Teaching Information Literacy: Tips and Resources

What is Information Literacy?

The Final Report of the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy states, "Information literate people know how to find, evaluate, and use information effectively to solve a particular problem or make a decision whether the information they select comes from a computer, a book, a government agency, a film, or any number of other possible resources."

This seems easy enough to teach on the surface, but when you take into consideration what students do with the information they gather, many factors enter into the learning equation. Instead of wading through hundreds of potential hits, students need to learn:

  • how to focus their searching strategies and zero in on the information;
  • how to recognize reliable resources and those that are not reliable;
  • what plagiarism is and how to avoid doing it;
  • how to paraphrase a selection;
  • how to give credit to their resources.

This article will provide several resources for further study and also several ideas and resources that will help you in developing your teaching strategies for your students.

Locating Information:

There are many search engines that you can choose from. For younger students I like to use Yahooligans and Kidsclick!. These provide "child-safe" sites. As students become more adept in searching they use Google, AltaVista, and Alltheweb. Check out these sites for information on how to narrow down searches and which search engines you should use with your students:

The Spider's Apprentice
Helps you search the Web more efficiently. They explain to you how search engines work. They advise you on improving your own search engine ranking by careful use of meta tags and keywords. They guide you in figuring out which search engines are most effective. In fact, They rank them for you. (See their current rankings.)

All the Web
This is an incredible search engine and extremely fast. You can type in phrases, or words and get immediate responses.

Searching the Web With Kids
Eight different search engines designed for safe use by kids

Search Engine Watch
News, tips, and information about search engines

Seek, and you shall find at this Yahoo-like home page sponsored by C/Net. An absolutely incredible tool for finding information, it lists hundreds of channels or categories.

Find Sounds
This search engine will find sounds of all sorts in many formats

Want photos of just about anything for a project? Try the AltaVista photo search engine. There's a filtered and unfiltered version.

The Amazing Picture Machine
A web site created by North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium to help educators find pictures, maps, and other graphics on the Internet. Teachers and students can find pictures and maps from web sites around the world by typing a subject into The Amazing Picture Machine.

Evaluating the credibility, relevance, and date of the research:

As students progress through the years, they need to take more of the responsibility of their learning. The Internet is a vast resource of information. Unfortunately, not all sites are completely factual or impartial. Many have information that is slanted to sway the reader to a particular way of thinking. Students need to be taught how to evaluate sites for their credibility, biases, dated materials, and relevance to their projects.

Quick - The QUality Information ChecKlist lists eight things you should do when evaluating a site. It also has a good online quiz that students can take to help them understand how to evaluate sites.

Giving Credit to Research Sources:

Students should include information about the source of their research. There are several computer tools that can help them do this.

Web Research Tool
Research Solution: The Contra Costa County Office of Education has developed a tool, available to educators and students for free. This small-footprint, run-time FileMaker Pro database is designed to run alongside your Web browser. At a Web site with good resources, a student may copy and paste the site title, author and URL into a field. In the same record, the student may copy text, images, sound or movie files. Another field, still in the same record, holds original thought, the backbone of a student's final project. There is a PC version and a Macintosh version.

Bibliographer1.1 for Mac OS X
This wonderful program makes creating biliographies easy. All you have to do is click a button for the type of bibliography you want to make and presto, you get a page with fields in it that you fill in. You can also press a button to see a sample of what it should look like when filled in. Very easy to use! This is a freeware program.

This site focuses on helping students create bibliographies. Students simply provide the site with information about sources, and with a couple of clicks, the site automatically creates a bibliography in the correct format. Students are requested to use it at home and not in class. There is a fee for school use.

Slate Citation Machine
A free online tool that shows correct MLA or APA bibliography format for a range of sources, including even Emails and Web sites.

Plagiarism and Copyright Laws:

One of the most difficult things to teach students is how to paraphrase. In order to do this, students need to understand what they are reading. In a given selection, have the students tell you what the subject of the article is. Then have them list several things they learned about the subject. Tell them not to write in sentences, but list them. I have found that when students write in sentences they tend to just copy what is written. They have to think a bit when they have to list things. Once they have a list of things, then have them go back to their seats and write in sentences what they have learned about the subject. Another thing I have students do is write five questions about a topic they are researching. The questions cannot have a "yes" or "no" answer. After they are finished, they then turn those questions into answers and write about the topic. These answers can be put on note cards. These note cards are what the students use to formulate the information for their projects.

A great way to help students understand about plagiarism and copyright laws is having them take a test about it.

The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use
This article, from Technology and Learning magazine's site, allows the user to download a copyright test for your students to take. The answers are also provided at the site.

The National Forum on Information Literacyhas much to offer. Here you will find lists of books on teaching Information Literacy, articles, and resources for further study.

The California Technology Assistance Program Region IVhas put together three excellent brochures on Information Literacy for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The brochures are packed with practical guides for educators to help students find, evaluate, and use information. Examples are also included. There are web resources available, as well. The brochures are available to download for free.

One way to help stop plagiarism is to develop good questioning strategies. When having students do research try to avoid "find the answer" type of questions.

The following resources can help you and your students with their projects:

The Office of Instructional Resources at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Look for "Effective Classroom Questioning," which describes questions appropriate for each level of Bloom's taxonomy and includes a method for assessing your own questioning skills.

Filling the Toolbox: Classroom Strategies to Engender Student Questioning
Provides example strategies for creating a classroom climate conducive to critical thinking starting with coaching students to ask their own questions.

A Questioning Toolkit
Includes descriptions of 17 different question types, such as Probing, Sorting & Sifting, Clarification, and Unanswerable questions.

Information Literacy needs to be taught in all subject areas. "Information literate people know how to find, evaluate, and use information effectively to solve a particular problem or make a decision whether the information they select comes from a computer, a book, a government agency, a film, or any number of other possible resources." (See above definition resource.) This is what education is all about.

Email: Leonarda Brush