DESCRIBING THE ELEPHANT: INTERNET WEBQUEST ON INFORMATION LITERACY
Created by Michelle Dodds, Teacher-Librarian, Amherst Cove School.
Picture this: you and a team of learners are presented with the task of describing an elephant. But instead of looking to an encyclopedia or a zoo exhibit, you are each blindfolded and guided to a real elephant. Each of you touches a different part of the animal: one, the soft and delicate tip of the elephant's trunk; another, the hard tusk of ivory; and a third, the wrinkled hide around the elephant's belly.
Based upon what each of you learned, one thinks an elephant is smooth and soft, another would say an elephant is smooth and hard, while the last would conclude that elephants are rough and soft. What's the truth? When we study complex topics, we are often like the elephant examiners: there's usually a lot more to a topic that we don't learn about after only a quick exploration.
Information literacy is one such topic that can not be captured by one description or definition and certainly can not be fully understood after quick exploration. This topic is not only huge in scope, but also in its importance to education in the 21st Century. A summary statement of the National Symposium of Information Literacy and the School Library in Canada describes Information literacy as "the new curriculum in the information age."
In this webquest, you are going to spend some time thinking about the concept of information literacy and what it means to be information literate. As you work through the four guiding questions ahead, I encourage you to think about your own learning community and how you can use this new information to promote the development of information literacy in your community.
What does it mean to be information literate?
The Process and Resources
In this webquest you will be working in groups of two or three to answer (at least for yourselves) the BIG question -- what does it mean to be information literate? As a member of the group you will explore webpages from "Building Information Literacy" (created by P.E.I. Department of Education) and "From Now On" (created by Jamie MacKenzie).
To simplify your quest, I have divided your journey into four parts using four guiding questions. Each guiding question has a task you must complete before moving on. Refer to the toolkits (given to you by the facilitator) for the materials you will need to complete these tasks. The time limit for this webquest is approximately 2 hours so keep this in mind. You will be asked to share some of your learning with the whole group during the debriefing at the end of the quest.
The First Leg of the Quest - What is Information Literacy?
To begin your quest, I ask you to explore your own concepts of information literacy. Defining information literacy (or at least making sense of it) is the first leg of your journey.
In your toolkit, you will find booklets (one for each of you) to help you record your thoughts as you journey through the learning quest. To complete the task for this guiding question, you will need to use your booklet (page 1) and two different colored pencils.
Read through the information presented at the webpage below. Then discuss briefly with your partner a few points that stood out for you.
Revisit your thought web and make any changes or additions to it using a different colored pencil. Did your concept of information literacy change or broaden in some way?
Information literacy is one of the newest "literacies" in education. What does it mean to be information literate? Visit this section of Building Information Literacy (BIL), an online tool developed and maintained by the Prince Edward Island Department of Education.
The Second Leg - How is Information Literacy developed?
Now that you have a sense of information literacy as the ultimate goal we have for our students/children, it's time to look at how we go about helping them get there.
In your toolkit you will find chart paper and markers which you will need to complete this task. Also, feel free to use the "Notes" page of your booklet to jot down key ideas that stand out to you as you read the information below.
Next, read the "General Description of the Information Process." Pay close attention to the six characteristics of the information process.
Finally, read "The Information Process" as adapted by Southern Kings Consolidated School. It explains very clearly the activities learners might be engaged in at each of the seven stages of the Information Process.
This website describes general characterstics of the information processing framework used in Atlantic Canada. (A page of Building Information Literacy (BIL), an online tool developed and maintained by the Prince Edward Island Department of Education.)
BIL: Resource-Based Learning: What is it?
"This educational approach is often referred to as ... one of the best ways to ensure the development of information literacy." Visit this site to learn more. (Another page of Building Information Literacy (BIL), an online tool developed and maintained by the Prince Edward Island Department of Education.)
The Information Process (from Southern Kings Consolidated School)
The Information Process includes seven steps and at each step, learners employ various information strategies and skills. At this webpage, you'll find teacher-librarian Merilyn Mitchell's adaptation of the information process framework which she uses with her students.
The Third Leg - What is an Information Literate School Community?
At the webpage below you will find Jamie MacKenzie's thoughts on an information literate school community and what it might look like.
In your booklet, you will find a copy of Jamie MacKenzie's rubric for assessing the traits of information literate communities. With your school community in mind, assess the degree to which it exemplifies each trait.
If time allows, share your findings with your partner.
What does an information literate school community look like? Jamie MacKenzie, contributing editor of the online educational technology journal From Now On, paints a picture of this community, it members and the activities they engage in.
The Final Leg - What can you do as a partner of Information Literacy?
Parents, students, teachers, teacher-librarians, school administrators, we are all partners in the quest for information literacy. It's time to find out what you can do in your own learning community.
With this information in mind, refer back to the rubric assessing traits of information literate communities. Choose one of the traits for which your school community didn't score very highly. In your booklet, list three things you will do to develop this trait at your school.
Parents, teachers, teacher-librarians, school administrators, and students themselves have important roles to play in the development of an information literate school community. Find out what you can do at this webpage (another section of Building Information Literacy (BIL), an online tool developed and maintained by the Prince Edward Island Department of Education).
So is an elephant smooth, rough, soft, or hard? Well, when you're blindfolded and only "looking" at one part, it's easy to come up with an answer that may not be completely right. It's the same for understanding a topic as broad and complex as information literacy: when you only know part of the picture, you only know part of the picture. Now you all know a lot more. Nice work, but remember learning never stops. What other aspects of information literacy could still be explored?