Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Students and information literacy skills

The Wired Campus Blog, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, posted an article yesterday on information literacy, Students Lack 'Information Literacy,' Testing services Study Finds. The testing service in question is ETS, or Educational Testing Service, also well known for The Praxis Series, GRE, and now the ITC Literacy Assessment. According to ETS, their preliminary findings indicate:
"College students and high-school students preparing to enter college are sorely lacking in the skills needed to retrieve, analyze, and communicate information that is available online." (Students Lack, Wired Campus Blog, 10/17/06)

These findings, presented at an Information Literacy Conference in Washington, were "aimed at drumming up nationwide support for information-literacy standards and a curriculum in schools and colleges." Additionally, ETS presenters stressed that "the preliminary findings were neither authoritative nor thorough" but that they "did offer some indication that students need more training in information literacy."

As I read through the findings, I envisioned academic and school librarians gnashing their teeth at what could be construed as the obvious. Information literacy is the foundation of bibliographic instruction and done on a daily basis in library classrooms. The technology sophistication students bring to colleges and universities is in direct contrast with the knowledge they have regarding the quality of information obtained. Understanding the difference between finding articles on the Internet and finding them in a database is a significant distinction, one that is faced daily in reference sessions, at the reference desk, through library chat and IM, and for me, in the IRC. Not to discount the study's findings, or the decision to add information literacy to No Child Left Behind, but to me the bigger question is what can we do to change the results?

My cynical side, one that sees education students taking a plethora of Praxis exams, wonders if the results are selling a test or researching information literacy.

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