Information Literacy Running Head: INFORMATION LITERACY Information Literacy in an Elementary School Media Center Leslie S. Bowman Southern Connecticut State University 1 Information Literacy 2 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 Information Literacy 3 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 Information Literacy 4 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). Information Literacy 5 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. Information Literacy 6 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: Information Literacy 7 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 Information Literacy 8 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 Information Literacy 9 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 Information Literacy 10 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 Information Literacy 11 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. Information Literacy 12 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 Information Literacy 13 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. Information Literacy 14 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. 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