Information literacy (IL) is essential for 21st century students. It will be argued that IL is more than a set of skills, it also includes a mindset which values using information prudently, ethically and responsibly. The combination of information skills, generic skills and a certain mindset necessary for a student to be information literate will be discussed (Bundy, 2004).
IL does require information skills. Information skills include recognising a need for information and then competently searching and accessing the information (Bundy, 2004, p. 3). Students need to understand the information and critically evaluate it for quality, relevance and credibility (Bundy, 2004. p. 3). Information skills require students to be able to effectively use information. Students will need to organise and sort the information to enable them to synthesise and communicate new knowledge and understanding to an audience (Abilock, 2007). These information skills overlap with the generic skill of problem solving (Bundy, 2004, p. 3). Information skills include student skilfulness in the use of ICTs (Bundy, 2004, p. 7). Much of the information that 21st century students will access is in a digital format. Students will need to develop skills in understanding the search options available for online resources and recognise which ones best suit their needs. As information technologies are constantly changing, information skills include students keeping abreast of changes (Bundy, 2004, p. 14). Next to be discussed are the generic skills used in IL.
IL incorporates a number of generic skills. Collaboration is a generic skill that may be used in IL instruction. Students will need skills that enable them to work collaboratively with other students to complete information learning activities. Students need effective communication skills to understand how to communicate the content and purpose of the information they are presenting with the appropriate audience. Students need to communicate clear arguments and conclusions and give their sources the appropriate credit (Abilock, 2007, Communicating & Synthesizing section). The generic skill of critical thinking is fundamental to IL. Skills involved in critical thinking enable students to constantly question information, evaluate different points of view, solve problems and gain understanding (McKinney, 2008, p. 1). Next to be discussed is why IL is more than a set of skills.
IL is more than just the set of information and generic skills already discussed. It is a mindset that is guided by prudent and ethical principles that go deeper and are more complex than a set of skills. The ethical issues that students will encounter online include “self-expression and identity, privacy, ownership and authorship, personal and information credibility, participation or conduct in online spaces” (Waters, 2012, p. 4). Information literate students need to be able to understand and acknowledge their social responsibilities and how their participation affects others in the online community (Bundy, 2004, p. 11). The ultimate goal is for students to develop a mindset which guides them in becoming good digital citizens.
IL does require students to develop both information and generic skills. Information literate students will also need to develop a mindset that goes beyond these set of skills. This mindset is guided by ethical principles in the online community that help create good digital citizens for today and in the future. Digital citizens that can understand and manage the vast amounts of information available to them.
Abilock, D. (2007). Information literacy. Building blocks of research: Overview of design, process and outcomes. In Noodletools. Retrieved from http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/1over/infolit1.html
Bundy, A. (Ed.). (2004). Australian and New Zealand information literacy framework: Principles, standards and practice (2nd ed.). Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).
McKinney, S. (2008). Critical literacy. Thinking critically: What does it mean?. Retrieved from http://www.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/82740/thinkcritically.pdf
Waters, J. K. (2012). Turning students into good digital citizens. The Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/Articles/2012/04/09/Rethinking-digital-citizenship.aspx