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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: Responding to Into a further world by Elwyn Richardson (2001)

Gwen Gawith

I love learning. I have always loved learning. I am still filled with a hunger to understand more, filled with a need to use words to describe concepts I understand with my gut but can’t quite get my mind around. I am, however, increasingly, filled with impatience at pretentious books, articles and experts and the re-cycling of platitudinous certainties that people seem to want to believe. Learning can’t be reduced to simple platitudes. At the same time I don’t think anyone has the right to make learning a mystery when it is perfectly easy to break it down and simplify it into skills and processes which students of all ages and abilities learn with relief because, at last, they know what to do and how to do it.

I’ve always admired Freire who gave people the literacy tools which they were free to use to ‘conscientize’ and politicize’ themselves if they chose. I’ve always believed that you can teach people how to think, how to read, how to learn, how to write, but not WHAT to read, write, think and learn.

I held Elwyn Richardson’s new book in my hands with a sense of awe. It’s not a book one can review or even describe because it’s part of Elwyn - a gift, printed on his own press and begging a very different type of reading and responding. It’s a unique blend of Elwyn’s inspiration and wisdom as a person and teacher. Elwyn does, with a starting point in observing, drawing and writing, what I have tried so hard to do with learning and information literacy - strip it down to understandings and strategies so simple that ANYONE, any teacher, any parent, can follow and implement them. But, to make it ‘work’ beyond the level of a prescription for creative writing, squashed into a 40 minute period, you need, also, to do what I said in the first paragraph - to ‘understand with your gut’ the conceptualisation of creativity which Elwyn has crystallised into such simple words. Never confuse simple with simplistic!

Elwyn’s book is the most wonderfully individual and idiosyncratic simple unpeeling of these most un-simple ideas. You just have to let his ideas seep in, read the kids’ poems and words, study the wonderful drawings and prints and let yourself absorb the sense of wonder and creativity which infuses the book.

For young teachers wanting practical things to do - they are there. Elwyn says:

I set about an environmental observation activity which would provide an example of the simple equation of art plus language captures emotional feelings. The language leads to the creation of images, or art; the art leads to the creation of language... I was looking for ‘pictures in the mind’ kinds of art and language.

Too hard? Not at all. It will teach you more about information literacy, about learning, about finding and using information, about collating concepts, about comprehension of the essence of things at a gut level, than anything I or anyone else has written about using and understanding information. It seeps into you. I started putting yellow stickies at sentences I wanted to return to and think about more. The book now looks like a Postit Chriistmas tree!

You’ll discover a simple programme of using bush and beach as a ‘source of materials for study’; you’ll find clear recommendations about how to go from observation and drawing to description, to producing ‘little pictures of events’, to crafting poems from descriptions and from ‘personal expression’. You’ll see how Elwyn modelled what was in his head as he observed and described. It didn’t happen just occasionally. It was done every day, with enough pattern and structure to make children feel comfortable. For example, "At Oruaiti we selected about forty sites which we visited in sequence at the least about twice a term.

What emerges is exactly what I believe learning (and information literacy learning) and the creation of knowledge from information should be and do:

Ideas catch fire readily due to the students’ responses which have their own originality - I do not talk to pieces of work as the oracle of information. I have the group respond to the question: what is this piece of writing/ print/ painting,/ drawing about?... I am of the belief that what you may tell them is not what they will know - real learning comes from a process of taking in information and making it part of inner context. It, at its best, does not necessarily come from didactic learning.

But, as Elwyn demonstrates, it comes from precision, honesty, commitment.

And, in Elwyn’s book, it comes with a wealth of clear, precise, practical, honest, un-didactic guidance for the teacher, interspersed with the most wonderful anecdotes about his life, his wonderful relationship with his first teacher, Wal, and the explication of his ‘image theory’ in action - evidence of a creative genius that, thank God, was never crushed in the shape of a Ph.D.