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2000 Robyn Boswell: Future Problem Solving - NZ kids foot it

2000 Alan Cooper: Thinking to learn

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy in action at SCONZ

2000 Gwen Gawith: Blooming questions

1999 Art Costa: An interview with Art Costa

1999 Robyn Boswell: International Future Problem Solving success

1999 Gwen Gawith: The survival of the book: Co-existing with Gog and Magog

1999 Gwen Gawith: Lost the plot: Reading for what?

1999 Gwen Gawith: Rushkoff and visual literacy

1999 Gwen Gawith: KFL: Knowledge Free learning?

1998 Gwen Gawith: Ban projects: Teach information literacy

1998 Gwen Gawith: The cry for deep learning…

1998 Gwen Gawith: The Mercury model of information literacy

1998 David Hyerle: Thinking literacy in an age of ICT

1998 Pauline Donaldson: A virtual classroom with 3500 students

1997 Jeff Bruce and Gwen Gawith: information literacy and Infolink

1997 Gwen Gawith: How to ? or not to?: That is the ?

1997 Gwen Gawith: Unlocking learning: Key words

1996 Gwen Gawith: Epistemic fluency or the cognitive trots!

1995 Gwen Gawith: A serious look at self-efficacy: waking beeping Slooty!

1993 Gwen Gawith: The National Curriculum and the information process

information literacy:
learning & thinking

KFL: an easy peasy tongue-in-cheek cognitive stir fry for lighthearted mastication

A longer version of this article was published in Good Teacher, Term 1 1999

Gwen Gawith

When the NEMP (1988) results showed that a substantial number of year 4/8's had great difficulty understanding the information they retrieved, let alone thinking with it critically and analytically to develop knowledge, the nation should have declared a state of educational emergency, or, at very least a day of mourning.

Why? Well, for tolerating, far too often, an education system that promotes what can best be described as KFL, Knowledge Free Learning, or, if you prefer, Kentucky Fried Learning, or, better still CBL - Cognitive Bypass Learning.

[The definitions below were sourced on the Internet, and are impressively authoritative, although you'll never be able to prove otherwise because, having found something once, it's almost impossible to re-trace your web trail!]

Knowledge Free Learning (KFL) n. Activity promoted through primary projects which involves gathering a few facts and pasting them up manually or electronically. Kentucky Fried Learning (KFL) n. Instant, effortless, fast-fried, nutritionless information which passes through, contributing no benefits to the human organism and leaving no cognitive deposits, toxic or otherwise.

Cognitive Bypass Learning (CBL) n. Osmotic process by which information is retrieved, assimilated and regurgitated (often through technological mediation called wordprocessing or multimedia software) without needing to be processed through the head. Facilitation n. Figure of speech. Often used in context of teaching-free pedagogy designed to produced KFL (and the NEMP results).

Facilitator n. One who used to be proud to be called a teacher. Worse still, after the publication of the NEMP report, a Ministry Spokesfacilitator unequivocally equivocated the Mindless Mantra that in an Age of Information it was more important to be able to find out than to have knowledge. This reduces a truism to simplistic nonsense. Of course it is important to be able to find out - I have been trying to Page teach people this in the form of resource-based learning for the last 20 years - but knowledge is crucial.

Knowledge is NOT retrieved information as the mindless mantra implies. Knowledge is thought about, well masticated, wonderfully nutritious, deeply processed cognitive fodder that is richly satisfying to heart, soul and mind.

It's not a question of blaming teachers. But it is a question of challenging us to question bandwagons and ask what teaching professionals should be doing at all levels. That, surely, at all levels, is to teach people to be learners and to value and cherish learning and knowledge?

And, while I'm talking pot shots, I don't know how much fact-stuffing kids like duvets for exams at secondary does much to help them become self-efficacious learners who are passionate about knowing and knowledge and confident about their efficacy as learners.

If this seems obvious - and it does to many of the teachers I meet who tell me they do all this already - they 'do' problem-solving, they 'do' technology, they 'do' projects, they 'do' thinking skills and information skills, then why is the proof not in the pudding? Why, for example, on the NEMP tasks were only 80% of year 8 students able to say when Louis Pasteur was born, and only 46% were able to say why he was famous. This means that roughly 20%/ 54% of 12 year olds can't read 100 words to retrieve factual information or make a simple inference. We are talking literal comprehension here, not high level thinking skills. Sure, you can say 'who cares about Louis Pasteur?' They would have done better if it had been 'relevant' and presented on the screen. You also tell me that is because they are so-called visual learners. Good. So why, given the mouth watering task of watching a video of chocolate eggs being made, could only 13% of year 4s and 19% of year 8s choose 5 out of 8 cards which showed the main steps in making chocolate eggs?

I have to say I don't know why. Some of the results confirmed what I know from many years of working in the area of information literacy; some amazed me. So, what to do about it? I don't know, but the first step is, surely (the Great God Technology Curriculum can't be wrong?) recognising that you have a problem, defining the problem and developing and evaluating a number of solutions, recognising that a complex, entrenched problem is unlikely to be solved with ONE quick-fix easy-peasy solution.

How many of us were taught how to learn?

How many of us learnt by osmosis, and are here, teachers, because we are the system's success stories? How many of us, wherever we did our teaching qualifications, were taught how to learn?

Teaching people how to learn is not difficult. It is fun!

But it needs to be done over and over and over. At all levels, primary to tertiary there are simple strategies *for building a foundation of knowledge, for helping students to structure their knowledge, and for using tools for analysing information to build knowledge. There isn't an overseas guru with a quick easy-peasy recipe that 'works'. In short, we can't assume it; we need to teach it.

*email gwen@metacog.co.nz to see how you can get hold of copies of Getting a handle on information literacy which has practical teaching strategies.