ERIC Identifier: ED427777
Publication Date: 1999-02-00
Author: Plotnick, Eric
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Information Literacy. ERIC Digest.
DEFINITION OF INFORMATION LITERACY
Although alternate definitions for information literacy have been developed
by educational institutions, professional organizations and individuals, they
are likely to stem from the definition offered in the Final Report of the
American Library Association (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information
Literacy, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when
information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use
effectively the needed information" (1989, p. 1). Since information may be
presented in a number of formats, the term "information" applies to more than
just the printed word. Other literacies such as visual, media, computer,
network, and basic literacies are implicit in information literacy.
THE EVOLUTION OF A CONCEPT
The seminal event in the
development of the concept of information literacy was the establishment of the
ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy whose final report outlined
the importance of the concept. The ALA Presidential Committee precipitated the
formation of the National Forum on Information Literacy, a coalition of more
than 65 national organizations, that seeks to disseminate the concept. The
development of information literacy in K-12 education began with the publication
of A Nation at Risk in 1983. This was soon followed by Educating Students to
Think: The Role of the School Library Media Program (1986), a concept paper
outlining the role of the library and the role of information resources in K-12
education. Kulthau's Information Skills for an Information Society: A Review of
Research (1987) included library skills and computer skills in the definition of
information literacy. The American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) 1988
publication, Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs,
and its 1998 publication Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning
emphasize the notion that the mission of the school library media program is "to
ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information."
INFORMATION LITERACY RESEARCH
Three themes predominate in
research on information literacy.
Information literacy is a process. Information literacy skills must be taught
in the context of the overall process.
To be successful, information literacy skills instruction must be integrated
with the curriculum and reinforced both within and outside of the educational
Information literacy skills are vital to future success.
AN ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVE
The change from an economy based on
labor and capital to one based on information requires information literate
workers who will know how to interpret information.
Barner's (1996) study of the new workplace indicates significant changes will
take place in the future. Information technology is decentralizing the work
force. The work force will be more diverse and the economy will increasingly be
more global. The use of temporary workers will increase. These changes will
require that workers possess information literacy skills.
The SCANS (1991) report identifies the skills necessary for the workplace of
the future. Rather than report to a hierarchical management structure, workers
of the future will be required to actively participate in the management of the
company and contribute to its success. The workplace will require workers who
possess skills beyond those of reading, writing and arithmetic.
NATIONAL AND STATE STANDARDS
With the passage of the Goals
2000: Educate America Act (1994), subject matter organizations were able to
obtain funding to develop standards in their respective subject areas.
Information literacy skills are implicit in the National Education Goals and
national content standards documents.
Three of the eight National Education Goals demonstrate the critical nature
of information literacy to an information society: Goal 1: School Readiness;
Goal 3: Student Achievement and Citizenship; Goal 6: Adult Literacy and Lifelong
An analysis of national content standards documents reveals that they all
focus on lifelong learning, the ability to think critically, and on the use of
new and existing information for problem solving.
Individual states are creating initiatives to ensure that students attain
information literacy skills by the time they graduate from high school. Kentucky
(1995), Utah (1996), and California (1994) are but three examples of states that
have publications depicting these initiatives.
National content standards, state standards, and information literacy skills
terminology may vary, but all have common components relating to information
K-12 EDUCATION RESTRUCTURING
Educational reform and restructuring make information literacy skills a
necessity as students seek to construct their own knowledge and create their own
Educators are selecting various forms of resource-based learning (authentic
learning, problem-based learning and work-based learning) to help students focus
on the process and to help students learn from the content. Information literacy
skills are necessary components of each.
The process approach to education is requiring new forms of student
assessment. Students demonstrate their skills, assess their own learning, and
evaluate the processes by which this learning has been achieved by preparing
portfolios, learning and research logs, and using rubrics.
INFORMATION LITERACY EFFORTS IN K-12 EDUCATION
Information literacy efforts are underway on individual, local, and regional
Imaginative Web based information literacy tutorials are being created and
integrated with curriculum areas, or being used for staff development purposes.
Library media programs are fostering information literacy by integrating the
presentation of information literacy skills with curriculum at all grade levels.
Information literacy efforts are not being limited to the library field, but
are also being employed by regional educational consortia.
Parents are encouraging their children to develop information literacy skills
at home by contacting KidsConnect, the Internet help and referral service for
K-12 students. Parents are also helping students work through the information
problem solving process as they assist their children with their homework.
INFORMATION LITERACY IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The inclusion of
information competencies as a graduation requirement is the key that will fully
integrate information literacy into the curricula of academic institutions.
Information literacy instruction in higher education can take a variety of
forms: stand-alone courses or classes, online tutorials, workbooks,
course-related instruction, or course-integrated instruction.
State-wide university systems and individual colleges and universities are
undertaking strategic planning to determine information competencies, to
incorporate instruction in information competence throughout the curriculum and
to add information competence as a graduation requirement for students.
Academic library programs are preparing faculty to facilitate their students'
mastery of information literacy skills so that the faculty can in turn provide
information literacy learning experiences for the students enrolled in their
TECHNOLOGY AND INFORMATION LITERACY
is the great enabler. It provides, for those who have access to it, an extension
of their powers of perception, comprehension, analysis, thought, concentration,
and articulation through a range of activities that include: writing, visual
images, mathematics, music, physical movement, sensing the environment,
simulation, and communication (Carpenter, 1989, p. 2).
Technology, in all of its various forms, offers users the tools to access,
manipulate, transform, evaluate, use, and present information.
Technology in schools includes computers, televisions, video cameras, video
editing equipment, and TV studios.
Two approaches to technology in K-12 schools are technology as the object of
instruction approach, and technology as the tool of instruction approach.
Schools are starting to incorporate technology skills instruction in the
context of information literacy skills.
Technology is changing the way higher education institutions are offering
The use of the Internet is being taught the contexts of subject area
curricula and the overall information literacy process.
There is some empirical indication that students who use technology as a tool
may become better at managing information, communicating, and presenting ideas.
"In this next century, an 'educated' graduate
will no longer be defined as one who has absorbed a certain body of factual
information, but as one who knows how to find, evaluate, and apply needed
information" (Breivik, 1998, p.2). Our ability to be information literate
depends on our willingness to be lifelong learners as we are challenged to
master new technologies that will forever alter the landscape of information.
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