April 19th Provisions Session Summary: “Teaching Information Literacy in the Age of Google”

**The access the audio recording from the session, click here!**

Our last Provisions session of the Spring Semester explored the theme of” Teaching Information in the Age of Google.” Presenters shared previous experience with teaching courses dealing with literacy, and effective strategies for improving success for a diverse range of college students. An audience of approximately 35 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Steve Black, LibrarianCailin Brown, Department of Communications, and a joint presentation from Elizabeth Yanoff, Department of Teacher Education and Mary Lindner, Librarian. 

Steve Black from the Library kick started the session by presenting on “Information Literacy: An evolving perspective.” Steve first provided the audience with an overview of the new definition, standards, and framework for the evolving category of “Information Literacy.” Information literacy can be defined as “a cluster of interconnected core concepts, with flexible options for implementation, rather than a set of standards or learning outcomes, or any prescriptive enumeration of skills.” This new definition of information literacy is brand new, as it was just recently adopted in January. Steve stated that following the evolving definition, information literacy is now more difficult to assess in practice. Included in the new framework for information literacy are:

  • Threshold concepts, which are like “aha moments”
  • Authority, which is considered both constructed and contextual, as opposed to strictly peer reviewed articles
  • Information creation is a process and has value
  • Research should be inquiry based
  • Scholarship as conversation, meaning that students should contribute to the knowledge conversation
  • Searching as strategic exploration

Next to present was Cailin Brown from the Department of Communications. Cailin started off by explaining how she introduces the concept of journalism to her students. She discusses the elements of journalism and then asks her students, “why journalism?” Throughout the course, Cailin will take her students on a walk around the neighborhood, which allows them “to get up and get looking.” For the fall semester, she will take the students early on in the course, and for the spring semester this will happen towards the end (due to weather conditions). Exploring the surrounding neighborhood allows her students the opportunity to make connections between the college and community. In opposition of the “stranger danger” rule, Cailin encourages her students to strike conversation with strangers. Cailin stated that by simply asking one question, you can learn an abundance about an individual, as people are very willing to share information when asked. In addition to community experience, Cailin exposes her students to the legal aspect of journalism by working closely with a local lawyer, Bob Freeman. Bob Freeman assists Cailin in teaching her class how to access public information, such as fire records. In ending her presentation, Cailin shared these two examples of her students’ journalism work that is published on The Pine Hills Blog:

Cailin also shared the website, The Committee on Open Government, which provides additional  information on the freedom of information.

Lastly, Elizabeth Yanoff from the Department of Teacher Education and Mary Lindner from the Library presented on three different ways of examining information literacy. Elizabeth and Mary reiterated the new standards of information literacy, but focused on content area reading, disciplinary literacy, and new literacies.

1. Content area reading refers to before, during, and after processes of reading comprehension.  For this type of reading, K-12 educators typically use KWL charts, which allow the students to reflect on what they already know, what they want to know, and what they learn from the particular reading. For the ECE 230 course at the college, Elizabeth discussed how she requires her students to review and edit their writing. This process encourages her students to locate their topic sentences, reflect on how their ideas were developed, and create an appropriate conclusion. 

2. Disciplinary literacy focuses on skills that are discipline specific and inquiry based. Work in a specific discipline is able to be contextualized. Educators of a discipline are able to view writing as an objective and have specific skills that allow them to excel in their discipline. Educators must be aware that their speciality allows them to view literacy with a discipline specific lens.

3. New literacies refers to the new age of digital literacy. Mary spoke about the research that Donald Leu and his colleagues have done regarding the digital age. Leu and his colleagues found that researching information should be treated like problem-solving. This means that students should identify important questions, locate relevant information, critically evaluate information, synthesize the information, communicate effectively, and monitor/evaluate along the way. Florida Memory is an online platform where students can explore specific skills needed for online learning, such as audio and video. Mary and Elizabeth spoke about how this online resource shows students how to access information, how to narrow results, and how to navigate online websites. Other online resources that are utilized for information literacy include Wimba and ZOOM (which were mentioned in the previous session, “Teaching Online.”Elizabeth shared a recent example of how she utilized technology as an online learning platform when class was cancelled due to the snow conditions. For the missing class, Elizabeth required her students to complete an online WIKI, post on Pinterest, engage in an online discussion, and post on the blog.

Following the brief presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from the discussion:

  • There are an infinite number of stories to be written in journalism
  • There are connections across the themes of this session and the previous session about online learning
  • Suggestions to support learners across disciplines include:
    • Making more connections across work together as professors
    • All writing includes literacy skills, therefore all should teach information literacy
    • Professors should improve their communication and collaboration
    • Use the same “language” and ideas in all disciplines
  • Students are novices in their discipline and need to be taught how to prioritize information
    • Professors need to remember what it was like to be a novice, and be aware of how that can influence their work
  • How can we get support across discipline incorporated into the Liberal Education program?
  • How to get students from point A to point B?
    • Disperse information throughout the curriculum
  • How to encourage student inquiry but maintain boundaries?
    • This is a constant balancing act

Teaching Information Literacy in the Age of Google: April 19th Session

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What exactly is information literacy??

“Information literacy is 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.” – Association of College & Research Libraries.

Dr. Daniel Russell, a technologist who studies how people use Google to access information in a literate way, presents on “The Evolution Of Literacy. ” In approximately an hour, Dr. Russell speaks about how the electronic search system can change one’s understanding of reading, writing, and construction of knowledge.

In January 2015, The American Library Association launched an eCourse:Teaching Information Literacy To College Students. In the course, the instructor, Joanna M. Burkhardt, demonstrated how to create engaging and challenging content to help students learn how to correctly use online searching tools and techniques. Included in the course were ways in which to help students discover which sources of information are the most beneficial. To access more information about Teaching Information Literacy, you can refer to Joanna Burkhardt’s book that accompanies the course. Although the eCourse is not currently offered, it predicted to be available again in the future.

According to Temple University, there are five categories of percieved expected outcomes from students of an information literacy course. These categories include to ability to:

  1. determine the nature and degree of the information needed
  2. access information in an efficient and effective manner
  3. evaluate information critically
  4. apply the information effectively
  5. conduct infromation searching with an understanding of accompanying legal conditions (plagiarism, copyright, citations, etc.)

Courtney Kueppers reports that according to a recent survey (“Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey”), university faculty believe that their undergraduate students do not have adequate research abilities upon arriving to college. 54% of the particiapants reported that they “strongly agreed” to statements saying that their undergraduate students had poor information seeking skills. Faculty reported the importance of the library and its resources to helping students improve their research abilities. In sum, results from survey concluded that undergraduate students may need more direct instruction of how to effectively conduct research, and faculty are willing to put in the effort.

In an effort to improve student research abilities, professors have access to a variety of sources that can help in teaching the critical skills. The Temple University and Smith College Libraries contain a collection of information literacy resources for teachers and librarians. The websites also provide links to other online resources and book references for assessments, plagiarism, and conducting research. In addition, the Association of College and Research Libraries provides an extensive collection of resources and information on the “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.”

Project Information Literacy (PIL) is a large-scale, national study about early adults and their research habits, conducted in partnership with the University of Washington’s iSchool.” Project Information Literacy provides an extensive understanding of young adults’ information literacy abilities, lack of abilities, and patterns over time.


Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, April 19th session on “ Teaching Information Literacy in the Age of Google.” Our esteemed presenters for the April 19th session include:

Cailin Brown-Department of Communications
Elizabeth Yanoff– Department of Teacher Education & Mary Lindner-Reference Librarian
Steve Black -Reference Librarian

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!! 🙂

First-Year Students: Adaptive Strategies

Jenn and I have been reading a recent report published by Project Information Literacy titled Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Research Once They Enter College.  I think we both have taken ideas away from this report, and here are some thoughts from the perspective of a librarian.

For me, this report makes me see that I have underestimated the degree to which first-year students struggle to make that transition from high school to college.  When it comes to college level research, most freshmen — and particularly freshmen in their first semesters — are not prepared for the demands of college level research.  The report lists the areas that cause most issues for freshmen:

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Many students report that they could successfully complete research at the high school level simply by relying on Google and Wikipedia.   While some continue taking that approach unaltered in college, many look to add to their “research toolkit” to meet the expectations of their college professors.

Indeed, the report was able to identify what it calls “adaptive strategies” that freshmen undertook to adjust to the higher expectations of college research.  Those of us far removed from the first-year experience may take these strategies for granted, but for the uninitiated they represent critical steps forward and they are sometimes difficult to discover and implement.

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Looking over this list, it becomes apparent to me that there are strategies we can employ in the library (and the classroom) to direct freshmen toward these adaptive strategies and help them build this new toolkit quicker and more effectively.

And building on the advice of our Provision colleagues from last year, I am working on making one small change to improve the effectiveness of instruction.  I have been fortunate to be working with Jenn and her ENG 105 class.  She has created a flipped classroom (one big change!) and I will be playing a small part by creating a video series to address point #4 above.  We will try to push this competency into the first semester for her students, and we will work in the classroom to give them practice working with a bibliography and locating cited sources.

Learning the Ropes points toward many areas where we can intervene and address challenges faced by our first-year students.  Next up: one more small change!

Documents referred to in this post: 

Head, Alison J., Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College (December 5, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2364080 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2364080