The Chronicle on information literacy

Interestingly, The Chronicle of Higher Ed held a chat with Diana Oblinger, a VP of EDUCAUSE, about information literacy. I say “interestingly,” because I’m used to thinking of info lit as the preserve of libraries–didn’t we coin that term? It looks like it’s gaining (limited) popularity outside library walls.

Plenty of people weighed into the discussion, and it’s hard to know who’s a librarian and who’s not. I think that’s a good thing.

One exchange caught my eye in particular:


Question from Kathleen Johnson, Seattle Academy, private school 6-12:
I am interested in how the emerging world of collaborative knowledge creation (wikis, creative commons, open content) will effect how we teach the skill of “evaluating” content especially for these formats of information.Answer from Diana G. Oblinger:
Certainly the Web 2.0 world makes all this more complicated. Part of that is that it isn’t just searching for and accessing information. It has to do with modifying information, making it your own, and perhaps someone else making it event better. Part of what is making this more complicated is that this isn’t just a set of search-and-retrieval skills anymore. And it isn’t a solitary activity. And, I am starting to think that this isn’t so much a “skill” as it is a mindset about how we deal with information, the world around us, and how we create knowledge.


I found this interesting because I spend a fair amount of time thinking about Web 2.0-type things, but I don’t really see faculty building this into their course assignments. When I teach a class, I’m reliably asked to teach students how to find scholarly journal articles and books, not community-created content. It seems to me that there’s a disconnect between what we say our students need (information literacy for the 21st century–Web 2.0 savvy) and what we’re actually teaching them (the same stuff we learned in school–books and articles.)

I’m not against scholarly books and articles, obviously. I’m just interested in this little chasm we seem to be straddling. Completely off the cuff, I’d say that students don’t need as much help from us in navigating socially-driven Web content as we need in creating socially-driven interfaces for our research tools, and maybe even socially-driven processes for content creation. More concretely, I’m less interested in fixing students’ perceptions of Wikipedia and Britannica, and more interested in fixing our bad online catalogs, silo databases, and lengthy, expensive, bureaucratic publishing processes.

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One thought on “The Chronicle on information literacy

  1. Peter Godwin says:

    I find this very interesting. I have read a number of articles from EDUCAUSE and Diana Oblinger. I am very interested in how Web 2.0 affects Informatioon Literacy and am giving several presentations this side of the Atlantic on it over coming months. I have also just had an introductory missionary-type article printed in our professional Library journal CILIP Update. It seems to me that you are right there is a disconnect. We are going to need to adapt our teaching. Web 2.0 does mean that we should include Wikipedia and blogs as information resources. How to evaluate these is not easy and this will be a challenge to teach. Blogs are becoming like a global brain and surely cannot be overlooked for current information. Their importance must vary according to the various library sectors ( school, HE, business and public).
    I think students will need help naviagting these new sources alongside existing sources and of course peer-reviewed journals.
    I agree that we shall have to work at improving our OPAC interfaces, and try to make our databases easier to access. WEb 2.0 gives us ways of tackling this. The challenge is : have we the staff, the time and the energy!

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