Teaching Information Literacy: A Reflection

In 2008, upon taking a new position at a new school, I began my new teaching experience having to teach a course given to me with the title “Information Literacy”, or “Info Lit” for short. As an 11-year teacher of Spanish integrating technology and obtaining a certification in instructional technology, I felt prepared for a lot of things, but this seemed a lot like library science.

Even though I had plenty of technical training, this course was a challenge because it presented a look at the Web 2.0 world in a congnitive approach. This concept has been written in the state and national standards as being skills learned by integrating into core classes and day-to-day activities. At first, teaching this in isolation seemed out of place. As I progressed, I learned that this, indeed, became a necessary course of study, and therefore I rose to the challenge.

Research led me to designing a professionally rewarding course which included a blend of Web 2.0 tool teaching and best practice information seeking. The course empowers students with presentation strategies by using a variety of low-cost, user-friendly tools.  The course didn’t come with a curriculum or textbook. I needed to develop on the fly. Talking about information literacy with high school students is like talking about family values. Sometimes kids feel uneasy when there is an awkward family meeting about ab0ut sibling rivalry and puberty. It appears to go over much more smoothly by mixing a little guidance and trial and error.

I needed to teach technology skills. Knowing the importance of computer skills in a changing environment, I saw the even greater need to teach critical thinking skills while using technology. It had to include a focus of how students would discover, assimilate and refine information now and in the future. What civic expectations did they need to know? How were they going to share their knowledge?

I began at the core concept where I felt would make the most sense for the students. What information flow has been most familiar to them?  That would be with traditional print and video like with magazines and TV.  Teaching kids about information literacy had to start with media literacy. Using photos and videos from places like Adbusters and communicating in places like the NING social network, students quickly engaged in an online experience using Web 2.0 tools to read, analyze, synthesize then apply what they have learned in an online forum. A cocktail of tools were then used to illustrate an understanding of the concepts. Toondoo.com, Xtranormal.com, Animoto, to name a few. In addition, the popular photo editing tool GIMP was used. Understanding the working of photo editing helped kids understand images in media through analysis of advertisements, how they influence, persuade or educate.  Students created their own parody advertisements as a way to lighten the mood. Open source software provides easy-to-reach tools to maximize accessibility. To me, information literacy meant having the wits to do with what you have and make the most of it.

As my PLNs grew and I paid closer attention to what core educators wanted. I knew it wasn’t about online tools as much as it was about a skill-set of understanding how to manage information in the digital age. By exposing them to creative options while guiding them through the tangled web, a harmonious behavior is acquired and hopefully carried over into their core classes.

I included a video created by students in my Information Literacy class in 2010 which somewhat summarizes the makeup of their experience.

 

Four years later, I’m pursuing an online teaching certification.  In a Virtual Highschool Professional development class titled Best Practices – Web 2.0

Collaborative Online Instruction (April 2012). Steve Isaacs of William Annin Middle School in New Jersey, encouraged me to visualize Information Literacy using

a cool collaborative online tool: Mind42.com. The following link is to my mind map: Information Literacy Mind Map42

I’ve explored Bubl.us before, but I did enjoy the ease of use with this tool. It was nice to actually try and visualize what my head has been tossing around so much. Often I’ve been feeling scattered in teaching the course. Further readings provided leads to this man, Jason Ohler. His vision nicely illustrates Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy as it applies to information literacy in the digital age.

  Bloom’s taxonomy was developed during a time when the expectation for students were to be handed in and graded. Beyond the teacher grading the works may have been making the corrections and handing it back in. Thus the highest rung in the Bloom ladder was evaluation. In the digital age, when publication tools are abundant, and the new ISTE standards promote innovation and creativity. The result is that the ability to create becomes an important high-end cognitive function.

He states literacy is  consuming and producing the media forms of the day, whatever they may be and that new media goes from powerful to empowering when we can write it, as well as read it. (http://www.jasonohler.com/storytelling/beyondwords.cfm#partI)

This, along with a number of articles in my online certification route, confim the necessity for kids to learn information literacy skills. The important discovery for me is that tools come and go, obtaining a deep understanding of how to adapt in the information age is critical for today’s youth. What started out an ominous perspective of having to teach the course has turned into an exciting experience. It is not my favorite course to teach.

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One thought on “Teaching Information Literacy: A Reflection

  1. smartykatt says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’m designing an Information Literacy course this summer, and never would have considered photo editing as part of that course if not for your post.

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