Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

An Analysis of Information Literacy Education Worldwide

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

An Analysis of Information Literacy Education Worldwide

Article excerpt

This article was prepared for UNESCO, the United States National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, and the National Forum on Information Literacy, for use at the Information Literacy Meeting of Experts, Prague, The Czech Republic. The author explores some of the factors that facilitate and hinder the drive toward information literacy around the world, as reflected in publications of the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) between 1998 and 2002. Initiatives taken in the compulsory schooling sector are illustrated with reference to the degree of existing literacy and technological infrastructure in particular countries, together with differing understandings of information literacy. The transition from literacy to information literacy and school library programs, promising practices in addressing students' learning needs, and those of their teachers are explored. Promising government initiatives are outlined, and recommendations for future progress are made.

Introduction

Postman (1990) observed that the information age began with the invention of the printing press. Since then, the relationship between information and action (e.g., learning, decision-making, and problem-solving) has been severed while, "we have directed all of our energies and intelligence to inventing machinery that does nothing but increase the supply of information" (pp. 4-5). Access to virtually unlimited information, however, does not necessarily make the world in which we live any more comprehensible.

The central point of Postman's (1990) address is that advances in technology are accompanied by unforeseen consequences and that, "it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, and who or what will lose" (p. 2). The fruits of technology cannot of themselves assist in making sense of the world, but advances in information and communication technology (ICT) are forcing a reconsideration of the knowledge, skills, and values needed for education and successful living. As Todd (2001) commented, "The information environment of the 21st century is complex and fluid, connective and interactive, diverse, ambiguous and unpredictable, and one is no longer constrained by physical collections, time, place and national boundaries" (p. 1).

In this environment, educators win in that access to vast amounts of information is possible directly from library facilities and through use of ICT in schools. However they lose in that this puts considerable pressure on their own knowledge of technology and information processes and their ability to develop the information skills of students. For example, there are challenges in defining and quickly locating relevant and objective material, and the authority of digital information is often more difficult to establish than is that of printed literature. Although adults may have accumulated experiential knowledge to assist them in sifting and evaluating information, children frequently believe that something in print or from the Internet must be true (Markuson, 1996). Furthermore, the information retrieved typically reflects only the language, culture, and lifestyle of its creators. This makes evaluation of worth and applicability to other cultures particularly challenging for adults and children alike. As a consequence, information literacy is gaining a high profile as central to education. This dynamic concept extends basic reading, writing, and calculating skills for application in information- and technology-rich environments (Kuhlthau, 2001) for the purpose of learning or solving problems. However, it is widely recognized that in even the most technologically advanced countries, efforts to prepare students for the information age have been only partly successful, and implementation of recommendations from information skills research has been slow and difficult (Kuhlthau; Rogers, 1994).

This article explores some of the factors that facilitate and hinder the drive toward information literacy, as reflected through activities of the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) between 1998 and 2002. …

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