ERIC Identifier: ED327216
Publication Date: 1987-12-00
Author: Hubbard, Susan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse
Information Skills for an Information Society: A Review
of Research. ERIC Digest.
This digest is based on Information Skills for an Information Society:
A Review of Research, by Carol Collier Kuhlthau.
Living in an "information society" implies dealing with a barrage of
information on a daily basis. Our success and survival depend upon our
abilities to locate, analyze, and use information skillfully and appropriately.
Yet, in recent years, reports have documented the "functional illiteracy"
of many adults, who are unable to manage the information they need.
Internationally, educators have begun research and development of means
to increase information literacy. In schools, administrators, teachers,
and library media specialists are working together to develop strategies
that will enable school children to gain competence in using information.
Library school media centers are key places where skills and resources
are integrated to provide students with access to information about subjects
across the curriculum. In addition, information technologies and information
literacy programs have been developed for use in schools.
Public education's previously inadequate responses to the dynamic changes
taking place in society were brought to national attention by the 1983
report, "A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform." As awareness
increased of children's need to be able to manage information, several
major developments in education occurred. These developments have been
categorized as belonging to three groups: (1) acknowledgement of the need
for a more integrated approach to curriculum development; (2) recognition
that larger problems lie beyond the immediate one of providing students
with basic computer literacy; and (3) adoption of a holistic approach to
education centered around fundamental problem-solving techniques (Information
and computing recommendations, 1986).
NEW DEFINITIONS OF LITERACY
A working definition of information literacy has been proposed by Martin
Tessner: "Information literacy is the ability to effectively access and
evaluate information for a given need" (Breivik, 1985, p. 723). Literacy
thereby involves process skills which are applied for a particular purpose.
While related to library literacy, information literacy involves skills
that are broader. Mancall, Aaron, and Walker provide a rationale for incorporating
the development of critical thinking into library instruction: "Focus must
go beyond location skills and 'correct answers' and move to strategies
that will help students to develop insight and faculty in structuring successful
approaches to solving information needs" (1986, p. 23). Library instruction
that guides students through levels of information need in order to solve
a problem or to shape a topic enables them to use information for learning.
In the information age, computer literacy, i.e., understanding what
computer hardware and software can do, is an essential component of information
literacy. Information literacy raises levels of awareness of the knowledge
explosion and involves understanding how computers can help identify, access,
and obtain data and documents needed for problem solving and decision making
Recognition that computer literacy involves more than knowing how to
operate and program a computer goes hand-in-hand with the recognition that
library skills involve more than knowing where to locate information sources.
Library resource centers have become laboratories for learning the essential
components of an information system and for interpreting information. Skills
requisite for information literacy have been characterized as follows:
*Integrating knowledge of tools and resources with skills (such as the
ability to plan a research strategy or to evaluate information);
*Dependent upon acquisition of such attitudes as persistence, attention
to detail, and a degree of skepticism or caution;
*Time- and labor-intensive;
*Existing independently of, but relating to, literacy and computer literacy.
(Breivik, 1985, p. 723)
Information skills prepare students to meet the particular demands of
the information age. Problem solving, decision making, critical thinking,
information gathering, and sense making are abilities related to information
literacy. These skills must be taught, in addition to basic literacy and
computer literacy, if students are to function in an information environment
THE LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER AS INFORMATION CENTER
Library media centers have evolved into school information centers in
the information age. With the introduction of computerized circulation
systems, collection databases, online database services such as DIALOG
and Dow Jones, computer-assisted instruction, and word processing available
to students, the library media center has become a natural place to learn
and practice information skills.
Continual updating of facilities and maintaining of quality in staffing
are necessary for the library media center to function successfully. A
recent study of library media services in public schools which appeared
on the U.S. Department of Education's 1986 list of exemplary schools found
that a library media program seems to demand adequate staffing, even more
than materials and equipment, in order to have the desired impact on education
(Loertscher, Ho, and Bowie, 1987).
INTEGRATING INFORMATION SKILLS WITH CURRICULUM
Information skills are the mutual responsibility of teachers and library
media specialists, and must be infused into instruction across the curriculum
(Irving, 1985). No longer can schooling be expected to provide students
with all of the facts they will need throughout their lives. Students need
to know how to identify a need for information; to locate, gather, and
select relevant information; and to apply information to resolve an issue
Resource-based, as opposed to textbook-based, learning uses the resources
of the library media center to access information for classroom learning.
Working cooperatively with teachers, library media specialists can recommend
resources to be used in instruction, as well as identify appropriate points
to infuse specific information skills.
Library media specialists also engage in collection mapping (Loertscher,
Ho, and Bowie, 1987), an evaluation technique which determines how a given
collection responds to units of instruction within the curriculum of the
school, or with the everyday curricular activities of the classroom (Eisenberg,
1984). Mapping techniques are used to implement integrated instruction
for gathering and evaluating information about the curriculum.
Teachers should be trained to be information conscious and to integrate
the use of library media centers and information skills in the curriculum.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco)
offers guidelines for such training (Hall, 1986).
Cooperation between teachers and media specialists can result in an
inquiry approach to research in schools. Students develop higher-order
thinking skills through inquiry, or problem solving, using such technological
tools as online databases, CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory), and
online public access catalogs (OPACs).
INFORMATION LITERACY PROGRAMS IN ACTION
Information literacy has become an international goal, and programs
seeking its attainment are in progress across the world from Zimbabwe to
the South Pacific.
In the United States, many states have centered such programs around
the library media center. For example, New York's Regent Action Plan requires
that library and information skills be taught in grades 7 and 8 for the
equivalent of one period of instruction per week (New York Regent's, 1985).
The plan involves the integration of library instruction with classroom
instruction. Other information literacy efforts are underway in Maryland,
North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.
The American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS)
has prepared a detailed curriculum to teach information skills to secondary
school students. The goals of the curriculum include helping students to
*The impact of information and technology on today's society;
*The importance of effective use of information, both to individuals
and to society;
*Ways in which information is processed, obtained, and used; and
*Students' roles and responsibilities for living and working in an information
age. (Information and computing recommendations, 1986, p. 160)
The information age requires of each of us a combination of technical
skills and literacy abilities. Administrators, teachers, and library media
specialists are joining forces to help students master information skills,
thus enabling them to be competent information users in the future.
The implications of the findings cited here are obvious. Competent use
of information can offer beneficial results to society at large; conversely,
information illiteracy can cause real harm to individuals and to society.
Helping students to gain information literacy also means helping students
to learn to think. Learning to question, to weigh alternatives, to interpret
inferences, and to seek further data can only help individuals to cope
with a continuously increasing wealth of information, and to survive in
a world growing ever more complex.
Breivik, P. (1985, November). "Putting libraries back in the information
society." American Libraries, 16(10), 723.
Demo, W. (1986). The Idea of Information Literacy in the Age of High
Tech. Unpublished paper, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Dryden, NY.
ED 282 537.
Eisenberg, M. (1984, Fall). "Curriculum mapping and implementation of
an elementary school library media skills curriculum." School Library Media
Quarterly, 12(5), 411-418.
Hall, N. (1986, June). Teachers, Information, and School Libraries.
Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
General Information Programme. ED 275 342.
Horton, F. (1983, April). "Information literacy vs. computer literacy."
Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, 9(4), 14-16.
"Information and computing recommendations for a course at the secondary
level. A report of the AFIPS Secondary Education Project Committee." (1986).
Education and Computing, 2, 155-183.
Irving, A. (1985). A Study and Information Skills Across the Curriculum.
London: Heinemann Education Books.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1987, December). Information Skills for an Inforamtion
Society: A Review of Research. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information
Loertscher, D. V., Ho, M. L., and Bowie, M. M. (1987, Spring). "Exemplary
elementary schools and their library media centers: A research report."
School Library Media Quarterly, 15(3), 147-153.
Mancall, J. C., Aaron, S. L., and Walker, S. A. (1986, Fall). "Educating
students to think: The role of the school library media program." School
Library Media Quarterly, 15(1), 18-27.
A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. (1983). Washington,
DC: The National Commission on Excellence in Education. ED 248 319.
New York Regent's Action Plan Part 100.4 of the Commissioner's Regulation.
(1985). Albany, NY: New York Department of Education.
This digest based on "Information Skills for an Information Society:
A Review of Research" by Carol Collier Kuhlthau (1987) was prepared for
the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources by Susan Hubbard. December