Monday, June 13, 2011

EMPATIC report: IL and the Finnish school curriculum

In this post on the EMPATIC project seminar on Information Literacy (IL) in the Schools Sector, held in Krakow, Poland on 8 June, I will summarise some points from the presentation by Anu Ojaranta (pictured right at the seminar), who spoke about the research she is starting to do on Information Literacy, the Finnish core curriculum and the role of school libraries in this combination. Ojaranta is a school librarian, though she got a grant to take six months to concentrate on her ongoing doctoral studies at Abo Akademi (Turku, Finland). This study focuses on IL in the curriculum and in teaching in the seventh grade (about 15 years old): research into the role and attitudes towards IL and information seeking. She wants to investigate the perceptions of teachers, students, librarians and head teachers, and is currently in her second year of working on her thesis part-time.
Ojaranta noted that there are a lot of definitions of IL, but that the official Finnish school curriculum does not mention the term itself (although it does identify skills which can be seen as part of information literacy). She is also interested in why media literacy has gained so much ground, and how media literacy relates to information literacy. The Finnish core curriculum is currently being revised, and the new one will be introduced in 2014. This core curriculum is adapted and implemented at the local level, and there are various aspects which makes integrating IL into this curriculum difficult. As already noted, there is no definition of IL in the curriculum, and responsibility for teaching IL lies with everyone, but therefore potentially with nobody. As in numerous other countries, there is not enough teaching about IL in teacher education, either, so teachers have low awareness of IL.
Ojaranta has identified things in the Finnish curriculum which could be seen as IL, although they are scattered and sometimes vague. These include
- the statement that “the work methods [in schools] should promote skills in information seeking, using and evaluating information” and also in using information technology.
- annual cross-curricular themes, one of which is “communication and media competence”. Finnish schools have to chose one of these themes each year, but unfortunately they tend not to choose this theme.
- In the Finnish langauge curriculum one of 5 central subject areas is information management skills (e.g.searching for information, making notes, making a presentation)
Ojaranta noted that in Finland, most IL conversation has been focused on higher education. There have been some major projects or initiatives outside this sector, such as “The reading Finland”. These initiativesd mostly focused on literacy and books, but raised the profile of school libraries, and also resulting in a bit more attention to school libraries’ IL role. There have been some local initiatives too, such as Oulu’s “School library of the information society”.
Ojaranta mentioned her own region, where all 9 schools have a school library. There has been the will for the local education department to support school libraries, which has been very encouraging. She noted that different municipal authorities have some very different viewpoints and aims, which will have an impact on potential developments. It required long-term commitment from all those involved; government, municipality, school and teacher to make IL in schools an onging practice. It will be interesting to follow the progress of Ojaranta’s research. There is a picture of her with a nice cat on the IASL (school librarians) ning. If you speak Finnish then you will also be interested in her 2010 conference paper Informaatiolukutaito ja tiedonhakutaitojen opettaminen seitsemäsluokkalaisille : tutkimus kouluista ja koulukirjastoista sekä toimijoiden suhtautumisesta informaatiolukutaitoon ja tiedonhankinnan opetukseen

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