“Information literacy is a way of thinking rather that

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Information Literacy
Running Head: INFORMATION LITERACY
Information Literacy in an Elementary School Media Center
Leslie S. Bowman
Southern Connecticut State University
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Information Literacy
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Information Literacy in an Elementary School Media Center
As a new school library media/technology specialist in an elementary school, it is
important to understand and incorporate information literacy in my library program.
After defining information literacy, research in developing information literacy skills will
be discussed, a particular information literacy program will be introduced which will
include plans for adapting the chosen program to the Williamstown Elementary School
Library program, and methods of assessing the effectiveness of the program will be
explained.
Information Literacy Defined
The concept of information literacy as a distinct program was introduced in 1988
by Barbara Stripling and Judy Pitts in a book titled, Brainstorms and Blueprints,
according to David Loertscher (2008). Information literacy is “the comprehensive
information-processing ability that is necessary for a series of information-processing
skills, which include effectively locating, evaluating, and communicating needed
information” (Takahira, 2007, p. 66). A person who has this ability is called information
literate and as such is equipped with the ability to make sound decisions in this
information age.
As the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information
Literacy (January 10, 1989, Washington, D.C.) says ‘Ultimately, information
literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn
because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information and
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how to use information is such a way that others can learn from them. They are
people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the
information needed for any task or decision at hand. (Introduction to, p. 1).
After the American Library Association members agreed on a definition of information
literacy, a set of standards were debated and agreed upon. The standards in Great Britain
and Australia mirror these standards (Lloyd, 2005; Thornton, 2008). In his article,
“Information Literacy, Collaboration, and ‘Killer Apps’: New Challenges for Media
Specialists”, Fitzgerald Georges quotes the definition from the Association of College &
Research Libraries for an information literate individual.
An information literate individual is able to

Determine the extent of information needed

Access the needed information effectively and efficiently

Evaluate information and its sources critically

Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base

Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of
information, and access and use information ethically and legally (Georges, 2004,
p. 34).
In 1992, Doyle published the results of a Delphi study that expanded this definition.
Participants in the Delphi study agreed on the attributes of an information literate
person, proposing that such a person is one who:

Recognizes that accurate and complete information is the basis for intelligent
decision making
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
Recognizes the need for information

Formulates questions based on information needs

Identifies potential sources of information

Develops successful search strategies

Accesses sources of information including computer-based and other technologies

Evaluated information

Organizes information for practical application

Integrates new information into an existing body of knowledge

Uses information in critical thinking and problem solving. (1992, p. 8)
(Eisenberg, 2004, p. 4).
Research in Developing Information Literacy Skills
The development of these information literacy skills in this age of information is
important and the skills must be translated into a way of thinking. Many studies have
been done on the role of the library in promoting and sharing these skills with
individuals. Librarians must provide instruction, resources, and scaffolding to assist their
patrons. David Loertscher argues that “the focus of school library media program has
changed from reading to the teaching of the research process” (Loertscher, 2008, p. 1).
Georges agrees stating:
The role of the school library media specialist is clear. Providing bibliographic
instruction, collaborating with classroom teachers to create standards-based
(content specific) information literacy skills and activities, and conducting faculty
workshops are just a few of the strategies for setting a standard of information
literacy skills integration in any learning setting (Georges, 2004, p. 34).
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One of the difficulties faced by library patrons is the sheer amount of information
that can be found in books, publications, journals, and online. Information literacy
programs must give the patrons the tools to focus their research and evaluate the sources
that the patron finds. With these tools, the patron will avoid being completely
overwhelmed by the sheer mass of information or data that can be found on any topic.
Data smog is a term used by David Shenk which, “refers to the idea that too much
information can create a barrier in our lives. This data smog is produced by the amount
of information, the speed at which it comes to us from all directions, the need to make
fast decisions, and the feeling of anxiety that we are making decisions without having
ALL the information that is available or that we need (Introduction to, p. 1). The
challenges of sifting through masses of information have been recognized and will be
addressed when patrons are taught to evaluate information. Because I work with
elementary school students, patrons will be referred to as students throughout the rest of
this paper.
In response to the findings of research in information literacy, the American
Library Association and the Association for Educational Communications and
Technology have developed a set of nine standards.
“The nine standards follow:
Category I: Information Literacy
Standard 1: The student who is information literate accesses information
efficiently and effectively.
Standard 2: The student who is information literate evaluates information
critically and competently.
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Standard 3: The student who is information literate uses information accurately
and creatively.
Category II: Independent Learning
Standard 4: The student who is an independent learner is information literate and
pursues information related to personal interests.
Standard 5: The student who is an independent learner is information literate and
appreciates and enjoys literature and other creative expressions of information.
Standard 6: The student who is an independent learner is information literate and
strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation.
Category III: Social Responsibility
Standard 7: The student who contributes positively to the learning community
and to society is information literate and recognizes the importance of information
to a democratic society.
Standard 8: The student who contributes positively to the learning community
and to society is information literate and practices ethical behavior in regard to
information and information technology.
Standard 9: The student who contributes positively to the learning community
and to society is information literate and participates effectively in groups to
pursue and generate information. (ALA & AECT, 1998) (Eisenberg, 2004, p. 22).
These standards are more that a list of information literacy skills to be taught. These
standards reflect a method of approaching and solving problems. As Craig Gibson
explains:
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Information literacy is a way of thinking rather that a set of skills. It is a matrix of
critical and reflective capacities, as well as disciplined creative thought, that
impels the student to range widely through the information environment, forming
initial hypotheses, collecting information sources and data, testing and retesting
search paths, formulating and reinventing search strategies recursively, and
applying rigorous standard to both the information found and the adaptive search
process itself (Gibson, 2006, p. i).
Several programs have been developed that are meant to provide the motivation and
skills needed to be information literate. The four programs that I reviewed are: Craig
Gibson’s Student Engagement and Information Literacy; Teresa Neely’s Information
Literacy Assessment: Standards-Based Tools and Assignments; Steven Bell’s Academic
Librarianship by Design: A Blended Librarian’s Guide to the Tools and Techniques; and
Michael Eisenberg, Carrie Lowe, and Kathleen Spitzer’s Information Literacy: Essential
Skills for the Information Age. Craig Gibson’s Student Engagement and Information
Literacy was written to help academic librarians develop information literacy programs
that will not only inform, but create active users of the library system. The book begins
with an introduction to John Dewey’s theories of school reform. Gibson then chose
chapters to build a case for great information literacy courses for undergraduates (Gibson,
2006). After an argument for the importance of both standards and assessment, in
Information Literacy Assessment: Standards-Based Tools and Assignments Theresa
Neely explains the ACRL standards for information literacy and then writes a chapter on
each of the standards with an explanation of the standard, ideas on assessment of students
pertaining to that standard, and finally examples of activities to help the students
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successfully learn and apply what they have learned (Neely, 2006). In Academic
Librarianship by Design: A Blended Librarian’s Guide to the Tools and Techniques,
Bell and Shank have written a description of their vision of the future academic libraries
in which academic librarians are part of the instructional process. They have developed a
model called ADDIE which stands for analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate.
The authors propose that this is the best way to develop an information literacy program
(Bell, 2007). Michael Eisenberg, Carrie Lowe, and Kathleen Spitzer’s Information
Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age is an extensive description of methods
used to develop information literacy in K-12 library programs. One specific method, the
Big6TM model is used throughout the book (Eisenberg, 2004). Of these, Michael
Eisenberg’s program is the most adaptable for the age level with which I work. The
others are directed at university libraries.
The Big6TM Skills
The six steps in the Big6 model are task definition, information seeking strategies,
location and access, use of information, synthesis, and evaluation (Eisenberg, 2004). The
use of this model of information literacy plays into the way that students today learn
(Gibson, 2006). After choosing to use this model, the library media/technology specialist
needs to collaborate with classroom teachers to develop the unit. As an example, I am
currently working with the fifth grade social studies teacher on a unit that focuses on
biographies of historic figures in American History. The students have been studying the
American Revolutionary period. The social studies teacher and I are working out a
flexible schedule to allow his students to come to the library in small groups for
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instruction and scaffolding as they define their task, learn information strategies, find
information, evaluate the information, and use it in their project.
We will begin with a whole group meeting in which the unit is introduced. The
social studies teacher will introduce the assignment, timeline, and grading rubric. The
students will generate questions that will help them define their task. The questions will
involve activating prior knowledge from their lessons on the American Revolution. Then
they will need to list historical figures from the era. Finally, they will need to decide
what information is needed to learn about the historical figures.
The challenge as an elementary school library media/technology specialist is to
interest students in finding information. Students are always interested in using
computers, but they want to use them to play games or collaborate with each other. As
emergent readers students are easily frustrated with finding resources. They need to be
taught when they need information, how to find the information, how to evaluate the
information, and then, how to use the information. These students have already received
instruction and practiced the skills of locating fiction books organized by author’s last
name, using the Dewey Decimal System to locate non-fiction books, and using the online
catalogue to find resources by subject, title, and author. They have been introduced to
encyclopedias, atlases, and dictionaries. Our next step will be to learn to use search
engines to find information online. Part of their instruction will be how to narrow a
search and at this time, they will also need to learn how to evaluate the information they
find. This will be difficult for them as, “when they search for information or
entertainment, they expect it to turn into a conversation” (Tapscott, 2009, p. 45). These
students are used to social networking with blogs, Twitter, Ning, and Wikipedia. “In this
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way, the net Generation is democratizing the creation of content, and this new paradigm
of communication will have a revolutionary impact on everything it touches—from
music and movies, to political life, business, and education” (Tapscott, 2009, p. 40). The
students in elementary schools today grew up in a digital world. They think nothing of
using the computer to research information, but they need to learn to use the information
they find appropriately. Don Tapscott’s research shows that this generation does more
than just research information on the internet.
Net Geners are transforming the Internet from a place where you mainly find
information to a place where you share information, collaborate on projects of
mutual interest, and create new ways to solve some of our most pressing problems
(Tapscott, 2009, p. 40).
These students will need to receive instruction and practice to check their resources for
reliability. They will need to know about textbooks, peer reviewed journals, and
biographies. They will also need to know not to use wikipedias, blogs, fiction, and in
particular historical fiction. For a student who is less than 11 years old, this process will
have a steep learning curve.
After defining the task, learning information seeking strategies, and locating and
accessing sources, the students will need to be taught how to use the information. This
will involve lessons in taking notes, quoting and citing sources, and writing
bibliographies in the MLA format. The students will need to know the difference
between directly quoting a source and paraphrasing by putting the information in their
own words, but still giving credit to the source. This is also where the teacher and I will
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need to teach students how to show similarities and differences, compare and contrast,
draw logical conclusions, and relate past to present (Eisenberg, 2004).
Now that the students have found and evaluated the information, it is time to
answer the questions from the task definition. The students will need to decide how to
present their findings so that the other students can learn from their work. They will need
to identify their audience and present their findings. This is also where the students will
write their bibliography.
The last step in the Big6TM Skills Model is to evaluate the effectiveness and
efficiency of their project. Did the information the student found answer the questions
from the task definition? Were all sources credited? Was the project finished on time,
presented in an engaging manner, supported by accurate information, and their best
work? (Eisenberg, 2004).
“The library media specialist’s role in bringing the school library media program
to fruition involves collaboration, leadership, and technology” (Eisenberg, 2004, p. 22).”
By working in collaboration with the social studies teacher, I hope to provide motivation
and a reason for the students in the fifth grade to develop information literacy skills. I am
also collaborating with the middle/high school library media/technology specialists to
make sure we are using a common language as well as a common process. After much
discussion and research we have agreed to use the Big6TM Skills model. I will introduce
the process and students will have an opportunity to use the Big6TM model in second thru
fifth grade. Students will have an opportunity to master the process by the time they
complete eighth grade.
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Methods of assessing the effectiveness of the program
As Annemaree Lloyd found in her studies of information literacy, “Learning to
become information literate focuses on the individual student and internalization of
learning” (Lloyd, 2005, p. 573). After working with the fifth grade students on this
collaborative process, it will be important to evaluate the success of the program by
assessing individual student understanding of the process and program. Teresa Neely has
developed assessment queries that can be used to determine whether students are
becoming information literate. These queries are in the form of surveys in which the
students answer questions that allow the evaluator to determine whether the student
understands the process or just followed the instructions. Unfortunately, Ms. Neely’s
surveys were written for university students. While I cannot use the entire survey, I will
adapt some of the queries to determine whether the students understand how to evaluate
resources for accuracy, author/authority, timeliness, and validity. Students will be asked
to rank order a list of resources which include the encyclopedia, textbooks, wikipedia,
and googled websites. They will also be asked to rank order a list of resources from
textbooks which will include a book from 1986, 2006, 2008, and 1959. After students
have presented their research to each other, the social studies teacher will access whether
the students learned from each other by asking questions about the historical figures to
determine what students learned. The students will have their own graded projects to
help evaluate whether they used the model appropriately. Students will also be given the
opportunity to use the Big6TM model for other assignments. At that time, the
collaborating teacher and I will activate their prior knowledge and determine how much
of the model has become part of their method of solving problems. When the students
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move on to middle school, the librarian there will continue to use the same model and
assist the students in mastery of the method.
Developing information literacy in the elementary school
The role of the library media/technology specialist is constantly changing. At this
time, “Librarians should now be regarded more as ‘gatekeepers’ of information”
(Thornton, 2008, p.50). We should assist our student/patrons in developing their
information literacy skills to they can make informed decisions, solve important
problems, and evaluate the deluge of information thrown at them. In collaboration with
classroom teachers and the middle/high school library media/technology specialist, our
students will have the opportunity to develop information literacy.
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References
Bell, S.J., & Shank, J. D. (2007). Academic librarianship by design: A blended
librarian’s guide to the tools and techniques. Chicago: American Library
Association.
Eisenberg, M.B., Lowe, C.A., & Spitzer, K.L. (2004). Information literacy: Essential
skills for the information age. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.
Gibson, C. (Ed). (2006). Student engagement and information literacy. Chicago:
Association of College and Research Libraries.
Gilton, D. L. (2008). Information Literacy as a department store: Applications for public
teen librarians. Young Adult Library Services. Winter 2008, 39-44.
Introduction to information literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2008, from
http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/infolit/infolitoverview/introtoinfolit/
introinfolit.cfm#how
Kurbanoglu, S. S., Akkoyunlu, B., & Umay, A. (2006). Developing the information
literacy self-efficacy scale. Journal of Documentation, 62 (6), 730-743. doi
10.1108/00220410610714949
Lloyd, A. (2006). Information literacy landscapes: An emerging picture. Journal of
Documentation, 62 (5), 570-583. doi 10.1108/00220410610688723
Loertscher, D. (2008). Information literacy: 20 years later. Teacher Librarian, 35 (5),
42-43.
Neely, T. Y. (2006). Information literacy assessment: Standards-based tools and
assignments. Chicago: American Library Association.
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Takahira, M., Ando, R., & Sakamoto, A. (2007). Effect of internet use on development
of information literacy: A panel study with Japanese elementary school children.
Computers in the Schools, 24 (3/4), 65-82. doi 10.1311/J025v24n03_05
Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world.
New York: McGraw Hill.
Thornton, S. (2008). The Discipline: Pedagogy, politics and information literacy.
Politics: 2008, 28 (1), 50-56.
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