Three days left to urge ACARA to recognize information literacy

2 08 2011

If you believe that Information Literacy needs to be included as a General Capability, let ACARA know now.

Register and contribute online, or download their survey form and email it to them.  The ICT competence and Critical thinking sections have room for extensive comment and extra statements can be attached.

TLs have gone round and round for many years on information literacy, digital literacy, visual literacy, multiple literacies!  but whatever we call it, IL is about thinking not about using tools. That’s why ICT literacy doesn’t cover IL.  ICT competence is about computer technology end-use, not information search processes or critical thinking, though certainly these cognitive processes may be used through the tools of ICT.

And Critical thinking alone does not recognize the steps in the information and problem solving process. The relationship between the three competencies is well explored in a paper by Dr. Karen McPherson of the University of Canberra, titled “Undergraduate information literacy: A teaching framework” (Australian Academic and Research Libraries; v.35 n.3 p.226-241; September 2004).

The three competences can and do intertwine, but are separate in their conceptualization and intent.  They need to be distinguished clearly in the National Curriculum for teachers to construct effective teaching  frameworks and scaffolds.

What is especially apparent in the subject curricula themselves is the failure to come to terms with these differences.  For example, the term “library skills” probably has not been used in teacher librarianship courses since the 1970s.  Current literature examines the process of achieving information fluency through all sources of information found in libraries these days, in print and digital forms. Distinguishing something called “library skills” from online search skills and the use of databases is a furphy.

ACARA would do well to call upon experts in the information literacy field to better inform its underpinning pedagogy.  Work in the library and TL professions on describing and assessing these skills is ongoing.

IL skills apply to all subject areas.  They form an over-arching framework, and incorporate the use of computers, the internet, search engines, applications, etc. as tools. As Dr. Macpherson states, information retrieval needs critical thinking and analysis to be effective. Critical thinking informs judgements made during the information search process. The process itself, once exploration and initiation (question interpretation) of a search has begun, requires knowledge of sources of information and how to access them (location and search strategy formulation). End-user computing, as she calls it, includes at this stage, the use of spreadsheets and databases for data/information recording and manipulation.  Critical thinking then comes in in formulating answers and new knowledge, and in the stage of presenting information – deciding on written or oral reports, audience and writing style.  These become part of the “wider structure of information literacy” (p.234).

ACARA must better inform educators of current research, models, frameworks and thinking on information literacy (first coined as a term in 1974). The tertiary sector and employers expect IL competence, along with critical thinking and ICT competence.

The incorporation of IL as a general capability would also be a vital precursor to the development of a “discrete national policy statement that defines the importance of digital and information literacy for learning in the 21st century, which can be used as a guide by teachers and principals” as recommended in the Report of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians just released.

Here are some of the sources ACARA could use by some of the experts they should consult:

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