Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Information literacy and the school library – definitions, quotes and training

space project researchWhat a pleasure it was to give a course on information literacy for secondary school librarians last week. Information skills are more important than ever, and school libraries have a crucial role to play in helping students develop them. The photo shows some very active research in Caterham School library.

A recent EdTechTeam blog asserted ‘In an age of information abundance learning to effectively search is one of the most important skills most teachers are NOT teaching.’ That’s deeply worrying. And information literacy is about far more than finding information. This is the CILIP definition: ‘Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.’ IL is important for life.

I like this breakdown of what defines information literate students. They:

  • know which questions are useful to ask
  • are independent readers, skimming and scanning to find what they need
  • know what is relevant, can select and reject information
  • read texts in different ways for different purposes
  • know when they have found enough information
  • make relevant notes and use them to support classwork and homework
  • synthesise and combine information from a variety of sources
  • cross-refer and compare information from different sources
  • re-present information coherently, demonstrating understanding and learning
  • evaluate their sources
  • evaluate their work and reflect on their learning

These are qualities and skills librarians are uniquely qualified to support. The late, great Mal Peet said ‘Libraries offer the arsenal in the war of understanding.’

There were excellent discussions on last week’s course about how libraries can help students learn crucial information skills. We explored ways to widen search horizons and reduce cut and paste and plagiarism, and identified practical strategies for supporting all areas of the curriculum – very pertinent with literacy across the curriculum so high on the educational agenda at present.

In the words of Gillian Cross ‘Anyone who has grasped the implications of independent learning will understand that the library is the heart of the school.’

I love this, from a student quoted in Student Learning Through Ohio School Libraries: ‘The school librarians don’t help me at all like they make me do all the stuff myself and won’t tell me where the things are even when I already looked – they show me and make me learn how to find the stuff myself and its hard work!!!! You gotta use your brain, they say.’ Absolutely!