What Do You Mean, Information Literacy?

May 11, 2016

We all talk about wanting students to be information literate—but what does that mean? “Information literacy” is a great thing to aspire to on behalf of our students—and it’s a lot easier to hope for something that we can really define. Since there are numerous definitions out there, we thought we’d ask librarians, media specialists, and library leaders who think about this every day to tell us what it means to them in their daily interactions with students.

So we asked, “What does information literacy mean to you?” Here's how they responded:

Dr. Laura Sheneman (@DrLauraSheneman), Librarian, Region 1 Education Service Center (TX): “Information Literacy is the skill set needed to locate and recognize quality information resources to help you utilize the information in a responsible and effective way.”

Kyra Kreinbrook (@kkreinbrook), Coordinator of Library Services and Instructional Resources, Montgomery County Schools (MD): “Information Literacy means to me that students are critical thinkers. They are able to locate information, will challenge what they read and the sources of their information. They think about the content, where it came from and the context in which it is being used. Students should be able to convey this information to others in a way that is appropriate. Students should also be able generalize this information in their daily lives. When I overhear their conversations among themselves when they think I'm not listening, then I will know they get it.”

Stony Evans (@stony12270), Library Teacher, Lakeside High School (AR): “In a time when we are inundated with information from an endless array of sources, we must work to teach our learning communities about credible sources. Information literacy refers to a user skill set of where to locate, evaluate, and use information.”

Sue Kowalski (@spkowalski), Instructor of School Librarianship, Pine Grove Middle School (NY): “The ability to locate, assess, comprehend, interpret, question, read, extract information, connect to the topic being investigated and cite the source.”

As we read their definitions, we see many common threads...

...recognizing the quality of an information resource, thinking critically about the information you have and need, and sharing what you’ve learned appropriately and responsibly.

The commonalities offer a great place to begin; we can’t create information-literate students in a day, but we can help students down the road, one step at a time. You might begin with your students by having them focus on how to decide if a resource is of high-quality or by talking about how to responsibly use content they’ve found online. No matter where you and your students are on the road, a clearer definition helps to make the path to information literacy a little easier to follow.

We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use #blearn to share your digital learning experiences with us. What does information literacy mean to you? We want to know!