Can we define what it means to be information literate?
I suppose one can define anything. With a new culture like our digital information age, it’s important to discuss emerging labels and definitions. It seems like calling it “information literacy” implies that there’s information illiteracy in which there’s a possibility of being gullible, and danger of believing everything you read on the internet. Is something worthy of being studied and quoted or it is just false information and biased conjecture?
Can we teach our students to have the skills essential to information literacy? Debbie Abliluck seems to think so. In her article True or Not, she puts forth the argument that judging whether or not information is false or not CAN rely on common sense. Routines that have worked in the past to make a quick judgment still work. What makes the author credible? How through is the coverage of the topic? Is it balanced or too one sided? She has some other good ideas as to how to judge if a journal or article is a true accurate one.
Some good rules of thumb are:
Ask: Are these journals peer reviewed? The reasoning behind this is that the more eyes look at the argument, the more reviewers will be judging and looking for accuracy. The new media format encourages readers to weigh in about expertise, objectivity and believability.
Also notice: does the author notice and correct errors as the come up, or at least address them? Error correction is a good way to gauge trustworthiness.
.Ask: How old is the source and when, if ever has it been updated? The newer the information is the better, in some cases. Compare dates and times that the article and facts are corrected as time goes on.
Also ask: What do other sources say about the same subject? If you can find three different viewpoints about original content, you can better judge as a reader if this is good information.
Can we truly prepare students to be effective users of the most powerful medium?
Maybe. Educators can give the students some hints on how to wade through the vast river of information and pick out what is true and what is not. Abiluck’s rules of thumb are good ones. But… will anyone go the extra mile and go through those sets to verify, or will they skim and quick link just any old thing?
Create a culture where it is asked where did you get that information? Create a culture of learning and absorbing where there it is natural to be a skeptic. You will have a reader who will demand that an author give their sources, rather than previous generations where info wasn’t as available and people didn’t question what was in print.