Tuesday, June 21, 2011

i3 report: Uncovering Information Literacy: mythology, myopia and movement #i3_conference

Ross Todd (Rutgers University) gave a keynote on Uncovering Information Literacy: mythology, myopia and movement at the i3 conference at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen http://www.i3conference2011.org.uk/ He is Director of the Center for International Scholarship in School Librarianship. He gave a very stimulating talk, and I can only provide a glimpse of it.
He examined the 1989 ALA definition of the information literate person, and questioned whether it was something of a myth: could someone really conform with all these requirements, and was this "information literate person" really what information literacy was about?
Todd talked about information literacy "going global" in the 2000s e.g. with the Prague Declaration and the Alexandria proclamation, which indicated politicisation of IL, and bringing in a more humanist approach (positioning IL as a basic human right). At the same time there was the confusion about terms, and the issue of the extent to which IL was the same as, or overlapped with, various literacies or literacy itself.
He welcomed the discourse around the nature of information literacy, which was challenging and probing meaning and experiences of IL. However, the research seem to still consist of jigsaw pieces. He felt that there was a "terratorial battleground for intellectual possession" with competing or conflicting models, most of them not generated by research. Those models that there were, tended to be based on quite small scale pieces of research. There waso the issue that skills-based models were generally built on "assumption of well-formed statement of need".
So Todd advocated "getting beyond model mania" and engaging in constructive critique of each others' work. He wanted more meta-analysis of the research, to develop, collectively, a "formal theory of information literacy as an active experience", working towards a metatheory of information literacy. He also also critiqued a pedagogical approach where IL was treated as "a separate skills-based discipline", with finding information, rather than understanding it, being celebrated. Todd felt that more attention should be paid to information use, and sense making: both in terms of research to probe this area, and pedagogic approaches which engaged with it. He refreed to a couple of surveys of school librarians in the USA. In a recent one, of school librarians in New Jersey, there were "high umbers of collaborations with classroom teachers", but these collaborations did focus around finding and critically selecting infortmation (rather than using information, which can be the most challenging thing).
Todd also talked about a study by Kerr comparing academic librarians' espoused conceptions of IL, and actual practice of IL. The investigation was through examining IL tutorials and structured interviews, and she did find a gap between what was being said about IL (which included generating knowledge etc.) and what was being taught (which focused on searching. I will mention here that there is a good paper by Olaf Sundin, published some years ago, which analysed IL tutorials in a valuable way.
Todd said he believed that the information behaviour/ information literacy field did provide a basis for developing pedagogic approaches in IL. In particular he highlighted the work of Carol Kuhlthau on the information search process, which he particularly valued because it had been tested and critiqued over a period of time.
I'm trying to liveblog the conference, so I haven't much time to add my own comments. I thought this was a valuable talk; I suppose because I agree with a number of points, and also feel I have made my own research contribution in this area ;-) I might come back to it in a separate post, as it is worth engaging with.
Rather poor photo by Sheila Webber: Theresa Anderson and Ross Todd taking photos in the Town House, Aberdeen, last night

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