May - Information Literacy

  • What does it mean to be “Information Literate”?

    In today’s world, there are more than the traditional “literacies” that students will need to deal with in their future. Consider this list created by Kathy Schrock of Discovery Education: 

    Traditional Literacy
    Information Literacy
    Visual Literacy
    Critical Literacy
    Media Literacy
    Tool Literacy
    Digital Literacy
    Data Literacy
    Global Literacy
    Economic Literacy
    Civic Literacy
    Health Literacy
    Historical Literacy


    As we use technology resources and tools to explore these and other literacies, here’s some things to consider:

    • Credibility: Who is the author of a resource? Who is the publisher? Do they bring any potential biases? What are others saying about the same topic? How recent is this information?
    • Advertising: Advertisements that are embedded on sites can you tell things about the site itself. Ad agencies want their material on sites whose users will be receptive to the ads – ask yourself, who is this ad targeting and what does that potentially tell me?
    • Downloads: Almost all malware and viruses are downloads from the Internet. Many are embedded in “free” and “helpful” utilities. Be very cautious about these. Very few things are actually free. At best, they will probably come with some advertising. However, there can certainly be financial costs after a trial period. And probably worse yet, you may inadvertently install malware that can capture a variety of information from your computer in a variety of ways. If a download initiates an installation program, is that what was expected? And, watch for “what else” may be coming with the install? (Even reasonably legitimate things like Adobe Flash will often install something else with – Macafee, for example – unless you stop that from happening.)
    • Searching by Young Children: Young students should not be open searching on the Internet. Even with what seem to be benign search terms, search engines can return problematic results. With young children, it is always best to tell them what site(s) to be on and then make sure that they stay there.
    • Searching by Older Children: Older students are often savvy enough to know what they are looking for and what can be inappropriate. However, they also need to learn to restrain themselves from intentional poor choices. “Manage by walking around” – if you see/hear something suspicious, investigate. Even with older students, it is not a bad idea to tell them the sites to use and stay there.
    • Surf as if you are being watched (because you probably are): If you find yourself tempted to hide your screen from others, that may very well be your inner-self suggesting that you might be in inappropriate territory.
      Search Terms: Learn some of the simple tricks of searching – multiple key words, quoted text, use of synonyms. More advanced skills using Boolean logic and “not including” operators can be very useful as well.
      Resulting Sites – Domains: Be aware of whether a search result is a .com, .net, .edu, .gov, .org, and so on and what those various domains mean and imply.
    • Go beyond Simple Searching (Google, Wikipedia, etc): Bear in mind that Google presents potential sites of interest, but they are prioritized in some unpredictable ways. Always evaluate the linked site. Wikipedia is a decent site for quick overview information. However, anything discerned should be scrutinized and verified.
    • Originality: Just about everyone wants credit for what they do and create, especially if others admire it. Bear that in mind as you use information that you find – always give credit to the originator and always fold into your own reasoning and thinking.