Digital literacy is more than knowing about how and when to use the tools. It is the ability to process information by locating, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, creating, and sharing it using digital technology. In the past, we used to do it with printed materials, but now technology provides access to a much wider range of learning resources available at all times and allows us to communicate information in a variety of media beyond word and text; so, looking up information in the library in traditional ways is obviously not enough. To be literate today requires navigating a connected world offering us endless information with which we can interact in many different ways.
Our students are familiar with technology but they use it for social purposes. They know how to copy and paste but they don’t know how to process information with the help of technology. They should master the critical skills below to conduct research effectively and come up with creative projects instead of copy-pasted ones:
• Identify how information can support their learning
• Locate and access information from a variety of sources both print and digital
• Compare, evaluate and select information
• Organize and manage information
• Apply information to specific problems/ issues
• Analyze and synthesize information
• Communicate information in a variety of media
If we deprive our students of all these skills, they will graduate without being ready for the challenges of the work and social life that is awaiting them. Therefore, it should be the prime duty of each teacher and school to teach information literacy to their students.
To integrate information literacy into your curriculum, you can start by checking the resources on Cybraryman’s Research Page and by visiting Kathy Beck’s website. Power up offers a great guide you can use while planning your lessons. This blog post will take you to a link where you can find resources for your elementary students. Do your students look up information for projects and end up with websites way beyond their reading level? This tutorial will show you how you can change the reading level of your Google results and this post offers you tips on teaching the research paper to your students.
Many schools have policies against plagiarism and there are consequences for students if they plagiarize, but in many cases students do so because they don’t know how to deal with that information. They should know how to paraphrase , how to locate and cite sources, how to use the information to explain, persuade, and create. There are also great tools that help us conduct research and our students should be familiar with them and this link will take you to a post on creating collaborative research projects with Google Apps.
Information literacy is not only about finding information but also about evaluating what you find. Students should learn this critical skill to determine whether the information they have found is relevant and reliable. You can check the resources on evaluating websites and the quality of content in this list before you start creating your own resources.
While teaching effective researching skills to our students, we should also teach them the inquiry process.
IMAGE SOURCE: Inquiring Mind Website
The first step in teaching the inquiry process is the art of asking good questions if we want our students to come up with creative solutions to the problems using their critical thinking skills. Questioning is a skill that has often been neglected because we tend to focus on the correct answers rather than questions in educational systems based on standardized testing. However, thinking is driven by questions. Here is a video from an expert explaining why we should focus more on questions than the answers:
Here is another video that you can share with your students on the importance of questioning:
The next step is to teach them about essential (thick, rich, fat) questions.
Another important step is to help them refine their questions to come up with questions that cannot be easily googled by hitting a search button. There are a number of frameworks used for guiding students’ questions. My favorite is created by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and here you can find an update for it.
The next step is the information processing. There are a number of models you can use like the Big 6 (and Super 3 for young learners). Here you can find a long list of tools students can choose from and use at each step of the inquiry cycle and here is another great list with both tools and resources curated at ISTE 2015. You can also use Google tools for your project. This website has great resources that you can use during the entire process.
When their research is finished, students share what they learn via a presentation tool of their own choice. After they have presented their project, have them write a blog post to reflect on their learning and share evidence of their understanding. This also gives them an opportunity to assess their progress and think about how what they have learned may apply elsewhere beyond the project.
In her blog post, Projects with Rigor Jane Kraus lists the important aspects of critical thinking to make better projects. After reading her list, you can also check the project ideas here and some project samples in ISTE Resource Library. Once your students master the questioning skills and the inquiry cycle, you can go a step further by not giving your students problems to solve. Instead, help them find real-world problems for projects. You can watch Ewan McIntosh’s TEDx talk for more information on this.
Inquiry, project and problem-based learning help students enhance collaboration, problem-solving, critical and creative thinking skills if they are used correctly. By using these pedagogies, teachers can connect their curriculum to the real world and make learning meaningful. Many students prefer this kind of learning in class to being lectured as they have a real need to know something so that they can use this knowledge to solve a problem or answer a question and they learn by actually doing it. Using these approaches will bring learning to life but only students with strong information literacy skills and schools that are able to build strong learning communities can do that effectively.
What tools and models are you using for your learners to internalize information literacy and inquiry learning? Please share your experience.