nz information literacy archive

Click to go to

Please contact the editor,
to lodge material in the Information Literacy Archive

©The articles on this website are copyrighted by Metacog Ltd. Permission to reproduce any article in any form must be sought from Metacog Ltd.

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

Teachers make the world of information become knowledge

Carolyn Coil

in conversation with Gwen Gawith

Carolyn Coil’s keynote address and workshop at West Auckland Education Centre’s recent conference on Gifted and Talented Students highlighted the idea that, in the age of computers and the Internet, the ability to select, understand and evaluate information is seldom caught. Even gifted learners need to be taught. I call it information literacy and Carolyn doesn’t, but we are in total agreement as to what needs to be taught, why it needs to be taught, and how it is best taught and learned.

We are also in agreement that teachers are the key. Carolyn talks about gifted teachers "who are able to make the world of knowledge come alive." Do all learners, more and less gifted, need these gifted teachers?

We agree that teachers, themselves, don’t learn the strategies for teaching students to select, understand and evaluate information by osmosis. Teachers need to be taught, just as learners need to be taught - all the more so as the Internet is increasingly seen as the gateway to the pastures of self-directed, independent learning for gifted learners. We agree that this is wishful thinking.

ALL learners need to be taught the skills, and be given lots of opportunity for guided practice. Carolyn says, "We need to teach all students how to be critical information consumers... Students must engage in critical thinking. They must analyze, synthesize and evaluate information. They need to be taught how to do this."

We’ve known for years that all students need coaching and scaffolding to make effective use of information. So what’s new?

What has changed is the context for learning - the instant, digital, multi-channel, infotainment, click-and-flick Internet society. These are the (virtual?) walls that define children’s worlds.

There is enormous pressure to replicate these instant ‘click-and-flick’ features in education. In turn, if Vygotsky’s belief in the inextricable links between thought and language holds true, do these features come to define the nature of student learning and the shape of their minds?

Carolyn talks about short and long-term memory and says, "Children now are not required to process information; they are required to remember little. They are processing memory, but it’s junkfood sitcoms, movies, commercials, adverts. In terms of conditioning the brain, I suppose it doesn’t matter what you process, but in terms of richness of information... If part of memory is to expand the mind, memory also has to do with building the knowledge base, and it’s better to connect to, better to remember something meaningful."

In short, there’s not much point in having the world of knowledge at your fingertips if you don’t value knowledge, don’t value learning and if you don’t know how to learn deeply and recognise what Joan Aiken called ‘pap from protein’.

We discuss a paradox that Carolyn calls ‘Digitised Cinderellas’ - that Cyberworld, virtual reality, isn’t about reality; it’s about escape from reality. By harnessing Cyberworld to service school curricula do we invite and embrace the superficial, and uncritical representation of ‘reality’ in the guise of information.

Carolyn shares my concern about ‘cognitive bypass’ fact-repackaging print and multi-media projects that don’t involve critical thinking and analysis.

We agree that both in the USA and in NZ burgeoning curricula have meant that teachers are under pressure to teach for breadth, not depth. Making the world of knowledge come alive inevitably requires depth - helping students to explore knowledge deeply, critically, relating it to the worlds.

If, as a student, curriculum topics "have no relevance to you and your world, no relation to each other, your point of view becomes ‘Why bother?’ and we have to ask ‘What does have meaning?"

We agree that "Gifted teachers make the world of knowledge come alive." Teachers have never had a more important role to play in helping students to learn how to learn.

Carolyn says, "Gifted students need teachers and mentors to help them navigate through the wealth of information and the vast array of misinformation that is available to them." So, if this is obvious to both of us, why is it so hard to do?

We agree that working with the technology, teaching students to make the world of mediated knowledge come alive for them is what we need to do - something that we, as teachers, are uniquely placed to do. The skills CAN be taught. As teachers we need to ensure that we are able to teach them.

Yes, the curriculum is a deterrent to deep learning, but if you can prove that your students are learning deeply, love learning, and love knowledge, who is going to criticise you?