Understanding the changing nature of information literacy in education
A recent study exploring how college students conceptualize the online information landscape has found that information literacy approaches relying upon a ‘static’ presentation of information, which is sought by the student, does not reflect the current environment where algorithms and information platforms push information directly to users (Head et al., 2020). As the nature of information access has changed, so too must our understandings of information literacy and how we teach it.
This year, the NSW Department of Education launched the Information Fluency Framework (New South Wales Department of Education, 2022). The framework introduces the concept of information fluency, the ability to critically think while engaging with, creating and utilising information and technology, regardless of the information platform or medium. Being information fluent goes beyond information literacy; it suggests an individual is not only able to apply information skills, but that they can do so competently and confidently in a wide range of contexts.
A way of understanding this is to equate it with swimming; thanks to school swimming lessons many of us are literate in a pool – able to keep our heads above water with some combination of freestyle and treading water – while those who kept up their swimming in later years may be fluent in the water – able to swim equally comfortably in the pool, the ocean or a running river; taking into account the different water qualities, the known or unknown depth and the pull of the waves or current and adjusting as needed.
The release of the information literacy framework, alongside the renaming of the ICT capability as Digital Literacy (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2022) underscore the changing nature of the way we understand the digital information landscape, and how we teach students to navigate and engage with digital information.
To understand whether and how information literacy is changing, I am working with Dr Kasey Garrison to understand the perceptions of teacher librarians and library staff working in Australian High Schools regarding the information literacy needs of the students and teachers they work with. This study is a first step to explore whether the way we think about and teach information literacy is changing, and if not, whether this is something that we need to consider in light of our changing information experiences.
If you haven’t seen our survey, and you are a Teacher Librarian (or a member of a library team who works in this area) please consider taking part in our research survey at https://www.research.net/r/Info-Literacy.