Thursday, April 29, 2004

Information Literacy: An Overview This paper is by Robin Angeley and Jeff Purdue at Western Washington University.

From the paper:

Information literacy, then, should for most in higher education simply be a new term for familiar concepts. For instance, as a form of critical thinking, information literacy implies a critical engagement with technology and information sources, not simply using them unquestioningly. Yet we will be hearing about information literacy more and more-whether locally, state- or nationwide. Why? Partially, there is a growing sense that the rapid increase of computer-based resources, both in researching and presenting information, has in some way changed the nature of the college experience for undergraduates. Further, there is a sense that many computer-related skills are increasingly important in students' lives beyond college, both in the workplace and in the larger society. Lastly, there is some concern that, with the World Wide Web, students have access to information that has not been subjected to the normal selection criteria of the university library. Thus some educators feel that before such issues become overwhelming, information literacy needs to become a central part of the higher education curriculum.

Yet despite ALA's fine definition, there remains some confusion about what information literacy means. Part of the confusion is the word "literacy" itself, which at its most basic level is the ability to read and write. Yet literacy has seldom been restricted to that simple definition. Rather it has been frequently used to describe something more: the idea that people need to interpret what they read, to place it in a specific cultural context. In contemporary adult literacy education, this context has been understood primarily in economic terms; literacy is often seen as an entry-level skill for participation in the economy. And while such training is certainly a laudable goal, it has never been the sole purpose of a university education, or of education in general.

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