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2002 Gwen Gawith: Re-defining research

2002 Opoho School: "The Opoho Possum Hunt"

2001 Gwen Gawith: "Infobliteracy" - Part 2.

2001 Gwen Gawith: Responding to "Into a Further World" by Elwyn Richardson.

2001 Carolyn Coil: Teachers make the world of information become knowledge.

2001 Gwen Gawith: Why Read?

2001 Gwen Gawith: "Infobliteracy" - Part 1.

2001 Linda Selby and Maureen Trebilcock: A call for teacher-librarians

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information Literacy: theory into practice - Part 2

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy: problems and solutions.

2000 Alan Cooper: Information literacy; the past is not enough.

1999 Gwen Gawith: The origins of information literacy.

1998 Graham Prentice: Knowledge architects.

1998 Gwen Gawith: Getting a handle on information literacy.

1997 Gwen Gawith: NEMPing through information literacy.

1992 Gwen Gawith: learning for the future.

1987 Gwen Gawith: Information skills for an information age.

1986 Gwen Gawith Information skills for an information literate future.

1984 Gwen Gawith: Getting a handle on information skills.


information literacy:
definitions & discussion

Information literacy: theory into practice

This article is adapted from a seminar delivered at International Reading Association World Congress 13.7.2000, Auckland

Gwen Gawith

To be information literate is to be able to find, read, analyse, interpret and apply information with critical discrimination to build and communicate knowledge.

Reading is integral to the process, and I believe that the experienced curriculum no longer sustains the traditional academic distinctions between reading skills, comprehension skills, critical and creative thinking skills, metacognition, study skills, information skills and ICT skills.

Information literacy is a living literacy, a literacy needed for even basic operation in ‘wired’ societies today.

There is absolutely no evidence that it is caught, and overwhelming evidence that it must be taught, not in libraries, but in the context of the experienced curriculum.

There are three key dimensions:

Cognitive literacy - the ability to understand, analyse, synthesise, ‘think with’ and apply information.

Technological literacy - the ability to use technologies to retrieve, process, produce and communicate information.

‘Library’ literacy - the ability to find and retrieve information from any source or resource, and to know when self-help ends and the help of qualified teacher-librarians or librarians must be sought. (‘Library’ is interpreted as ‘virtual’ library, stored information, rather than a physical room. Increasingly it means being able to use sophisticated search techniques to navigate the Internet).

Information literacy is more, much more than being able to identify parts of a book or perform on banal PAT tests.

There is a desperate need for a broader model of information literacy covering all literacies and all learning, not just ‘projects’. Project or ‘inquiry’ learning is adequately catered for by my 6-stage Action learning model which has been around since 1984 (the USA Big Six was published in 1988).

The new simple 3-part model integrates information literacy learning into ALL learning, not just projects/ inquiry or ‘library’ skills. It relates to ICT-based learning just as well as it does to print-based learning. It will be released next year when the trademarking process is completed. Keep looking at the new School Quarterly website for information.

The 3 cornerstones of the new model are:


The ten pedagogical strategies were listed in Term 1 Good Teacher. Check the new website, click on the new INFORMATION LITERACY ARCHIVE and find my recent information literacy article under ‘Definitions and Discussions’.

Print out the 10 strategies and make links from the pedagogy to the classroom learning practice. Tick which were used. For example, does what Mere is doing relate to making links to curiosity, or negotiating goals or criteria? Copy it. Send it to Good Teacher. Prizes for the first 10 correct answers received!

One lesson sequence doesn’t cover all the strategies, obviously, but it does show that you don’t have to go anywhere near parts of a book to teach information literacy!

My name is Mere. I am 12, nearly 13. My teacher, Mrs Jones, is seriously old and quite strict, but she’s fun. She’s a really good teacher because she always tells us why she thinks what we are learning is important, and interesting, and she shows us the best way to learn it. She is bats about learning and knowledge and as blind as... , so we all laughed when she said that we were going to enrol in the LEARNZ online ‘Let’s go BATS’ programme in Term 4.

She want us to contribute our work to the listserver, and she wants it to be work we are really really proud of, so she reckons we need to sharpen up some of our information literacy skills. She made us go back to our evaluations. YUK! But we had to agree with her that we needed more practice in SURFING (Scanning and skim reading text) and SLURPING (Reading in depth for understanding). We also needed more practice putting things into categories so these are going to be our 3 information strategy goals. Last term we used books but this time we’re using the LEARNZ web material.

She also said that way back the 80s when Noah was building his ark, she was doing integrated projects, but young teachers these days were carrying on like it’s something new, so we’re going to show them how we integrated our English, Social Studies, Technology, Science and Art goals! She put up a list of all the things we were going to achieve - in what she calls "Curriculumspeak" and translated them into "Kidspeak" for us.

She got us interested by guessing why vampire bats were called that, and then she told us a whole lot of really fascinating bat facts from websites and books she’d looked at. She talked really fast and made us take short notes as fast as we could go.. then we shared, in pairs and then fours, all the info we’d note.

She’d borrowed the projector that links to the computer and showed us the map she’d drawn on Inspiration with the categories:

BATS WHAT are they? What do they look like, species, etc?

BATS WHERE are they? Overseas? NZ?

BATS WHEN they fly...? Their wings, how they navigate, make sounds, etc.

BATS HOW they live, etc? What they eat, what eats them, how they breed, etc.

She printed copies of her rough map for each of us and we cut out our notes and stuck them under the categories where they fitted.

Then came the hard bit. She put us into teams of four. I was with Pete and Greg and Joan. We were given half an hour, just HALF AN HOUR, to surf all the information on the LEARNZ Bats site! She said to go like bats out of hell! We did!

The idea was to improve on her map and to sort out some really good categories for the next stage. We then had half an hour to draw our categories on the screen using Inspiration. We fought a bit but it came out OK. We had to show her and she thought it was good. She suggested we add ‘Echolocation’ to the flying category because it was an important part of our science learning, and one of the most fascinating things about bats, she thought.

The next bit was our independent work. For homework we had to develop questions related to each of the categories. We already knew what sort of information was on the site, so this wasn’t too hard. The next day we shared our questions and made a master list for our team and then had to check with Mrs Jones. She said some were too big and ‘woolly wafter’ (her favourite expression), and she helped us to break them up into smaller questions.

We then had to do our work plan. We had two weeks to ‘interview’ all the information on the site to answer our questions by writing information on buttons behind on the Inspiration map. The boys wanted to play on Inspiration, but she wouldn’t let us till we had most of it on paper. So we had to work out who was researching what questions, and when, and how we’d check that the information they’d got was correct. She’s really fussy about this, so we thought we’d probably use the Britannica site, and maybe also Encarta and the World Book.

Pete pointed out that there were site links on the LEARNZ site. We thought they’d probably be the best bats sites. We decided that we’d have enough info without using search engines this time.

Mrs Jones made us add a midway checkpoint for seeing her, but otherwise she thought our plan was realistic (another favourite word) and achievable.

She gave us some help at our midway point, but liked what we’d done, so we finished the draft and she authorised Stage 3.

This was the fun bit. We expanded our Inspiration map and stuck on buttons with the info related to our questions. We had a lunchtime ‘show-and-tell’ where different teachers came to see what we’d done. Awesome! Most of them hadn’t used Inspiration and they thought we were SO smart.

Now most teams are finished, and we’re doing Stage 4. We’ve all read the biography written by Ananda the Takahe on the ‘Tarks in the Park’ part of the LEARNZ website, so now we’re all doing our own bat autobiographies. We can choose a bat name that starts with B. We’re each doing our own but have a ‘writing buddy’ to check structure, spelling, grammar, etc, and put it through the ‘readaloud’ test. It can be a tragedy, like if your bat gets eaten by a predator, or a love story if your bat meets another bat and raises Minor Batties!

We’re going to use Kidpix and invite the year 2s to a presentation, so we also have to think about making it really clear and concise, and drawing pictures which will explain the story.

Mrs Jones has this thing about "how do you know you KNOW?" For Stage 5 we’re going to do all the activities on the LEARNZ site as a test. It sounds horrible, but I find that once we’ve done the work, I quite enjoy testing myself. She doesn’t make a fuss if you don’t know. You just go back and check it out again.

So you can see why I enjoy her class - but, boy, is it ever hard work!