The world today lives in the age of information, a landscape which changes and grows at an unprecedented rate. The development of a society is dependent upon the development of its citizens, which in turn relies on the people’s access to information and ability to make these useful and relevant. “As information and communication technologies develop rapidly, and the information environment becomes increasingly complex, educators are recognizing the need for learners to engage with the information environment as part of their formal learning processes.
Information literacy is generally seen as pivotal to the pursuit of lifelong learning, and central to achieving both personal empowerment and economic development. (Bruce, 2002). ” What results is “an increasingly fragmented information base—large components of which are only available to people with money and/or acceptable institutional affiliations. Yet in an information society all people should have the right to information which can enhance their lives” (Presidential Committee, Final Report, 1989).
What empowers people to make decisions and solve problems involves gathering information and processing them into valuable components that can be applied to the task at hand. The problem-solving process of the information literate, however, requires more than surface learning. The information literate not only knows how to learn, he is also aware of what he has learned and knows how to transfer or apply this to his daily life, community, and workplace contexts. I. What is Information Literacy?
“The need for information literacy is propelled by the exponential growth in information, which threatens to overwhelm society” (Gelbwasser, 2004, p. 12). Breivik (1991) noted that “Through information literacy, the other literacies can be achieved” (Spitzer, Eisenberg, & Lowe, 1998, p. 20). Information literacy empowers people by enabling them to not only gather information effectively and efficiently through the use of existing technological infrastructures, but also “to verify or refute expert opinion and to become independent seekers of truth.
It provides them with the ability to build their own arguments and to experience the excitement of the search for knowledge. ” (Presidential Committee, Final Report, 1989). Information literacy is geared towards “independent, self-directed, and lifelong” learning (Bruce, 2002, p. 5). What is then needed for a person to become empowered and information literate? “To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.
Producing such a citizenry will require that schools and colleges appreciate and integrate the concept of information literacy into their learning programs and that they play a leadership role in equipping individuals and institutions to take advantage of the opportunities inherent within the information society. Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. (Presidential Committee, Final Report, 1989)” II. The Role of Information Literacy in Education
Bruce (2002) posits that information literacy is both the foundation for learning in this environment of rapid technological change and the catalyst for “transforming our society into a learning society” (p. 2). Furthermore, she establishes that education should move from the traditional skills-based approach, which “lacks power because of the changing nature of both technology and Internet content” (p. 9), to one which “emphasises reflective competence, and the ability to continue to learn in the face of change, establishing capabilities that are intended to empower learners to move forward into an unknown future” (p.
9). A few key issues arise from this definition: first, making the means to become information literate available to learners, i. e. technological media and resources, and second, addressing the paradigm shift from the content- and teacher-centered learning to process orientation and self-centered learning, which will involve further training or development among teachers and staff members. Truly, “Making information and information technologies available to the world is not enough.
Our education systems need to ensure that today’s learners are empowered to learn and to take their place in the learning society” (Bruce, 2002, p. 5). III. Constructing Best Practices What sets information literate learners apart from the merely skilled learners is illustrated in a case study by Limberg (1998), which proved that information literacy influences learning outcomes. Students were tasked to understand the impact of Switzerland’s membership in the European Union (EU).
Those who resorted into fact-finding were thus unable to assess the consequences of the EU membership. A second group researched for facts based on a personal standpoint. They were able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the issue. The information literates engaged in scrutinizing and analyzing the issues, and thus were able to identify the values and motives that come with the membership. This illustration reveals a few important elements in identifying education approaches which will best advance information literacy and thereby empower learners.
These best practices refer to approaches that acknowledge the centrality of information literacy in the learning process, make the learners experience, reflect upon, and apply what they have learned, focus on the development of the educators by empowering to reflect on education changes which are inclined towards independent and lifelong learning processes, and allow learners to master technology as a tool for their development. Indeed, “People who are information literate—who know how to acquire knowledge and use it—are the most valuable resources of [any] society” (Presidential Committee, Final Report, 1989).
Presidential committee on information literacy: Final report. (1989, January 10). Retrieved August 10, 2006, from http://www. ala. org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/whitepapers/presidential. htm. Bruce, C. (2002, July). Information Literacy as a Catalyst for Educational Change: A background paper. Retrieved August 10, 2006, from http://www. nclis. gov/libinter/infolitconf&meet/papers/bruce-fullpaper. pdf, 17. Gelbwasser, S. E. (2004, May), Information Literacy for Lifelong Institute Students: Determining a Best-Practice Model. Johnson & Wales Unviersity, Providence, Rhode Island. UMI No. 3124559.