The Strategic Use of Learning Technologies

By Elizabeth J. Burge | Go to book overview

3
Extending Information Literacy
in Electronic Environments

Sandra Kerka

Understanding information literacy requires understand-
ing how literacy is changed by electronic technology.
Critical literacy is an essential characteristic of
information-literate learners.

About 50 percent of American adults are literate at the third, fourth, and fifth levels of literacy measured by the National Adult Literacy Survey (http://nces.ed.gov/naal/naal92/). But how many are information-literate? Does information literacy mean being able to find information in libraries or on the Web? Or does it have broader implications for teaching and learning in the electronic environment of the new millennium? Information literacy has been called a survival skill for the information age (Jackson, 1995), a liberal art (Shapiro and Hughes, 1996), the key competency for the twenty-first century (Bundy, 1998), and the zeitgeist of the times (Candy, 1996). It has been described as “an educational, societal, and democratic issue that should be of fundamental concern to all those who would call themselves educators” (Bundy, 1998); citation taken from Web site). Every day, we must regularly manage more and more information for life and work, using an expanding array of technologies (Marchionini, 1995). Societal expectations of an educated person now include the following abilities: using multiple symbol systems, applying knowledge, thinking strategically, managing information, and learning, thinking, and creating in collaboration with others (Walker, 1999). Such expectations challenge adult educators as never before.

Information literacy is connected to the discourse of lifelong learning and participatory democracy. The American Library Association (ALA) states: “Preparation for independent information retrieval is essential for sustaining lifelong professional and personal growth, and it is basic to almost every aspect of living in a democratic society” (Jackson, 1995, pp. 39–40). The National Institute for Literacy's newly issued standards for adult literacy and

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