Works reviewed: "Information
Literacy: A Clarification,"by Linda Langford
"The disappearance of technology:Toward an ecological model of literacy," by Bertrum Bruce
and Maureen Hogan
"Information Literacy: A Clarification," by Linda Langford begins with a brief overview of the concept of literacy. It then focuses on a series of definitions that deal with an expanding notion of literacies, and finally refocuses on information literacy. I read this as well as "The disappearance of technology:Toward an ecological model of literacy," by Professor Bruce and Maureen Hogan. Together these articles give balance to the classroom teachers tension of research and classroom application.
Both articles inform us of the broadening definition of literacy and each addresses the function of embedding the pedagogy and the lessons in the school community. A critical idea I latched onto from the Bruce/Hogan article is the "To have access to technology, people have to be aware of it, have the means to purchase it, and have the knowledge to use it. Awareness, means, and knowledge can be restricted and privileged." On the other hand, Langford's article poses the challenge "[That] Perhaps it is time to look seriously at redefining literacy (and hence information literacy) in terms of what Ross Tweed and Bailey (1994) call new literacy: it is electronic; image-driven; appeals to many senses; is emotional; communicates over distance; and is multicultural, collaborative, artistic, and interactive."
Both articles filled me with a sense of tremendous responsibility to truly question the use of technology in my instruction. Could I use learning the new technology as the means to educate students about their literacy in a broader sense? Each of these articles speak to the way the individual constructs meaning, and given this new technology how even more important it is to have students understand the process they use to make meaning. I have had students who as juniors still struggle to "read between the lines." "How did he get that idea?" they ask. When the students explains, while it may clear up factual information, the student shakes his head and says, "I don't get it." Probing the student to see how his way of looking at the text results in a different explanation takes time and patience. Fortunately, the climate in our classroom supports a longer dialogue about "what did you think?" These new literacies prompt a need for sophisticated discussion skills on the part of both the instructor and students. Some teachers are reluctant to conduct meaningful discussions because of time, the number of students in the room, and fear of not knowing enough to address issues that appear spontaneously. I find that it is the "coming to know" about an issue that I model that communicates that exploring ideas is important.
Furthermore, the new literacy requires that educators provide opportunities in visual and media literacy. This is a dimension of critical thinking that has difficulty moving to the forefront in classrooms because of prejudices about the use of videos. Using this "old" technology to assist students in developing another critical tool for their meaning making toolbox is misunderstood by many--including teachers. Misusing videos may occur, but rather than shun their use, efforts to use them effectively should be encouraged.
In conclusion, the changes in literacy practices suggested by these two articles prompts a greater awareness on the part of educators to find ways to support more student-centered learning. Central office personnel need to be aware of the implications of instructing students in light of these new literacy expectations through a coherent plan that does not intrude on learning but supports it. Ever present in each decision-maker's mind is the question "How will this look in the classroom?"