I took some time to watch Tara Brabazon’s keynote address at Middlesex University’s Annual Learning & Teaching Conference 2010.  The video is online at http://tinyurl.com/3ay36jo.

Brabazon’s address was an impassioned call for development of information literacy of, in particular, students in education but also society in general.

So what?

I’m very interested in developing information literacy skills of our pupils, as well as those of all other stakeholders in the school including staff and parents.  During her address Brabazon had some very interesting points to make that, on reflection, I hope to be able to react on within my own practice in this area.

Brabazon compares our relationship with information to that of food, in that the more of it that is available, the more we tend to consume.  She furthers the analogy by asserting that Google is the equivalent of a kind of junk food or take-away in that it is easy, accessible, comfortable and the work is done for us.  If we type a search into Google, no matter how poorly devised, it will give a result for the user can access.  She says that, in order for users to obtain the relevant, quality information they might be looking for they need to modify their input, for the ‘problem is not in Google, the problem is in the lack of vocabulary, information literacy and knowledge put in to Google’.  She identifies the issue that users do not have the appropriate skills to exploit the internet effectively in order to find appropriate information for their educational needs.  She asserts that pupils need to be taught these skills of finding, reading, interrogating and evaluating information as they are essential proponents of students’ independent learning.

What now?

I found her arguments to be highly relevant and pertinent to what I am trying to both implement and support in my current context.  I agree that the exploitation of the internet can have a significant impact on learning, and that vocabulary and literacy also have a huge part to play.  The importance of scaffolding the learning of information literacy skills within a learning context is obvious.  Pupils need to have opportunities to develop these skills, and while planning a research module for year 7 I intend to implement strategies to address this.

Brabazon states that ‘the starting point of knowledge, is reading courageously… to reach beyond what you know, to what you don’t and having the courage to make that leap.  Courage build learning’.  This highlights for the me importance of giving pupils time to READ materials when conducting research.  To read it carefully, make notes, highlight and summarise.  Pupils need to focus on the act of reading for learning, and this needs to be at the heart of any research project.  The information literacy skills scaffold that learning because they allow pupils to find the relevant information, but it is also what they do with that information that is the ultimate point of the task.  I feel that this point must be remembered when planning a research task module and that the information literacy skills are a vehicle for independent learning.