To write this post I have to admit three things: 1) These are musings that may seem a bit random, but stay with me; 2) I sometimes read the Parade magazine that comes with my newspaper; 3) I read the article on Katy Perry in Parade this morning. Hey, it makes good cereal-eating reading.
As I was skimming through trying to figure out if I knew any of Perry’s songs, I read this:
Skilled as she is at working a crowd, she did her homework as well. “I Wikipediaed ‘Fleet Week’ because I wanted to know the history. I don’t want to look like a complete idiot.”
Perry played at Fleet Week, which is a week-long shore leave for active-duty ships around major US cities (yeah, I Wikipediaed it) and she wanted to know more.
So, my initial response was sarcastic scoffing at Perry’s decision to use Wikipedia for her “research”. Then I actually tried to Google Fleet Week. My options were a couple of magazines, About.com, and the Fleet Week Facebook page (at least in the first screen because, really, who ever goes beyond the first screen).
I give Perry kudos for basic info lit savvy. According to the article, she is self-taught and motivated to learn from curiosity rather than assignments (oh, we so wish this for all of our students). In the moment of need she determined the extent of the information required and accessed it efficiently. If you want to learn the basics about Fleet Week in a quick and timely manner, Wikipedia is a decent option.
Now there is nothing new in that last statement. In our first year instruction we use Google and Wikipedia as starting points. Acknowledging their uses and limitations is a first step to becoming information literate. But because of Perry’s comment I started to think about a much larger dilemma for our information literacy programs — to what sources can our students turn when they have left the university and how do they discover them? If they are not in an information rich environment like a city with libraries/universities, how do they overcome the information deficit?
Considering the information literacy standards, we are great at teaching students how to come up with research questions, evaluate and cite information, but I wonder about our track records on finding information (Standard II). The public library would be an obvious choice for me and for you, but why would our graduates make that connection without guidance? Are we spending any time making sure our students know that what we do in the classroom can also be done in the real world (to a certain extent)? Are we so focused on university resources that we are creating graduates dependent upon us? From my experience, the answer to that question is yes because I receive emails and chats from several graduates each semester. Great for job security! Not so great for our graduates.
I started thinking about this when I had to teach SimplyMap to graduating seniors. It is a pretty complex resource and although I made the class interactive and scheduled it perfectly, I could feel some of them checking out. I realized that they if they couldn’t access the database they didn’t see how this would be helpful for their post-university lives (a few had internships and jobs lined up). I mentioned that they would still have access to the database through our state online library service called NC Live, and several of them perked up, asked questions about access and seemed more engaged for the rest of the class. We see some students coming from high school with knowledge of NC Live resources, but while they are at university we encourage them to use OUR resources and NC Live gets lost in the mix.
The literature on the importance of information literacy in the workplace is a great starting point even though it focuses more on the evaluative aspects of IL. Our goal for teaching is to impart transferable skills such as evaluation, but when it comes to knowing how to find information beyond Google and Wikipedia, what are we doing? What could we do better? How do we balance our commitment to point of need instruction (teach to the student’s need for this class and this assignment) with their preparation for a future without access to our resources? I’ve heard of some places doing workshops for soon to be graduates. Are these effective and do they have good attendance? Have you incorporated these discussions into the regular library instruction classroom and have they worked well? Have you seen other practices?