The following article appears in Vol 6, No 2 (December 2012) issue of the Journal of Information Literacy.
The rise of the internet as the greatest source of information for people living in the UK today poses an acute challenge to the information literacy (IL) community. The amount and type of material available a mouse click away is both liberating and asphyxiating. There are more e-books, trustworthy journalism, niche expertise and accurate facts at our fingertips than ever before, but also mistakes, half-truths, propaganda and misinformation. This article presents research on how well young people are being equipped to meet the challenge of sorting good information from bad. It reviews current literature on the subject, and presents a new poll of over 500 teachers. With analysis supplemented by additional correspondence from librarians and other IL professionals, it argues that there is strong evidence that the web is fundamental to pupils’ learning and lives, but that many are not careful, discerning users of the internet. They are unable to find the information they are looking for, or they trust the first thing they see. This makes them vulnerable to the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams. The article proposes the appropriate response to be to embed ‘digital fluency’ – a tripartite concept constituting critical thinking, net savviness and diversity – at the heart of learning, in order to create a pedagogical framework fit for the information consumption habits of the digital age.
It should be noted that both authors recognise the importance of non-teaching information literacy professionals in these debates. They recognise that the poll’s focus on teachers was too narrow, and have endeavoured, subsequent to the poll, to consult more widely in their research.
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