Monday, April 21, 2008

Information Literacy Workshops in Iran

I have received the following report from Dr Yazdan Mansourian, a graduate of our Department and now Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Tarbiat Moallem University, Iran. He has his own blog at and is pictured third from the left in the photo (which also shows the examiners at his PhD viva, Barry Eaglestone and Bill Johnston, and Nigel Ford, who, with me, was Yazdan's co-supervisor) . Yazdan writes:
"During the last 14 months I have been running several workshops on Information Literacy (IL) skills for various groups of postgraduate students in Iran. Although ICT facilities are reasonably accessible at the Iranian universities and are heavily used by students, IL teaching is relatively recent in the Library and Information Science (LIS) community of the country. However, a quick look at the Persian LIS journals shows an increasing interest to this issue among the LIS experts. A number of MA and PhD theses in Iranian LIS departments have been done on IL and the first national conference which was specifically focused on IL's research and practice took place four years ago. The proceedings of this conference, a number of IL books, a couple of MA and PhD theses and a fairly extensive collection of journal articles altogether form the main IL literature body in Persian language. Also on the ACRL website the Persian translation of IL Competency Standards for Higher Education is available too.
"Therefore, looking at a broader picture, this series of workshops is only an example of the progressive trend to IL in Iran. During this period of time I learned that Iranian students are so enthused about learning IL skills and some of them are already very good at it. In particular, they have their own ways to satisfy their information needs which are not necessarily well-matched with IL standard skills but it does the job for them. They build these skills based on their constant interaction with the online world and through knowledge sharing with each other. Nevertheless, they want quick answers to their questions, mainly on the Web, and do not worried about the authenticity and reliability of the retrieved information. For instance, they use Wikipedia in a great deal and cite it very often. The Persian version of Wikipedia is also growing very rapidly.
"Among the main IL skills these students are so keen to learn advanced search techniques and they always seek out new search tools. Like many other countries Google is the most popular search engine in Iran but the students are interested to learn about other search engines too preferring advanced techniques like clustering in
"At the beginning of the workshops, most of the participants believed an information literate person is the same as a computer literate one. However, after attending the workshop their comments show most of them have a new perception of it at the end.
"I have categorized my workshops into three groups including: the Basics of IL skills, Advanced IL Skills for Social Science Students and Advanced IL Skills for Medical Students. I use the ACRL and the SCONUL standards as the main conceptual frameworks of my workshops. However, as the participants do not like the theoretical discussions on this issue I always try to present them more practical guidelines, give them actual tasks to carry out and follow it with my comments on their works. To highlight the importance of the IL skills I usually ask the participants to do some challenging search tasks at the beginning of each workshop to stimulate their attention to the IL skills. Interestingly, they usually learn more from their failures in search rather than their successes.
"I try to make them aware about the importance of having the IL skills and its great role on their educational and everyday life interaction with various information resources. To achieve this, I have designed practical examples to show them the basics of how to define their information needs more clearly, how to select appropriate search terms, how to develop more effective search strategies, how to delve into the deeper layers of the Web, how to reflect on their search procedure more realistically, how to evaluate information resources more critically, how to cite properly and finally how to avoid plagiarism.
"In general, besides the skills that they might learn they have a chance to discover more about some aspects of IL which are usually remained unknown for people and I think these are the main impacts of these workshops." (Copyright Yazdan Mansourian, 2008)

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