Information Literacy

My work today was timely as we had a lunch meeting today with Stu Harris from the board office and as we met, we discussed the importance of information literacy within an inquiry based school. Our comitment to be a Structural Innovation school in the 2010/11 school year will require us to rethink what skills our students need to be successful and it is imperitive that information literacy be the first thing that we teach. I is impossible to engage in an inquiry project without knowing how to correctly navigate and use the internet and the tools it offers.

I very much appreciated Marnie’s inclusion of resources that can be used in the classroom to teach information literacy. Some of them I have seen before and I have used in my classroom. For the past three years I have taught from an Inquiry and Project based model and so I have felt the frustration of seeing the information that students have to sort, manage and interpret on a daily basis through this kind of learning.

I started this school year by teaching (ok, trying to teach) my class how to do a basic search with something so simple as changing their question for inquiry into searchable keywords and still even last week I heard, “Mrs. Stinson, I can’t find anything about the weapons that were used in the Guatamanlan Genocide, There is nothing, I have to start over.”
I saunter over to their working space and look at their Google search and what do I see “what weapons were used in the guatemalan genocide?” So, I look to the person next to this student and ask, what is not going to work about this google search
“He didn’t use keywords” is the answer I recieve.
I am met with a sheepish look from the offending student
“oh, ya. I forgot” Okay, so some of them know, good. Then another student comes in exasperated,
“Mrs. Stinson, we can’t find any information on how the Rwandan Genocide began, like seriously, there is nothing on the whole internet.”
Really, nothing? So I take the student to my laptop and type in “How did the Rwandan Genocide start?” The first hits they get are from WikiAnswers, not the best place to gather information. We use it as a moment to talk about why. I ask her, what did you need to use? Keywords is her reply. Right. So if they all know it, why don’t they do it? I have concluded that they need to be taught more, saturated with it at the beginning of the year and then slowly marinated as they go on until they are flavoured with the sweet smell of literacy.
These incidences, seven months into an inquiry based program, tells me that my week-long unit at the beginning is not enough. I need to have continuing mini lessons through out the year and build site evaluation into the process outlines that they complete while engaging in an inquiry. It is imperative that they know how to navigate information online to effectively and INDEPENDANTLY learn from it.

The exploration of information literacy can not be sperated from print literacy and I think that one of the protests that is often made by teachers about teaching these skills it that they do not have them and they do not have the time to learn them. It would not be acceptable for a teacher to say, I do not know how to read, I do not have the time to learn so I just will not teach my students how to or use books in my classroom. Being literate in our schools means knowing how to navigate all media, including technology.

So, having talked about the importance of students and teachers to be technologically literate, especially in the inquiry and project based framework that we are now encouraged to adopt (which, as you all know, I fully support) I must get up on my soap box for just a moment, so bear with me. We as students and teachers can not be expected to be competently literate and engage in inquiry and project based learning if we are not provided the tools to do so. I have said before that I am very frustrated with the lack of computers that are accessable to my classroom. I also just found out that it is not just my school that will not allow student to access our wireless connection, but that it is a board wide policy. How can we make this work with two opposing messages? I am so confused and frustrated. Thank you, I will get down now.

The video below discusses all issues surrounding information literacy and brings up some interesting issues surrounding the teachers role, how information technology is changing and effecting schools and kids. It also discusses the differences between what literacy used to be and what it is now, have a look.



  1. Vanessa Said:

    Hi Danielle,

    Using keywords and effective search strategies definitely helps save time and improve productivity when searching the web.

    I can remember helping students with search strategies and can appreciate your comments when they complain about not finding appropriate ‘hits’ based on their search criteria.

    I remember many years ago (before many of the search engines became more ‘intuitive’), helping students understand and use boolean operators. I recall one student who was searching for information on Sesame Street AND Elmo (just to get used to how the AND command worked) and ended up with a website full of inappropriate and adult oriented content as one of the first hits. The student was very worried about what she had uncovered, but we used the discovery as a teachable moment and moved on.

    The fact that you are helping students learn how to formulate questions and use the web as a tool for inquiry in the form of keyword searches is commendable. Well done!

  2. sm45rt Said:

    You don’t have to ever worry about being up on your soap box. You are just up there with the rest of us and what we really need is other teachers to join us. I echo your frustrations with filtering and the issue of lack of wireless connections for kids. We are so afraid of losing control of what they are doing and what they are seeing. I like the example Vanessa uses above. What a great teachable moment! How will they ever learn if we don’t put them in learning situations pertinent to their world? Of course kids will make mistakes and forget things that we teach them, but that is what teaching and learning are all about. We need to quite solving our supervision problems with filtering programs and open our students to the digital world, so they can be taught to properly navigate within that world.

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