Info literacy is (or is not) equal to info technology
People on our campus are currently discussing information literacy and what it means to our curriculum. What sparked this discussion? None other than implementation of our new general education program. Faculty are in the midst of reviewing course proposals for their support of the University’s ten newly selected General Education Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). The second SLO, labeled ‘Information Literacy,’ states that students will be able to “Find, evaluate, and ethically use information using appropriate technology.”
Right now, the discussion of information literacy centers on how broadly or narrowly this goal should be defined, and on the role technology plays in information literacy. Some faculty equate this goal with ‘information technology,’ stating emphatically the goal is all about teaching students how to effectively use technology. Interestingly enough, the faculty espousing this view are from the colleges of education and business. I have heard it said this goal is primarily about learning how to use technology, because technology is mentioned in the goal. I, and others, have responded that the goal clearly is about finding, evaluating, and using information using the appropriate technology, which may or may not be electronic. Most often it will be, but students should be able to judge when it is not appropriate. Is it appropriate to spend 3 hours using a library computer to search the Internet for an authoritative source listing a drug interaction, when a print or electronic book readily at hand contains the needed information? You be the judge.
OK, I admit I’m a little cranky on this topic, but I find no support for the idea that technology will solve all our problems. In fact, it often seems to create new problems that were unforeseen. To paraphrase Shane, from Jack Schaefer’s novel of the same name, technology is a tool, only as good as the people using it. I am not a Luddite by any means — I do not want to go back to the days of card catalogs, thank you very much — but I disagree with the assumption that using technology is, in and of itself, always a desirable act. Yes, technology is ubiquitous and we do have to learn to use it, but boy oh boy, I think we can benefit from being more critical of how we use it.
OK, so I’d like to hear what you think. Do you distinguish between information literacy and information technology literacy? How do you define technology? How do faculty on your campus define information literacy? Information technology literacy? What do you make of PA Forward’s definition of information literacy:
Information Literacy – Libraries can help all Pennsylvanians learn how to use online resources and current technology to improve their education, to enhance their job skills, and to participate fully in a digital society.
Do you agree with this definition? It seems to agree more with those on my campus who equate info lit with info technology. What do you think?