technology/information literacy

The American Library Association defines information literacy as “a set of abilities requiring individuals to ‘recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.'” Technology, as they note, has created an environment in which students are “faced with diverse, abundant information choices–in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.”

Developing the skills to navigate the learning environment created by the conjunction of technology and information should be a high concern for us. The ALA suggests that “[a]n information literate individual is able to:

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

These skills sound an awful lot like the critical thinking skills we have always promoted in higher education. What we sometimes fail to convey, though, are the skills to use technology to accomplish them.

So, do you think there should be an initiative at your college to incorporate technology skills in every course or discipline? Or do you think you need a course in Information Technology Literacy? What would you include in such a course? [And for those of you who make the mistake of thinking our students are naturally skilled, see last week’s post]

The National Academy of Engineering defines technological literacy this way:

One useful way to think about technological literacy is as a component of the more general, or “cultural,” literacy popularized by educational theorist E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Hirsch pointed out that literate people in every society and every culture share a body of knowledge that enables them to communicate with each other and make sense of the world around them. The kinds of things a literate person knows will vary from society to society and from era to era; so there is no absolute definition of literacy. In the early twenty-first century, however, cultural literacy must have a large technological component.

They also have a list describing the characteristics of a technologically literate person in terms of knowledge, ways of thinking and acting, and capabilities–again, characteristics compatible with our goals, although heavily concerned with engineering :


Ways of Thinking and Acting


A number of these are easily translated into more general qualities that go beyond science and engineering, but the main idea is that there are new literacies to be taught here, and we need to think about how to go about that, so that our students are guaranteed a uniform opportunity to learn how to be a lifelong learner in this increasingly technological world.


Categories: technology

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