Friday, April 04, 2008

Why the Information Literacy Land of Confusion?

I am often asked why I named this blog the Information Literacy Land of Confusion. There is a reason behind it. Here is the story.

In 2000, I conducted a study with high school student in the Lansing, Michigan area. It was a qualitative study which interviewed students asking them how they used the Web to find information for research. The result of my findings were published as:

"The Land of Confusion? High School Students and Their Use of the Web for Research." Research Strategies 18, no. 2 (2001): 151-163.

I was a bit taken aback by what I believed I found. Here is the abstract from the article:

"Examines high school students' use of the World Wide Web to complete assignments. Findings showed the students used a good variety of resources, including libraries and the World Wide Web, to find information for assignments. However, students were weak at determining the quality of the information found on web sites. Students did poorly at evaluating web site information in the absence of gatekeepers."

Most of the students were using search engines as gatekeepers. Google is a good gatekeeper for keeping spam out of search results. However, it is not a peer-reviewed resource in the sense that it can help students actually find the best scholarly resources. Yet, this is what many students were using it for anyway.

In 2003, I finally decided to indulge my curiosity about blogs and start one myself. Information literacy seemed like a good topic to write about although I have always been willing to write about other issues and my life in general at times.

Obviously, the name of this blog is related to the title of the 2001 article in Research Strategies. I gave the name to the article based on a song from the 80s band Genesis. In that song, Phil Collins sang, "Can't you see this a land of confusion?"

The lyrics seemed to me to apply to how many students were using the Web to find information when doing research. In the absence of the expertise of scholars, the Web had become and yet is a literal land of confusion. Surfer beware. I like the Web and can not imagine living without it. It can provide good information. But is not quite where it needs to be yet.

That is the story. Based on my logs, I know many of my hits are from people looking for free downloads of the Genesis song or the recent Disturbed remake of it. I am sorry to disappoint them. However, I am sticking with the name for this blog. And even if I do not update as frequently as I used to, I plan on sticking around.

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