Being Information Literate

This post calls for answering the following question found in Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice by Esther S. Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowitz:

List three characteristics that describe an information literate individual to you. How would you design instruction that would develop each of these characteristics?

My answer:

An information literate individual is someone who:

1. Is able to use a variety of re/sources in order to search for information on a subject.

2. Has the ability to evaluate these sources based on several criteria (authority, publication date, authenticity, relevance, etc.) to find the best information.

3. Is able to then take the information deemed more authoritative, etc. and use it for whatever means they were searching, i.e. paper-writing, creating a presentation, looking up something for a friend, and more.

The way I would design instruction that would develop these characteristics is actually borrowed from the College Jumpstart! instruction sessions I co-taught this past summer. We gave middle school-aged students a thesis statement and had them break into smaller groups which were each assigned a different electronic resource (Google and various databases available through Wayne State University). Depending on the nature of this hypothetical instruction session, resources do not have to be strictly limited to online sources, but could also include printed material or even other people. The students at the CJ session were given a worksheet that asked the following questions:

  1. Was it easy to search your resource?
  1. Do you feel you found valuable sources on your topic? What makes these sources valuable?
  1. Would you use your resource if you were writing a real paper? Why or why not?
  1. Overall how would you rate your resource on a scale of 1 to 5 stars?

Students then reported back their findings in an open discussion format, with me calling out the questions and if there was silence, prompting them with leading questions about the resources’ usability, authenticity, etc. The goal overall was to illustrate that Google is not the only means for doing research out there, and also that Wikipedia can be used as a jumping off point if students are paying attention to the evaluation criteria of the cited sources. I feel that this was a basic way of getting the wheels turning in terms of information literacy.

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