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2000 Niki Kallenberger: Infocus- Linking people and information

1998 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy at grassroots.

1992 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy through IT: Teacher development project.

1991 Gwen Gawith: Information skills and school libraries.

1990 Gwen Gawith: Teacher-Librarianship and NZ: A short and personal account.

1990 Gwen Gawith: Teacher-librarianship and missing links.

1986 Gwen Gawith: School libraries: Bridges or barriers.

1986 Gwen Gawith: Teacher-librarianship: New Zealand's quantum leap.

1986 Gwen Gawith: A future information generation or a professional squabble?

 

information literacy:
school libraries and teacher-librarians

Information literacy through information technology: Teacher development project

Excerpted from sections on the social and pedagogical contexts underpinning the design (1990-1997) of the national teacher development courses offered by the Centre for Information Studies.

The full report (10,000 words) was a prizewinning entry in the international Telematique Pedagogique Concours de Scenarios, 1992 - 1993.

Gwen Gawith

Social and cultural context for information literacy learning:

Education both shapes and is shaped by society. New Zealand has experienced a decade of profound social and educational change. Dordick (1987, pp. 27, 38) says:

To understand New Zealand's entry into the information society, how the information technologies have been and are being diffused and with what impact, we need to appreciate the economic and social changes taking place in New Zealand.

At the close of the 1980's then, New Zealand finds itself in a precarious economic and social situation. Despite a considerable increase in its exports, its terms oft trade continue to decline. And the government's ability to maintain its traditional social programmes is severely strained, leading to curtailments that challenge long-held New Zealand values. Further, as New Zealand enters the information society, it is likely to be a two-tiered society, of highly paid information workers and poorly paid non-information workers, posing: a considerable threat to its egalitarian ideals. It is in this climate that the information 'revolution' in New Zealand is taking place.

In the 1990's New Zealand's situation is no less precarious. Sweeping changes to the administration of education followed the publication in 1988 of two key reports, 'Administering for Excellence' and 'Tomorrow's schools'. They heralded a shift of direction from a centralised administration to the school as a 'building block' of the new system, with school-based management and decision-making as the keystone in all matters except curriculum. Following a 1987 review of the curriculum by the Department of Education, and the publication of curriculum discussion documents in 1988 and 1991, a new National Curriculum Framework is due in 1993.

Nearly 25 years ago Beeby, New Zealand's best known educator said:

Modern prophets tell us that, in some subjects, knowledge is doubling every ten years. Whether or not this is literally true I do not know - it is certainly not true of wisdom - but there is some justification for the view, now commonly expressed, that new ways of teaching, learning and understanding must he found if the new generation is not to be intellectually smothered beneath a mountain of facts (cited in Beswick, 1977) .

The National Curriculum Frameworks, a 1989 Planning Council Report, and a 1991 National Library/Institute of Policy Studies report all list information skills as generic or essential skills needed by all in an information age.

The inclusion of information skills as essential skills in the new National Curriculum Framework, to be taught in learning areas and at all levels, by all teachers, is an acknowledgement of the need perceived by Beeby.

Much overseas research indicates that teachers themselves may not have the necessary skills and experience to teach 'the new literacy', information literacy. A recent Australian document, 'Australia an an information society...' sets this concept of information literacy in the context of social and education developments:

The ability of individuals and institutions to access that information and to transform it into knowledge is also important and is based in the capacity of the education system to impart information skills. The capacity of our institutions to store and preserve information is also a part of this process and is a matter of long term concern. None of these processes can be considered in isolation if Australia is going to develop effective policies and strategies for its further development.

There is also a need for people to develop an understanding of their information rights and become information literate. This could take the form of increased opportunities for students to develop information awareness and skills in a more concerted way than is currently the case in education. At the tertiary level there is a need for all graduates to have an understanding of the links between values and information as well as information handling skills. There is also a need for specific programs to be put in place at all three levels of education to develop information handling skills in students. These programs should allow for the subtle nature of information and not be equated with computer skills.

Recognition of a new paradigm, the development of an information dependent global economy, in which Australia has the potential to play an increasing role (or face the risk of a deteriorating one) is essential and long overdue. One reason for the delay in recognising a new paradigm has been confusion between information technology (IT) and information generally in which content and handling techniques have been equated.

This quote has been included in full because New Zealand has no such clear-sighted vision statement. However, Scott, New Zealand's National Librarian, suggests, "there is not much evidence that we have grasped the long-term societal implications of this change. Instead, the obvious has been seized - the effects of information technology on productivity, job organisation and administrative convenience."

Clearly, the need for information literacy extends beyond students and includes teachers. Information literacy cannot be viewed as merely the addition of 'computer awareness' or information technology skills. It requires a fundamental redefinition of the nature of learning, teaching and understanding, as Beeby suggested, and a fundamental restructuring of pedagogy in student and teacher education. Fullan (1982) reaffirms this need for new approaches to teaching and pedagogic beliefs. Markless and Streatfield (1991) and Heeks 1988) reporting on recent British information literacy-linked research, affirm and support the growing trend toward ongoing school-based inservice training for teachers. Recent American research (Borrell, 1992, p.25) highlights the need for teachers to be adequately prepared, not just to use computers, but with the pedagogic skills needed for integrating them into curriculum programmes. He reports:

Antiquated computers; unused computers; computers used for games and not for teaching; schools and teachers unprepared to use computers that they own; mismanaged or misdirected policies; and unknown hundreds of millions of dollars spent over the last decade for little return.

The gap between rhetoric and reality is wide, it appears. Saxby (1990, p.1) suggests that information technology is evoking fundamental change in our society, quoting a report which states that the new information technologies "are changing the way people work and conduct their business; how they interact and relate to one another; the way they learn, create and process information, and their needs and expectations.... In this society, the creation, use and communication of information plays a central role."

Pedagogic directions:

The Information Literacy Teacher Development Project has sought to draw together themes in the emergent literature of education in an information age, and to incorporate these in designing a pedagogy of distance teaching in information literacy learning and teaching to ensure that New Zealand teachers, and their students, are equipped to confront the social and educational challenges and potential of our evolving information society.

Information has been described by Martin (1988) as 'the lifeblood of learning'. The emphasis, in recent years, on the concept of information literacy, is discussed by Kuhlthau: "Essential to being literate in an information society is the ability to locate, comprehend, and apply information. These basic abilities involve thinking critically about information..."

An international UNESCO study edited by Irving (1981, p. 1) states:

Information awareness at all levels is considered essential: the personal, vocational and social development of the individual depends on the amount, quality and accessibility of information. Not only is information the medium of social communication but it is also a national resource vital for scientific and economic progress.

If seeking information is to he a normal part of everyday life, the training of information users must begin at school, from the primary level.

Another international IFLA/UNESCO study edited by Hall (1985, p. 3) suggests that:

Information is much more complex than the provision of libraries and other information agencies, desirable as these may be. It is embedded in the nature of learning and how people interact with one another and their environment to make sense of their world. The concept of information in whatever form - oral, visual, print - therefore, appears essential to any educational programme and must increasingly be the concern of all teachers and all teacher educators... Within an information society, it is now accepted that such information retrieval and use skills should be important outcomes of schooling.

Kay (1991) reinforces the cautionary note that is being sounded with increasing frequency against the unquestioning assumption that the mere presence of unparalleled quantities of information and information processing technologies will ensure their effective use by students and teachers in learning and teaching.

In the near future, all the representations that human beings have invented will be instantly accessible anywhere in the world on intimate notebook-size computers. But will we be able to get from the menu to the food?

Instant access to the world's information will probably have an effect opposite to what is hoped: Students will become numb instead of enlightened.

Beswick (1986, p.5) expressed the same caution:

Rather obviously, a learner who finds one book a problem will not find many millions of books any easier... the problems faced by slow learners, new learners, insecure learners and teachers, when faced with vast numbers of learning sequences, multi-megabyte capacity, and the contents of the world's libraries, are not simply daunting: they are horrific.

Hall (op. cit) points out that "the majority of pupils still leave school unable to retrieve and use information effectively outside the context of the classroom" and suggests that the "education of information users should be integrated into formal education programmes at all levels, from primary education upwards." She adds:

...there is a need for teachers to recognise that the whole world is a potential information source, and that the teaching of information skills to enable pupils to gain experience in seeking and interpreting information is essential learning for learning in an increasingly complex world; that teachers need training and experience in knowledge about information sources, information skills, and teaching information concepts and skills within the curriculum.

De Landsheere (1991) focuses on the nature of information in learning. He suggests:

... information is only of value to an individual if he or she has learned to use it. It has no significance except in relation to the person who propagates it. And it constitutes power only for one who, having understood or interpreted it, has the means to take advantage of it to administrate things differently.

Hoggart (1991) highlights this political dimension of information literacy:

The literacy given to most people is insufficient for the needs of increasingly complex societies and, more important, inadequate in ways essential to a democracy. Most leave school critically, culturally and imaginatively sub-literate...

 

Cleaver (1987) highlights the problem teachers face in teaching students for today's realities and tomorrow's uncertainties:

The transition to an information society is still in an early stage, and this presents a formidable challenge. Our educational system... is now faced with the difficult task of preparing learners to live in the present and yet be able to accommodate to an environment that is in the process of becoming. Will the skills students learn today be useful in coping with their future needs? Are there generic skills that can be transferred to new learning environments? What kinds of environments will be created by information technologies?

What differences are there in understanding and using electronic and print data? Is information a product, an entity that is complete and unchanging, or does it change with the nature of the information seeker? How is information received? How can it he used?

These were some of the issues which set the pedagogic direction for the development of the Centre's information studies courses, and underpinned the perceived need, described previously, to make this training in information literacy available to as many teachers as possible throughout New Zealand.

In summary, we set out to develop a pedagogy for encouraging teachers to explore, as learners, the scope of information literacy, and the implications for information literacy learning and teaching in classroom programmes.

This pedagogy would reflect the belief that the students of today will determine the shape of tomorrow's society, not in relation to their ability to use technology, but in relation to their ability to select, interpret, reject and use in socially responsible ways the information that the technology stores, processes and disseminates.

Inevitably this would focus on developing students as autonomous, self-directed learners, and on the knowledge, understandings and pedagogic practices teachers would need to guide these students towards increasing learning autonomy and self-direction throughout their schooling.

Inevitably, too, this would involve the use of information technologies in classroom and library teaching programmes, ensuring that students were able to locate information sources and resources, process and produce information effectively. However, the focus would be on the quality of the learning and information use rather than on the technology per se. The learning would, in other words, be information-driven rather than technology-driven, and the focus of the project would be on pedagogy - the pedagogies most effective in enhancing the teaching and learning, and extending the understanding of both teachers and learners of the implications of information literacy, or the lack thereof, in an information age.

The pedagogy would stress the need for both teachers and learners to look beyond the school for information; to see society itself as both a source and context for the use of information.

We would seek to embrace the workplace and economic/commodity

dimensions of information and technological growth and development, but develop critical and responsible attitudes to the use of information and information technology. We would have to turn the school inside out, recognising that information literacy already exists, implicitly and explicitly, in the business community to a greater extent than it does in schools; that, rightly or wrongly, educators are running to catch up with the information age, not leading it. As Barron and Bergen (1992) state:

The concept of information literacy cannot be overemphasised. Ours has been characterised as a society drowning in a flood of information. Our economy rests on our ability nor only to manage the information but also to use it creatively. To maintain even a minimum quality of life, graduates must be able to survive in the world of information.

 

Pedagogic principles:

Reflecting the issues and concerns highlighted in the literature, the following are the key ideas and pedagogic principles which underpin the three phases of the work:

1. That there is a crucial need to focus on teachers as learners; to provide them with the competencies to use information and information technologies effectively in their own leaning.

2. That self-reflective, 'double-loop' learning is most likely to occur in learning based in the teacher's own school and classroom, but that, given frameworks and opportunities for reflection, analysis, research, reading and discussion, teachers will also look beyond their own experience for information.

3. That self-reflective, autonomous, self-directed student learning can be taught in similar ways, ie by providing teachers and students with the frameworks and opportunities for reflection, and guidance in their use.

4. That involving students, teachers, principals and trustees actively in the course, encouraging teachers to plan and work collaboratively with the whole school community, will ensure an improved information climate in the school, and an increased awareness of the implications of information literacy for teachers as well as students, and for school- based developments curriculum and pedagogy.

5. That using information and communication technologies effectively, efficiently and imaginatively depend on the capacity to use information effectively, efficiently and imaginatively; that they are inextricably linked. Together they are information literacy. Learning to use technology without learning to use the information it stores, controls, disseminates and produces, might be technological literacy, but it is not information literacy.

6. Information literacy is a cornerstone concept of current curriculum development initiatives and documents in the countries whose education systems and policies tend to have most influence on New Zealand developments, ie Britain, Australia, and America.

Information literacy needs to provide both the rationale and the methodology in any New Zealand training initiatives for teachers.

7. The social and educational implications of the information society and developments in information and communication technologies are profound. teachers and students alike need to be encouraged to consider the broader socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-political dimensions of learning in this age. Learning to make socially responsible use of information and information technologies is a critical dimension of information literacy.

8. We need to re-focus our pedagogy, recognising that the information society is a societal construct, not an educational construct. In encouraging students and teachers to look outside the school for the information that shapes their thinking and learning, rather than focusing on the school itself as the knowledge source and resource, we must acknowledge that the need for a pedagogy with clearly articulated educational and ethical principles has never been greater, Teachers and students alike need to be able to articulate a philosophy of learning and teaching and demonstrate it in action.

9, The educational implications of a global information-based economic and social infrastructure make the need for a small, proudly self-reliant but parochial country like New Zealand, to look beyond its own shores for ideas and information. The tyranny of distance can be overcome, as we have proved, using telecommunication technologies. But if you do not know what you need to know, how are you going to know what technology to use to find an appropriate information source? And how will you be able to judge the quality of information when it floods your screen?

The tyranny of passive, uncritical, parochial, socially and politically unaware citizens poses more of a threat to the future of New Zealand than the tyranny of distance. Information literacy is not a panacea, but it is a useful tool, and one which is well within the capacity of our current education system to resource,

References

(1991). Australia as an information society: Grasping new paradigms Canberra: AGPS.

Barron, D. and Bergen, T. (1992). Information Power; The restructured school library for the nineties. Phi Delta Kappan , March, 521-525.

Beswick, N. (1977). Resource-based learning. London: Heinemann.

Beswick, N. (1986). Re-thinking active learning 8-16. London: Falmer Press.

Borrell, J. (1992) America's shame: how we've abandoned our children's future. Macworld, September.

Cleaver, B. (1987). Thinking about information skills for lifelong learning. School Library Media Quarterly, Fall, 29-31.

De Landsheere, G. (1991). The information society and education. In M. Eraut (Ed.) Education and the information society: A challenge for European policy. London: Cassell.

Dordick, H.S. (1987). Information technology and economic growth in New Zealand. Wellington: Victoria University Press/ Institute of Policy Studies.

Fullan, M. (1982). The meaning of educational change. Columbia: Columbia University Teachers College Press.

Hall, N. (1985). Teachers, information and school libraries. Paris: IFLA/ UNESCO.

Heeks, P. (1988). School libraries on the move... (LIR Report 69). London: British Library.

Hoggart, R. (1991). The pursuit of quality. The Bookseller, 14 June.

Irving, A. (1981). Instructional materials for developing information concepts and information handling skills in schoolchildren: An international study. Paris: UNESCO.

Kay, A. (1991). Computers, networks and education. Scientific American, September, 138-148.

Kuhlthau, C. (1986). Information skills: Tools for learning. School Library Media Quarterly. Fall, p. 22.

Markless, S. and Streatfield, D. (1991). Information skills in schools: Project report. London: British Library/ NFER.

Martin, W. (1988). The information society. London: ASLIB.

Saxby, S. (1990). The age of information: The past development and future significance of computing and communications. New York: New York University Press.

Scott, P. (1991). Foreword. In A. Carpinter. Managing data, knowledge and know-how: Information policy for the 1990s. Wellington: National Library/ Institute of Policy Studies.