Perspectives on the Information Literate University


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This was presented by Sheila Webber (Sheffield University Information School) at an internal seminar at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, on 29 March 2011. After unpacking the concept of information literacy, I look at contextual aspects of information literacy: the disciplinary perspective, the teaching perspective and the learner perspective. I finish by presenting the picture of the Information Literate University that was developed some years ago by Bill Johnston and me.

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Perspectives on the Information Literate University

  1. 1. Perspectives onthe InformationLiterate UniversitySheila Webber,Information School,University of SheffieldMarch 2011Copyright Sheila Webber, presented on 29 March 2011at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  2. 2. “Information literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to identify, through whateverDefinition by: channel or medium, informationJohnston & well fitted to information needs,Webber leading to wise and ethical use of information in society.” International IL Logo:
  3. 3. browsing wise and searching encountering ethical use of information information behaviour linking creating fun information needs education people web citizen whatever spiritual worksound channel or family medium in societyjournals pictures text
  4. 4. Quotation from interview for research by Shahd Salha
  5. 5. Information literacy as a keydiscipline of the informationsociety: IL for workplace &citizenship, not just for study “a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social“We play a unique role in society inclusion of all nations”making life long learning open to (Alexandria proclamation)all, inspiring and enabling peopleto develop wherever, wheneverand however they need”OU “Core Values”
  6. 6. Evolution of Information Literacy concept• Moving from individual information literacy and focus on texts to – Information literate in digital environments – Information literate with people – Able to cope with a rich mixture of information types – all at the same time – Information literate individually and collaboratively – Information literacy in context
  7. 7. IL in context• IL in different academic disciplines – Examples: Civil Engineering - Manipulating and presenting data; English - Accessing and retrieving textual information• IL in different cultures & communities – Examples: IL as illumination (Salha’s Syrian study); English language as part of IL (Dokphrom’s Thai study)• IL in different workplaces – Example: Ambulance workers: “you don’t really know what’s happening until you get your hands on the patient and can see breathing, feel a pulse, what’s the blood pressure, are they pale?” (Lloyd, 2009: 409)• IL of diverse individuals in their own circumstances in society & life Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston, 2010
  8. 8. Context: Discipline;British Academics’conceptions of teaching IL Findings taken from an AHRC-funded phenomenographic research project investigating variation in UK academics’ conceptions of , and pedagogy for, information literacy.
  9. 9. Chemistry academics conceptions of pedagogy for IL as …1. Implicit in teaching students to understand chemistry. “we teach them to find chemical data and structures for their assignments” (Chem 2)2. Designing a path for students through a chemistry course “So we do make sure that we’ve assessed them and we introduce them to all the different databases throughout the four years, em, but we will always ask them to do stuff outside of that to widen their understanding.” (Chem 4)3. Challenging students to respond independently, critically and creatively with information “… to be able to question, to disagree, to… really to have fun with information as well.” (Chem 11) Key factors: Pedagogic approach; Outcomes for learning IL
  10. 10. Example information & behaviours• Textual (e.g. research results, health & safety information); 2D/3D chemical structures; metadata & representations; information observed in experiments; oral and written• Searching; Comparing (e.g. observation and text); Documenting (e.g. in lab notes); Exploring (e.g. structure databases); Communicating (e.g. in posters); Challenging; Innovating
  11. 11. English academics conceptions of pedagogy for IL as …1. Someone elses job2. An add-on or side-effect of teaching the subject3. Introducing the students to sources of information4. Engaging with students to show them the value of information and information literacy Key factors: 1) Relationship between information literacy and the discipline 2) Their approach to pedagogy & student learning Sheila Webber, May 2007
  12. 12. Example information & behaviours• Textual; Artifactual; Performance• Accessing (texts, documents, artefacts); Searching (e.g. within a text, journal, database); Comparing (e.g. versions in different media; different editions); Sense making “I mean to me information literacy is a part of civic engagement and civic participation, um, without even at least even a passing understanding of how information is produced, how it is constructed, how its presented, um, how it is—if one can say this—intended to be understood and interpreted, then one cannot make sense of the world.” (Category 4; English Interviewee 06)
  13. 13. Observation of people,Ambulance workers: “you don’t really medical instrumentsknow what’s happening until you get Existing & “textbook” knowledgeyour hands on the patient and can seebreathing, feel a pulse, what’s the bloodpressure, are they pale?” (Lloyd, 2009: Seeking new information, from409) people, texts Combining, comparing, evaluating, applying, communicating
  14. 14. .. so factors include ..• What information means in the subject• How you manipulate or process information in your discipline• Influence of professional or academic associations• Teacher’s & University’s approach to the discipline• Acceptable or habitual information practice in the discipline & in broader national/ cultural context
  15. 15. Context: Course design &pedagogic approach
  16. 16. • IL connected to the teacher’s approach to teaching & assessment – Transmissive, facilitating, challenging (etc. etc.) – Focused on module/session goals or lifelong learning – PBL, IBL etc. – Design of the teaching-learning environment• IL required by the channel/ mode of learning e.g. – Face to face – Texts: scanning/ searching/ reading – 2D web channels – Virtual worlds: “What’s the me?” (Nahl, 2010)
  17. 17. In the live presentation, at this point, Sheila talked about a “Framework of the process of problem-solving geo/spatially in the Online Distance Learning Geographic InformationScience/Systems programmes.” This framework was an outcome of Maryam Nazari’s doctoral work (2009) on Information Literacy for Online Distance Learning GIS Programmes
  18. 18. Context: The learner’s world• Existing knowledge & • Existing IL knowledge and skills skills• Personal characteristics & • Attitudes and values values concerning information; disabilities affecting info use• Approaches to learning • Ways in which approach & use information for learning (information habits)• Perceptions and • Expectations of how will use expectations for teaching information in learning & learning
  19. 19. How can we support people in becominginformation literate so they recognise their information needs, in context, in the 21st century, information-rich environment?
  20. 20. • Student enabled to identify own IL knowledge, skills, attitudes, needs• Course developer identifying: – IL needed to engage with learning environment – IL needed to progress learning in the subject – IL needed for citizenship, collaboration, challenge and innovation• Programme structures which progress IL even when student pathways are diverse• Supported by Information Literate University …
  21. 21. Information literate Information literate staff & managers Curriculum • IL in disciplinary curriculum • IL as discipline Staffdevelopment Information Literate for IL University Information literate students Management for IL •Strategy; Policy; Information •Resourcing; infrastructure; •Knowledge & Records literate research Copyright Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston, 2010
  22. 22. Sheila WebberInformation SchoolUniversity of & Twitter Sheila Yoshikawa to Bill JohnstonHonorary Research Fellow, Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement, University of Graphics: Sheila Webber unless otherwise stated
  23. 23. References & readings• Entwistle, N. (2003) Concepts and Conceptual Frameworks Underpinning the ETL Project. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh. Retrieved July 10th, 2009, from• High Level Colloquium on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning. (2005) Beacons of the Information Society: Alexandria proclamation on information literacy and lifelong learning.• Johnston, B. (2010) The first year at university: teaching students in transition. Open University Press.• Johnston, B. and Webber, S. (2003) “Information literacy in higher education: a review and case study.” Studies in higher education, 28 (3), 335-352.• Lloyd, A. (2009) “Informing practice: information experiences of ambulance officers in training and on-road practice.” Journal of Documentation, 65 (3), 396-419• Nahl, D. (2010) “Affective Load and Engagement in Second Life: Experiencing Urgent, Persistent, and Long-Term Information Needs.” International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 1(3), 1-16.• Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2010) The Information Literate University. Video of talk presented at Lund University, Sweden, August 2010.• Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2006) “Working towards the information literate university.” In: Walton, G. and Pope, A. (Eds) Information literacy: recognising the need. Staffordshire University, Stoke-on- Trent: 17 May 2006. Oxford: Chandos. pp 47-58. johnston.pdf