Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Teaching children information literacy

The Louisville Courier-Journal has an article titled Teaching children information literacy. It appears to be a press release from the Jefferson County Public Schools. Although it talks about how to educate K-12 students about information literacy, it covers many of the same ideas I cover in classes with college students.

From the press release:

An important complement to reading, writing and research is information literacy -- knowing how to find and assess information and applying it to the subject at hand.

According to the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use (it) effectively."

These skills have always been important, but today -- because it's so easy for almost anyone to produce printed information, because of the abundance of biased information sources (particularly online), and because of the difficulty of sifting the reliable from the unreliable -- information literacy is critical to becoming a good reader.

Teachers today are including information-literacy instruction in their classroom lessons. Parents can help by sharing a few tips with their children:

When you read, ask yourself what the book or article is trying to say. Is it trying to teach you something? Is it entertainment? Is it parody or satire? Is it promoting a specific viewpoint? Is it marketing in disguise?

Find out who produced the information. Is the author an objective reporter or an expert on the issue? Is the publisher credible?

Does the information present facts, opinions, or both? Does it present different points of view or is it one-sided? Be suspicious of one-sided information as well as information that pretends to present facts but actually offers only opinions. You should also be suspicious of information that presents only highly selected facts to support an opinion.

Of course, some writing -- such as essays and op-ed pieces -- is opinion-oriented by definition and promotes the author's viewpoint.

There's nothing wrong with that. Persuasive writing has a long and honorable history. When you read this type of writing, consider how well the author presents his or her argument.

Is it logical? Is it supported by widely accepted facts? Does it answer all of your questions about the issue? Does it refute counterarguments? Do you agree with the author's conclusions?

Don't rely on one article or book to form an opinion, write a report or buy a product. Do in-depth research and read widely on every topic you study.

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