstrate before graduation. Since Internet-related skills are increasingly
important for information problem-solving, they are included in this curriculum,
and are noted by an asterisk.
Some computer literacy "skills" competencies which do not seem to fit
into this information processing model, and which may or may not be important
to have stated include:
- knowing the basic operation, terminology, and maintenance of equipment
- knowing how to use computer-assisted instructional programs
- having knowledge of the impact of technology on careers, society,
- computer programming
- specialized computer applications like music composition software,
computer assisted drawing and drafting programs, mathematics modeling software,
Listing computer skills is only a first step in assuring all our children
become proficient information and technology users. A teacher supported
scope and sequence of skills, well designed projects, and effective assessments
are also critical. Many library media specialists will need to hone their
own technology skills in order to remain effective information skills teachers.
But such a curriculum holds tremendous opportunities for library media
specialists to become vital, indispensable staff members, and for all children
to master the skills they will need to thrive in an information rich future.
COMPUTER SKILLS FOR INFORMATION PROBLEM-SOLVING: A CURRICULUM
BASED ON THE BIG SIX SKILLS APPROACH(copyright Michael B. Eisenberg,
Doug Johnson & Robert E. Berkowitz) 1. TASK DEFINITION: The first
step in the information problem-solving process is to recognize that an
information need exists, to define the problem, and to identify the types
and amount of information needed. In terms of technology, students will
be able to:
A. Use e-mail, and online discussion groups (e.g., listservs, newsgroups)
on the Internet to communicate with teachers regarding assignments, tasks,
B. Use e-mail, and online discussion groups (e.g., listservs, newsgroups)
on the Internet to generate topics and problems and to facilitate cooperative
activities among groups of students locally and globally.*
C. Use desktop conferencing, e-mail, and groupware software on local
area networks to communicate with teachers regarding assignments, tasks,
and information problems.
D. Use desktop conferencing, e-mail, and groupware software on local
area networks to generate topics and problems and to facilitate cooperative
activities among groups of students locally.
E. Use computer brainstorming or idea generating software to define
or refine the information problem. This includes developing a research
question or perspective on a topic.
2. INFORMATION SEEKING STRATEGIES: Once the information problem has
been formulated, the student must consider all possible information sources
and develop a plan for searching. Students will be able to:
A. Assess the value of various types of electronic resources for data
gathering, including databases, CD-ROM resources, commercial and Internet
online resources, electronic reference works, community and government
information electronic resources.*
B. Identify and apply specific criteria for evaluating computerized
C. Assess the value of e-mail, and online discussion groups (e.g., listservs,
newsgroups) on the Internet as part of a search of the current literature
or in relation to the information task.
D. Use a computer to generate modifiable flow charts, Gantt charts,
time lines, organizational charts, project plans and calendars which will
help the student plan and organize complex or group information problem-solving
3. LOCATION AND ACCESS: After students determine their priorities for
information seeking, they must locate information from a variety of resources
and access specific information found within individual resources. Students
will be able to:
A. Locate and use appropriate computer resources and technologies available
within the school library media center, including those on the library
media center's local area network, (e.g., online catalogs, periodical indexes,
full-text sources, multimedia computer stations, CD-ROM stations, online
terminals, scanners, digital cameras).
B. Locate and use appropriate computer resources and technologies available
throughout the school including those available through local area networks
(e.g., full-text resources, CD-ROMs, productivity software, scanners, digital
C. Locate and use appropriate computer resources and technologies available
beyond the school through the Internet (e.g., newsgroups, listservs, WWW
sites via Netscape, Lynx or another browser, gopher, ftp sites, online
public access library catalogs, commercial databases and online services,
other community, academic, and government resources).*
D. Know the roles and computer expertise of the people working in the
school library media center and elsewhere who might provide information
E. Use electronic reference materials (e.g., electronic encyclopedias,
dictionaries, biographical reference sources, atlases, geographic databanks,
thesauri, almanacs, fact books) available through local area networks,
stand-alone workstations, commercial online vendors, or the Internet.
F. Use the Internet or commercial computer networks to contact experts
and help and referral services.*
G. Conduct self-initiated electronic surveys conducted through e-mail,
listservs or newsgroups.*
H. Use organizational systems and tools specific to electronic information
sources that assist in finding specific and general information (e.g.,
indexes, tables of contents, user's instructions and manuals, legends,
boldface and italics, graphic clues and icons, cross-references, Boolean
logic strategies, time lines, hypertext links, knowledge trees, URLs etc.)
including the use of:
oo search tools and commands for stand-alone, CD-ROM, and online databases
and services (e.g., DIALOG commands, America Online, UMI, Mead);
oo search tools and commands for searching the Internet (e.g., Yahoo,
Lycos, WebCrawler, Veronica, Archie).*
4. USE OF INFORMATION: After finding potentially useful resources, students
must engage (read, view, listen) the information to determine its relevance
and then extract the relevant information. Students will be able to:
A. Connect and operate the computer technology needed to access information,
and read the guides and manuals associated with such tasks.
B. View, download, decompress and open documents and programs from Internet
sites and archives.*
C. Cut and paste information from an electronic source into a personal
document complete with proper citation.
D. Take notes and outline with a word processor or similar productivity
E. Record electronic sources of information and locations of those sources
to properly cite and credit in footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies.
F. Use electronic spreadsheets, databases, and statistical software
to process and analyze statistical data.
G. Analyze and filter electronic information in relation to the task,
rejecting non-relevant information.
5. SYNTHESIS: Students must organize and communicate the results of
the information problem-solving effort. Students will be able to:
A. Classify and group information using a word processor, database or
B. Use word processing and desktop publishing software to create printed
documents, applying keyboard skills equivalent to at least twice the rate
of handwriting speed.
C. Create and use computer-generated graphics and art in various print
and electronic presentations.
D. Use electronic spreadsheet software to create original spreadsheets.
E. Generate charts, tables and graphs using electronic spreadsheets
and other graphing programs.
F. Use database/file management software to create original databases.
G. Use presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint, HyperStudio, Aldus Persuasion)
to create electronic slide shows and to generate overheads and slides.
H. Create hypermedia and multimedia productions with digital video and
I. Create World Wide Web pages and sites using hypertext markup language
J. Use e-mail, ftp, and other telecommunications capabilities to share
information, products, and files.*
K. Use specialized computer applications as appropriate for specific
tasks, e.g., music composition software, computer assisted drawing and
drafting programs, mathematics modeling software.
L. Properly cite and credit electronic sources of information in footnotes,
endnotes, and bibliographies.
6. EVALUATION: Evaluation focuses on how well the final product meets
the original task (effectiveness) and the process of how well students
carried out the information problem-solving process (efficiency). Students
may evaluate their own work and process or be evaluated by others (i.e.
classmates, teachers, library media staff, parents). Students will be able
A. Evaluate electronic presentations in terms of both the content and
B. Use spell and grammar checking capabilities of word processing and
other software to edit and revise their work.
C. Apply legal principles and ethical conduct related to information
technology related to copyright and plagiarism.
D. Understand and abide by telecomputing etiquette when using e-mail,
newsgroups, listservs and other Internet functions.*
E. Understand and abide by acceptable use policies in relation to use
of the Internet and other electronic technologies.
F. Use e-mail, and online discussion groups (e.g., listservs, newsgroups)
on local area networks and the Internet to communicate with teachers and
others regarding their performance on assignments, tasks, and information-problems.*
G. Use desktop conferencing, e-mail, and groupware software on local
area networks to communicate with teachers and others regarding student
performance on assignments, tasks, and information problems.
H. Thoughtfully reflect on the use of electronic resources and tools
throughout the process.
ADDENDUM: Included here are skills and knowledge related to technology
that are not part of the computer and information technology curriculum.
These items should be learned in context, i.e., as students are working
through various assignments and information problems using technology.
Students will be able to:
A. Know and use basic computer terminology.
B. Operate various pieces of hardware and software--particularly operating
systems--and be able to handle basic maintenance.
C. Understand the basics of computer programming. Specific courses in
computer programming should be part of the school's curricular offerings.
D. Understand and articulate the relationship and impact of information
technology on careers, society, culture, and their own lives.
Note: Permission is granted for educational use or reprint of all or
parts of this curriculum as long as the authors are properly and prominently
* Items are specific to Internet use.
This curriculum guide is an excerpt from "Computer Skills for Information
Problem-Solving: Learning and Teaching Technology in Context, ERIC Digest"
(1996, March), prepared by Michael B. Eisenberg and Doug Johnson for the
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology, Syracuse, NY. (ED 392
THE BIG SIX SKILLS APPROACH TO INFORMATION PROBLEM SOLVING(copyright Eisenberg
and Berkowitz, 1988)The Big Six is an information literacy curriculum,
an information problem-solving process, and a set of skills which provide
a strategy for effectively and efficiently meeting information needs. The
Big Six Skills approach can be used whenever students are in a situation,
academic or personal, which requires information to solve a problem, make
a decision or complete a task. This model is transferable to school, personal,
and work applications, as well as all content areas and the full range
of grade levels. When taught collaboratively with content area teachers
in concert with content-area objectives, it serves to ensure that students
are information literate.
The Big Six:
1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the task (the information problem)
1.2 Identify information needed in order to complete the task (to solve
the information problem)
2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Brainstorm all possible sources
2.2 Select the best sources
3. Location and Access
3.1 Locate sources
3.2 Find information within the source
4. Use of Information
4.1 Engage in the source (read, hear, view, touch)
4.2 Extract relevant information
5.1 Organize information from multiple sources
5.2 Present the information
6.1 Judge the process (efficiency)
6.2 Judge the product (effectiveness)
REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READING
American Association of School Librarians. (1995, November). Information
literacy: A position paper on information problem solving. "Emergency Librarian,"
23(2), 20-23. (EJ number pending, IR 531 873). Also available from the
American Association of School Librarians. California Media and Library
Educators Association Staff. (1993). "From library skills to information
literacy: A handbook for the 21st century." Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited,
Inc. (ISBN: 0-931510-49-X)
Coulehan, J. L. (1995). Using electronic mail for a small-group curriculum
in ethical and social issues. "Academic Medicine," 70(2), 158-163. (EJ
Doyle, C. S. (1994). "Information literacy in an information society:
A concept for the information age." Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information & Technology. (ED 372 763)
Eisenberg, M. & Berkowitz, B. (1988). "Curriculum initiative: An
agenda and strategy for library media programs." Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Eisenberg, M. B. & Berkowitz, R. E. (1992). Information problem-solving:
The big six skills approach. "School Library Media Activities Monthly,"
8(5), 27-29,37,42. (EJ 438 023)
Eisenberg, M. B. & Ely, D. P. (1993). Plugging into the "Net." "Emergency
Librarian," 21(2), 8-16. (EJ 471 260)
Eisenberg, M. B. & Small, R. V. (1993). Information-based education:
An investigation of the nature and role of information attributes in education.
"Information Processing and Management," 29(2), 263-275. (EJ 462 841)
Eisenberg, M. B. & Spitzer, K. L. (1991). Information technology
and services in schools. In M. E. Williams (Ed.), "Annual Review of Information
Science and Technology: Vol. 26." (pp. 243-285). Medford, NJ: Learned Information,
Inc. (EJ 441 688)
Garland, K. (1995). The information search process: A study of elements
associated with meaningful research tasks. "School Libraries Worldwide,"
1(1), 41-53. (EJ 503 407)
Johnson, D. (1995). Captured by the web: K-12 schools and the world-wide
web. "MultiMedia Schools," 2(2), 24-30. (EJ 499 841)
Johnson, D. (1995). The new and improved school library: How one district
planned for the future. "School Library Journal," 41(6), 36-39. (EJ 505
Johnson, D. (1995). Student access to the Internet: Librarians and teachers
working together to teach higher level survival skills. "Emergency Librarian,"
22(3), 8-12. (EJ 497 895)
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1993). Implementing a process approach to information
skills: A study identifying indicators of success in library media programs.
"School Library Media Quarterly," 22(1), 11-18. (EJ 473 063)
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1995). The process of learning from information. "School
Libraries Worldwide," 1(1), 1-12. (EJ 503 404)
Mankato Schools Information Literacy Curriculum Guideline. Internet
WWW page, at URL: <http://www.isd77.k12.mn.us/resources/infolit.html>
(version current at 11 March 1996).
McNally, M. J. & Kulhthau, C. C. (1994). Information search process
in science education. "Reference Librarian," 44, 53-60. (EJ 488 273)
Minnesota Department of Education. (1989). "Model learner outcomes for
educational media and technology." St. Paul, MN: Author. (ED 336 070)
Moursund, D. (1995, December). Effective practices (part 2): Productivity
tools. "Learning and Leading With Technology," 23(4), 5-6.
Pappas, M. L. (1993, September). A vision of school library media centers
in an electronic information age. "School Library Media Activities Monthly,"
10(1), 32-34,38. (EJ 469 122)
Pappas, M. L. (1995). Information skills for electronic resources. "School
Library Media Activities Monthly," 11(8), 39-40. (EJ 499 875)
Todd, R. J. (1995). Information literacy: Philosophy, principles, and
practice. "School Libraries Worldwide," 1(1), 54-68. (EJ 503 408)
Todd, R. J. (1995). Integrated information skills instruction: Does
it make a difference? "School Library Media Quarterly," 23(2), 133-138.
(EJ 497 921)
Wisconsin Educational Media Association. (1993). "Information literacy:
A position paper on information problem-solving." Madison, WI: WEMA Publications.
(ED 376 817). (Portions adapted from Michigan State Board of Education's
Position Paper on Information Processing Skills, 1992).