Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Chat Literacy Information Literacy discussion: day 1

Today was the first day of the information literacy discussion on Chat Literacy. It's been very interesting - 80 posts so far, from all around the world. This is the page for Day 1 http://community.eldis.org/.5b285b4d?128. You have to join up to Chat Literacy to contribute to the discussion. I thought I would post my own initial posting to today's discussion here, as well, so here it is:

"My own view of information literacy is that it is both a subject in its own right and contextual, and I don't think these two things are contradictory. By "subject in its own right" I Mean that it is already something that people can study in itself (there are journals, people get PhDs by studying it, there are conferences etc.; I argued this e.g. in this paper about IL as an international concept http://www.slideshare.net/sheilawebber/information-literacy-an-international-concept-presentation)

"I also think that learners need to be aware of information literacy as something each person has to develop for themselves through their lives, because information literacy will change for them through the course of their lives. In formal education, educators and librarians can support learners to develop the information literacy learners need to suceed in their studies and also to deal with the rest of their lives outside study. However, once they leave formal education, people tend to lack this support. They are lucky if they have a workplace that develops staff's information literacy. They are also lucky if they even have a public library system that helps them meet their changing information literacy needs. My information literacy/needs, at age 59, in 2012, are different from when I was (e.g.) 20, at university. I HAVE been lucky, because my jobs have given me the opportunity to develop my personal information literacy.

"Therefore I do not think it is a good idea ONLY to embed information literacy in another subject, in such a way that learners just tackle information literacy as part of the subject, without consciously developing their understanding of IL. I think that this is poor preparation for developing information literacy for the rest of your life. However, I'm not saying here that people shouldn't integrate IL into other subject teaching at all. This integration is sensible and useful, but I think that learners need to become aware of themselves as information literate people (indeed, take responsibility for themselves as information literate people)

"I said that I thought that information literacy was CONTEXTUAL, and part of what I meant was this need to look at your OWN context and diagnose how you need to develop new skills, knowledge and attitudes of information literacy. An important aspect is understanding how information itself is contextual (means different things to different people). One example is academic discipline e.g. "information" for a chemist is a different concept (e.g. molecular structures are very important) than "information" for a marketing person. Another difference is when looking at people of different cultures and nationalities.

"In the video http://youtu.be/hQn4OoSMF1M, which I prepared for the recent UNESCO meeting on media and information literacy, I quote from the work of one of my former PhD students, Dr Shahd Salha. She investigated conceptions of information literacy amongst school librarians in Syria. Some of their conceptions, for example with information literacy seen as illumination, and with a spiritual dimension, have not emerged in Western studies. Personally I do not think it is duplication for different countries and cultures to reflect on the meaning of information literacy for them, I think it is an important step in seeing how information literacy is relevant to you, in your own time and place and culture.

"To take that back to the "micro" level of what this means if you ARE teaching in formal education, with a bunch of students in front of you ... well, I do put forward IL as an exciting, international concept, as well as a very practical concept that they can use to get better marks! I have classes with an international mix (e.g. more Chinese than British students in my largest postgraduate class of 114 students last year).

"One exercise they did was to find material about information literacy in their own language and post a link to this in their team blogs that they were keeping. Then they had to explain what the material was to people who were from different countries/language. This exercise went well - it got students talking about what information literacy was (and so developing their own ideas), it got them talking to people with different first langauges, and it made them aware that IL was indeed international."
Photo by Sheila Webber: Wayside flower, Sweden, August 2012

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