(Information) literacy

Unlike “the three Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic which are woven within the K-12 curriculum, information literacy falls through the cracks. It doesn’t fit into any one subject area, and teachers fail to include in class. And it’s an big problem, because the internet makes literacy more important, not less.

When I was a kid, I had a mom, a dad, and a single volume of the encyclopedia, and I trusted them to answer my questions. Now Google offers us billions of answers, but the difficult question is trust…

Evaluating accuracy, objectivity, currency and authority is easier said than done.

Peter MorvilleIntertwingled

This is good, and true, and important – and I recommend the book.

But it also misses a trick: what Peter Morville describes so well in Intertwingled mostly falls within the scope of a good definition of literacy.

There is no literacy that doesn’t involve managing information. I’ve described literacy as:

… being able to read with fluency and with critical understanding, and to write both to communicate and to think.

That’s concise, but these information skills – understanding structures and relationships within and between pieces of information, and deconstructing or assembling them in a way that suits your purpose  – are key components of critical understanding, and of communicating.

We might need to extend the concepts of reading and writing to cover new skills, and the relative importance of organising information might have grown – but we should be teaching these skills wherever we’re teaching people to read and write.

And we always should have been, because they’ve always been vital.

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