There are many ways to define Information Literacy. It might best be viewed as the sum of some of its basic components: needing, gathering, evaluating, and using information.
One dilemma facing teachers today is guiding students towards reputable, current, and authoritative sources with rich content. To label reporting “fake news” leaves students wondering how to know when a story is based on facts. This uncertainty provides an opening to teach valuable lessons. The following considerations can guide you in your important role as an educator.
- Set high information literacy standards in all information-seeking projects. Enforce these standards every time students need information, not just on high-stakes projects. Only by maintaining high expectations EVERY time students need information will good habits win out.
- Share information literacy goals with your building’s information professional. Your librarian, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is there to help students acquire and practice effective information literacy skills. This is one of the most important skill sets students should learn and regularly practice.
- Refrain from teaching everything there is to know about information literacy in one big project. Better to take baby steps when developing new information literacy skills and reinforcing previous ones. These will be some of the most useful skills you teach all year.
Information Literacy Task: Identify the Author’s Purpose
Choose webpages with a variety of purposes. Show one that is trying to sell something, one that is trying to persuade the reader to think in a particular way, one that provides balanced, factual information, and one that entertains. (See Kathy Schrock’s link below.)
- Have students select potential topics for a research project, for example, energy drinks, driverless cars, safety in a sport, etc. Instruct them to find websites that address these topics.
- Next, have students peruse the content of each site to determine its purpose. Does the website inform, sell, persuade, or entertain? Discuss which purpose lends itself to the most reliable content.
- Finally, invite students to share and discuss their results in small groups or with the class. With this activity, which can be completed in several visits to the library or computer lab, you are off and running. Teaching information literacy is like teaching art. Students are just beginning to dabble; you won’t get Van-Gogh-like results from beginners. But, students will begin to think about the purpose, reliability, and validity of information before using it for their projects or personal information needs.
Check out the following links to student worksheets, teacher guides, and other useful resources as you embark into an area in which, you yourself, may not yet be an expert.
- Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Critical Evaluation Visit ‘Web Site Evaluation’ (Information by Kathy Schrock) links and the ‘Sites to Use for Demonstrating Critical Evaluation’ links. They are both on the right-hand side of this site which is, itself, an extensive exploration of information literacy skills.
- E Reading Worksheets Brief summaries give students practice identifying a website’s purpose.
- Room Recess: Author’s Purpose This online game is for younger elementary students who may not be ready to tackle evaluating a site’s purpose without a little background.
Information literacy skills, like all skills, must be practiced to be mastered and are best when applied to every area of the curriculum, not just language arts.
Today’s lesson focuses on helping students recognize that website content exists for a purpose. Identifying that purpose helps students differentiate an authoritative choice from a poor one.
Stay tuned for future information literacy blogs. Topics that will be addressed include database searching and gathering information about website authors.