Updated: Jun 7, 2019
I find the topic of information literacy fascinating. Sad I know but there we are. Would you describe information literacy as a skill? I know I would, but after a twitter conversation with Tara Brabazon, Dean of Flinders University, I have two other ways to describe it "A porous, engaging knowledge system" and "a marinade for citizenship." I am not sure that in general conversations with teachers that these two explanations would be understood but it did make me think about how I view information literacy. It is more than a skill, it goes hand in hand with ever changing knowledge and it creates/supports responsible citizens (sorry Tara if this is not what you meant by your definitions!).
I have recently started considering whether I could do a PhD, madness I know but if I
enjoy the research and studying then maybe it is something I could/should do. With that in mind I came across a YouTube video by Tara talking about information literacy for PhD students. Whilst listening I was delighted to learn about Mary Macken-Horarik's four tier model of literacy.
Apart from it being a very interesting vlog, Tara made me think about how Mary's model relates to how we teach information literacy in schools. In order for students to be ready for work or university there needs to be some building blocks put in place and these start in primary school. Just as it is impossible to read your favourite book without having been taught to read first it is not possible to carry out good research or think critically without learning the strategies and tools to become information literate. We have to stop believing that just because children know how to switch on a computer or iPad that they have these skills. They don't!
After listening to Tara's vlog I really wanted to find out more about Mary's model so using my librarian skills I started out on some research to see if I could find what she had written. I had no luck at all. I thought I had probably miss-spelled her name (not unusual for me, spelling being one of my many weaknesses!) so admitting defeat, I contacted Tara via twitter who replied making me feel a little better about my research skills. Click the tweet to see the document she shared.
The four stages of literacy according to Macken-Horarik are:-
1. Every day literacies - these are learnt at home from family interactions such as talking and socialising and are about growth and development.
2. Applied literacies - these are learnt both at home and school and are based around skill development.
3. Theoretical literacy - These research skills are learnt in an academic setting. Based on understanding and definition of what is found.
4. Reflexive Literacy - A form of critical literacy. The ability to question and challenge what we read and share.
Applied and Theoretical definitely need to be taught in school in order to lead us to the reflexive literacy as we get older. This final stage allows us to be able to discover new information and critically evaluate what we find. This is especially important in today's world where information can be found easily. We have moved on from finding information to being able to find good quality information, something that is not quite so easy as it seems.
This is why school libraries and librarians are so important. Our skills as information professionals go way beyond looking after those books in the library. Looking outside the library and into the classroom is the first step. Librarians support children, by collaborating with teachers and these children become independent learners, who are information literate. This should always be one of our mail goals.
How do we start? We need to start the conversation with senior leaders about how an information literacy framework can make a difference, if embedded and mapped across the curriculum. Where do we find such a framework? Scotland (although work stopped on this in 2013) and Wales have frameworks and the Information literacy group have been talking about frameworks for years but mainly at Higher Education level.
Alongside Darryl Toerien from Oakham school, Schools' Library Service, Guernsey have been using an adapted version of his framework FOSIL that we call CWICER (Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express, Reflect) We use this within our lessons as it guides us to the stages/levels or skills our students should have. It supports our reasoning for not teaching website evaluation to 7yr olds when teachers ask us to. It allows us to have a conversation with teachers about what we can and should be teaching them and why.
We have created lessons to go along with our framework for primary and my job for the summer is to look at our secondary lessons. The framework has helped me understand what we offer, created opportunities to talk to senior leaders about how these skills work hand in hand with knowledge and supports independence throughout the whole curriculum. I have been able to pinpoint where we fit into the new Guernsey curriculum and am able to link our lessons with skills they need. Without it I would still be finding it difficult to talk to teachers about how librarians fit into the curriculum.
Find yourself an information literacy framework that makes sense to you. Learn how to talk about it with confidence and you will begin to see a difference I promise!