Literacy in the Curriculum
IInformation literacy should be as basic to today's curriculum as the 3R's have been in years past. Jeremy J. Shapiro and Shelley K. Hughes question "what does a person need to know today to be a full-fledged, competent and literate member of the information society (Shapiro & Hughes, 1996, p.1)?" They point to the irony that over 200 years ago Condorcet, a philosopher, educational reformer and journalist who was in hiding from the Jacobin reign of terror during the French Revolution, published a piece that could be relevant to us today. Condorcet's belief that there was a "link between knowledge, liberty and happiness - a conception that is reflected in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution - raises profound questions for those of us involved and concerned with not only the implementation and uses of information technology but with providing for knowledge and literacy about this technology (p.1, 3)."

Shapiro and Hughes recommend that an effective information literacy curriculum will have seven dimensions:

1. Tool literacy - the ability to understand and use the current tools of technology: software, hardware, multimedia.

2. Resource literacy - the ability to understand how information is formatted, stored, and retrieved electronically.

3. Social-structure literacy - the ability to understand something about the individuals and groups that generate electronic information.

4. Research literacy - the ability to understand the tools relevant to the work of today's scholars and researchers such as analytical software.

5. Publishing literacy - the ability to publish using both textual and multimedia tools.

6. Emerging technology literacy - the ability to "ongoingly adapt to, understand, evaluate and make use of the continually emerging innovations in information technology so as not to be a prisoner of prior tools and resources (p.4)."

7. Critical literacy - the ability to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of information technologies.

Shapiro and Hughes were designing a curriculum with the college student in mind. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and technology leader Jamie McKenzie suggested guidelines for an information literacy curriculum more in line with grades K-12. According to the AASL, to become effective information users, students must have frequent opportunities to locate, interpret, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and communicate information (Montgomery, 1999). Jamie McKenzie contends that asking students to merely gather information is using yesterday's curriculum with today's technology (McKenzie, 2000). McKenzie explains that information literacy has three major components:

1. Prospecting: digging for pertinent and reliable information, sifting through and discarding information that is not useful.

2. Interpreting: understanding the usefulness of information

3. Creating new and fresh ideas: developing original insights rather than merely rehashing the thoughts and words of others.

McKenzie envisions a generation of "free range students," students who have learned to "feed on the wild grains and fragments available on the Internet or on the shelves of the local library (McKenzie, 1998, p.16)." He sees availability of vast amounts of information as an opportunity for students to become "infotectives," no longer limited to the distilled, second-hand information of the textbook. He defines an "infotective" as a "student thinker capable of asking important questions about data in order to convert the data into information…and eventually into insight (p.2)." It is the responsibility of the schools to provide the structures and tools to enable students to make meaning of information. McKenzie warns, " 'info heaven' can become 'info hell' if we do not equip students with the reasoning and exploration skills required to cope with 'info glut' (p. 3)."

The need for information literacy certainly extends across the curriculum. On a daily basis, educators see students struggling through what is increasingly an overwhelming amount of information. The process of taking students from research to writing is no longer a two-step process of taking information from the text and/or encyclopedia and copying it into the traditional written report format. Researchers Jacqueline Mancall, Shirley Aaron, and Sue Walker (Mancall, 1986) in their article "Educating Students to Think: The Role of the School Library Media Program," advise educators to revisit John Dewey's words "All which the school can or need do for pupils, so far as their minds are concerned is to develop the ability to think (p.20)." Their article examines the critical role the librarian/media specialist should play in designing a thinking curriculum for students, one that will prepare them to survive in an increasingly complex society. They stress the importance of teaching students to be "better observers, appliers, and evaluators of ideas and information, all areas fundamental to the process of thinking in a critical fashion (p. 20)." They question the value of a curriculum that places more value on the product rather than the process. Research should no longer be an exercise in finding "correct answers." Students need strategies that will help them "develop insight and facility in structuring successful approaches to solving their information needs (p.21)."

Mancall's team has developed a list of ten skills essential to learning how to do research:

1. Distinguishing between verifiable facts and value claims

2. Determining the reliability of a source

3. Determining the factual accuracy of a statement

4. Distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information, claims or reasons

5. Detecting bias

6. Identifying unstated assumptions

7. Identifying ambiguous or equivocal claims or arguments

8. Recognizing logical inconsistencies or fallacies in a life of reasoning

9. Distinguishing between warranted or unwarranted claims

10. Determining the strength of an argument

In developing the above list, these three researchers are confirming Jamie McKenzie's concern for the need to provide students with the means for finding, evaluating and using information.