The Evolution of Information Literacy

There has been a progression over time in definitions of information literacy and correspondingly in what is taught in school libraries. From the isolated teaching of library skills we moved on to teaching information skills for completing curriculum based assignments and have arrived at the more holistic information literacy definitions and practices of today. Focus now is that students are not just taught skills in isolation but are expected to think about how and when they might use these skills. There is also an increased emphasis today on the hows and whys of incorporating emerging technologies into our understanding and teaching of information literacy.

Langford queried whether information literacy is a concept or a process and also if it is a newly emerged literacy born of new technology and the need for 21st century skills merging with existing models of info literacy. He also asked if it is a TL generated literacy not relevant to the classroom teacher. I really liked his quote “ the concept of literacy really depends on the information needs of the society of the time.” (Langford 1988)

(Abilock 2004) thinks that to be info literate means one is able to engage in a creative process to find understand evaluate and use info for a variety of social, personal and global purposes

The (Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework. Bundy, 2004) lists a number of indicators that define an info literate person which incorporate a number of 21st C skills and processes and require the use of higher order thinking.

Herring and Tarter (2006, p.3) translate this more specifically in terms of what an information literate student is be able to do. They are more specific also about the importance of transfer of knowledge and skills across time, content and context.

While I understand the need for academic discussion I find the plethora of attempts to define information literacy a frustrating journey into semantics and would rather just accept that it probably encompasses all these elements. It depends upon the learner, the context and what stage of their lifelong learning journey they are on.


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