Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What about critical literacy?

Shapiro, J. & Huges, S (1996,p.31) see that the term "information literacy" is "but a dangerously ambiguous concept" and they suggest that consumers of the digital world will need to think critically about the "entire information enterprise and information society." They propose information literacy as a "new liberal art" that would extending from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the social, cultural and philosophical context and impact.

With this notion of critical thinking in mind I embarked on a search on the QUT Database to use the Boolean terms of "information literacy" AND "critical literacy." I used EBSCO host/ERIC and with my first search results came 8 entries:

1. McLeod J & Vasinda, S (2008) "Critical Literacy & Web 2.0: Exercising and Negotiating Power" where the authors describe Web 2.0 as tools that have increased the urgency for students and teachers critical literacy skills.

I noted on the abstract of hit 1 that upon my first reading the details of the listing recorded that ERIC did not have full access to the text so I "googled" and the article appeared through with a pay option to access the article. I went back to re-read the entry at the EBSCO host/ERIC page and saw on the left hand side (previously missed) a QUT Fulltext option and was able to access the article freely.

This got me thinking about a) the importance of re-reading and scanning for all the information on the page and b) times when I have searched on academic databases and could not access the full text of the article that I was interested in. The general Google option and Google Scholar will usually locate the article but at a cost.

The other entries were interesting and informative articles such as:
2. Morrisette, R. on "What Do They Know?: A Strategy for Assessing Critical Literacy"
3. Elmberg, J. "Critical Information Literacy: Instructions"
4. Kapitzke, C " Information Literacy: Changing Libraries"
All of these are relevant, recent and topical for educators who are searching for practical strategies on how to activate critical thinking for themselves and their students.

During my search process with Year 4 students, I was struck at the varying levels of critical knowledge with regards to the World Wide Web. When I discussed different search engines available, a student came forth with information on using punctuation marks to narrow down using terms and using plus and minus symbols to add or delete information. The student demonstrated this to the class and we all tried his method which on this occasion yielded the same results without punctuation because the topic which was the name of the local suburb plus history turned out to be only suburb name in the world!! Another teaching point! When you are searching with students with certain terms, the students will find that the term will have global implications! We then continued searching for information using different phrases for the local suburb that the students had formulated. Many real estate records came up and we then discussed the information results which may have been fact but were used for advertising real estate in the area. Another great teaching point for honing in on critical literacy!!

Currently, world wide the digitisation of library records is undergoing change in order to keep up with the "cherry picker" (Bates, J. see Obiwankenexus blog) nature of trying to contain Web 2.0 metadata records. The RDA Toolkit is being released world wide and it will be interesting to see how this takes shape.

All of these innovations require critical thinking and knowledge to understand the workings of an information loaded society so that we can filter what information is important to us.

1 comment:

  1. It's ironic that when I was studying for my BEd(late 1990's) critical literacy took on an important aspect, and I think that was a sign of the times with the media industry growing with videos and movies, tv shows, magazines etc. The internet was just starting to push its way through back then. Now that technology has saturated our lives in so many varied ways critical literacy is back on the agenda. I think for me teaching our students a simple phrase (from our esteemed mentor Erica)and questioning the text and asking, "Who speaks?" would be a good starting point!