Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 14


Perspectives of Information Literacy, Educational Technology and Learning Theory: Where Do We Go From Here?

Beth Russell Boise State University: EdTech 504 Summer 2012

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Abstract No one can argue that information literacy has undergone a monumental shift in both theory

and practice since the internet revolutionized our world over 20 years ago. Gone are the days of students and scholars confined to library stacks overseen by librarian gatekeepers for their primary source of research. The internet and the connectivity it offers opened up an entirely new world of research possibilities to everyone with access to a computer and internet connection. Suddenly, our students have a world of knowledge at their fingertips. With this onslaught of information come the questions of how to best teach students to effectively and efficiently navigate this new world of information overload. This paper examines the role of the academic librarians utilization of educational technology and learning theory both in the past and looking ahead to the future to teach information literacy skills.


Perspectives of Information Literacy, Educational Technology and Learning Theory: Where Do We Go From Here? Learning theory, educational technology and information literacy have been interwoven for decades. Early examples of educational technology first appeared in information literacy courses in the 1950s when closed circuit television was used to reach large campus populations. Scholars highlighted a lack of integrated learning theory and worries over lackluster use of educational technology were apparent. A call for educational technology grounded in learning theory was sounded. The 21st century has brought about a profound change in information literacy needs and educational tools. Presented with a world of information with which to educate themselves, students and scholars faced a new challenge not of having enough information, but of efficiently locating, accessing, evaluating and using the appropriate types of information. Social networks made it even easier to make connections and share knowledge. Information literacy programs based on constructivist and connectivist learning theory are taking root in order to meet the pedagogical needs of this new century of scholars.

A Definition and History of Information Literacy According to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the professional organization for college and research libraries in the United States, information literacy is defined as a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information, (Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, ACRL, para. 1). Information literacy, or bibliographic instruction as its also called, has been taught in some format in higher education since the 1800s, and evidence exists that German universities have been teaching information literacy since the 1700s (Salony, 1995). With the establishment of

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY the American Library Association (ALA) in 1876, partnered with the huge growth in

universities and colleges around the country, information literacy established an increasingly important presence on college campuses. The belief that librarians are fellow educators was founded as early as the late 1800s by the first president of ALA, Justin Winsor. Winsor supported the belief that a librarian is an educator and is needed to bring the library and its uses to the students. Winsor emphasized the importance of cooperation with faculty members by adapting to their individual needs and tastes and by offering assistance when needed. Winsor felt the librarian should be a research counselor to students. To Winsor, library instruction helped expand the intellectual value of the college library, bringing it more fully into the teaching learning process, (Salony, 1995). Over the years, the role of information literacy and academic librarians on higher education campuses evolved. An early proponent of integrated information literacy in the campus curriculum, Evelyn Steel Little, Assistant Professor at Emory University, supported the idea of an instructional department of bibliography which would deal with any aspect of books from teaching library instruction to providing cultural interest. This would make the library an important part of higher education and not the "role of passive custodian," (Salony, 1995). Louis Shores of the George Peabody College of Teachers also suggested a similar scenario with librarian as teacher when he proposed, every faculty member would be library trained and every librarian would be a teacher, (Salony, 1995). Not all educators or even librarians were convinced that information literacy was an integral part of a college education. In the 1950s, programs struggled to take root. Many colleges had instruction programs but increasingly larger classes became overwhelming for librarians, and due to the lack of a conceptual frameworksome librarians simply did not support library instruction as an important function of the library, (Salony, 1995). The


reference to a conceptual framework hints at the growing need for instructional design and learning theory within information literacys pedagogical role.

The Role of the Academic Librarian Before the Internet Prior to the revolutionary role that the internet played on higher education campuses around the world, academic librarians disseminated what they considered to be information literacy best practices through a variety of methods. Library orientation tours were among the most common forms of information literacy instruction being given, as were sessions on how to use the card catalog and locate books by call number and classification. The publishing cycle and descriptions of the book making process were also part of the information literacy curriculum. The challenge of teaching these best practices to a burgeoning student population became apparent in the 1950s when campus populations swelled. After World War II, enrollment in colleges and universities rose largely due to veterans entering college on the GI Bill. Another push for higher education came in the late 1950s after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, (Salony, 1995). How to reach an evergrowing campus population was a challenge faced by academic librarians around the country. It is this challenge that paved the way for the first incorporations of educational technology and learning theory into the library curriculum.

Early Examples of Educational Technology in Information Literacy One of the first documented uses of educational technology used as a tool to teach information literacy surfaced in the 1950s when closed circuit television was used to disseminate a library orientation session to 2800 students at Pennsylvania State University (McComb, 1958). However, there is no mention of learning theory to guide the use of the tool. According to Salony, overhead transparencies, tape recordings, slides, and films, also

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY found their way into information literacy programs in the 1960s in order to help reach a broader student body, but again, learning theory was not documented as part of the pedagogical process. A 1967 paper titled New Library Materials and Technology for Instruction and Research, by Paul Wendt outlines some of the uses of the tools mentioned above and their impact on student learning. While not explicitly writing about learning theory and instructional design, hints of both are seen in various quotes. Wendt summarizes a colleagues method for teaching information literacy as the creation of a flow chart of library searching techniques, (Wendt, 1967) suggesting formal instructional design principles may have played a role, possibly even mirroring the learning task analysis flowcharts used in todays instructional design projects. While proclaiming the possibilities that closed circuit television may provide for library instruction, one librarian is also quick to note the discrepancies. There are two

limitations of television- ( 1) the lack of interaction with students, and ( 2 ) the fact that better students could pass the course with flying colors without ever having entered the library. Awareness of the dangers of pure verbalization without performance testing should be noted since most instruction in library science insists upon performance, (Wendt, 1967). Without actually mentioning them by name, the librarian is applying instructional design principles such as design and evaluation to his lesson and also drawing on the behaviorist and constructivist learning theories that emphasize active learning. A 1972 paper titled Educational Technology: A Challenge for Librarians by Anna Hyer speaks directly to the connection that learning theory, educational technology and librarians have. She writes In Level Two technology, the pieces that are dealt with independently at Level One are interrelated in a systematic way using standard problem-

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY solving techniques. This systems approach consists of (1) identifying the needs, (2) setting up measurable objectives, (3) considering constraints and alternative solutions, (4) selecting from among the alternatives, (5) implementation of the chosen solution, (6) evaluation of results against the stated objectives, and (7) modification of the system to correct deficiencies. The ADDIE approach can be seen as a running thread throughout the authors commentary, an early example of the incorporation of educational technology and instructional design into a librarians role. A more solid groundwork for incorporating

learning theory and educational technology into information literacy programs was beginning to take root, as programs realized the need for integration of these principles. Examining the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards and Their Relationship to Learning Theory and Educational Technology In 2000, the Association of College and Research Libraries adopted the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, which have been widely adopted by colleges and university libraries across the country. ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education: 1. The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed. 2. The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently. 3. The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system. 4. The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY 5. The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social

issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

The standards recognize the need for instructional design and learning theory when planning information literacy programs that are trying to meet the ACRL standards.

Achieving competency in information literacy requires an understanding that this cluster of abilities is not extraneous to the curriculum but is woven into the curriculums content, structure and sequence. This curricular integration also affords many possibilities for furthering the influence and impact of such student-centered teaching methods as problem-based learning, evidence-based learning, and inquiry learning. Guided by faculty and others in problem-based approaches, students reason about course content at a deeper level than is possible through the exclusive use of lectures and textbooks. To take fullest advantage of problem-based learning, students must often use thinking skills requiring them to become skilled users of information sources in many locations and formats, thereby increasing their responsibility for their own learning. (ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education).

The evidence- and problem-based learning scenarios cited in the explanation above is testament to the necessity of learning theory, namely constructivist and behaviorist, in the effective design of an information literacy curriculum. According to Ertmer and Newby, constructivism is a theory that equates learning with creating meaning from experiences, (62). In other words, the constructivism theory follows the model that people learn best by

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY doing. It is an active learning theory, not passive, and focuses on the creation of learning by the learner instead of the passive acquiring of knowledge as in the lecturer/student model. Constructivists believe that people learn best through contextual applications of real world scenarios and by creat[ing] meaning as opposed to acquiring it, (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). The use of the terms problem-based learning, and users of information sources, further

emphasizes the active nature of information literacy programs that are designed around these standards. Additionally, the performance indicators that correlate to each standard are tied to specific learning outcomes using Blooms Taxonomy to generate higher- and lower-order thinking skills (ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education). For example, a performance indicator for Standard 3: The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system dictate that the information literate student synthesizes main ideas to construct new concepts clearly fall on Blooms taxonomy spectrum of analysis and synthesis.

21st Century Information Literacy What does it mean to be information literate in the 21st century? How has this definition evolved with the onslaught on technology that has revolutionized everything we do? What roles do learning theory play and educational technology play in this new model? How do librarians fit within this new framework? The role of the academic librarian today is in some ways similar to that of previous generations yet very different. Prior to the internet age, academic librarians served as guides through the world of information, helping students and scholars navigate the comparatively small amount of information resources they had at their fingertips. They also helped students



examine the connections between the materials they were using. While it may be likely that most impromptu information literacy moments arent planned and therefor dont include formal instructional design, educational technology and learning theory, if instances are examined, there are threads of each in most. For example, if demonstrating how to locate a book on the shelf by a call number, the librarian might also point out that books about similar topics are all located within the same range near others on the shelf. Or, if the browsing the online catalog together and the student selects a book that looks appropriate for his research, the librarian might guide him to similar call numbers in order to have the student view the texts and make a similar connection. The critical thinking skill that allows the student to make this connection clearly falls within certain different types of learning theory, and the librarians approach of guiding the student through the resources and helping him make logical connections is following certain instructional design models that incorporate both behaviorist and constructivist learning theory. The above example illustrates an example of an information literacy moment informally incorporating constructivist learning theory. Ertmer and Newby write constructivism is a theory that equates learning with creating meaning from experience, (62). The student that views the call number in the online catalog who then goes to the shelf and views books about similar topics within the same call number range makes the connection that these strange numbers and letters that make up the call numbers actually mean something in the organization of the volumes. The context of the learning environment is critical to making this connection and librarians are wise to design information literacy sessions around such examples. The same student who sat passively in an instruction session and watched a librarian lecture about call number ranges and what the PN classification means using a PowerPoint is far less likely to create the connections between what she is

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY saying and what exists in the stacks. As Ertmer and Newby write, Knowledge is not abstract but is linked to the context under study and to the experiences that the participants


bring to the context, (65). Its unlikely that the student would have made the same critical connection had he not been able to look up the book and walk to the stacks. Another learning theory that has emerged in recent years, and one that may possibly play the largest role in 21st century information literacy programs, is connectivism. Connectivism "is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks," (Downes, What Connectivism Is). Connectivism plays a large role in the digital learning environment. Students are increasingly connected to one another and therefor have more opportunities to learn from each other to develop new ideas, theories and viewpoints. This is fundamentally changing the face of education. No longer is the "sage on the stage" model an appropriate fit for most classrooms. Students don't have to rely on the expert in front of the classroom to impart knowledge, nor the librarian behind the reference desk. The digital environment provides them with the tools that they need to teach themselves. Siemens writes that one of the most significant trends in learning is possessing the "know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed). This is a large part of what many academic librarians do today in their information literacy sessions. Unlike before, when information literacy was focused more on finding enough suitable resources for scholarship, todays students are bombarded with knowledge and information resources. How do they know what is valuable and trusted versus what is mere internet chatter? Librarians help students identify what scholarly resources are and how to identify them. They also help students navigate the abundance of public and proprietary information that is available to them on the open web

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY and in subscription databases. Helping them see the differences between a web page that


contains someone's personal opinions about a topic and a double-bind peer reviewed journal article or book chapter that went through a vigorous vetting process is an essential skill that they need not only in university but beyond. Librarians may also use connectivist learning theory to help students navigate the social networks that will further their research interests, such as helping them understand and navigate a listing of associations or professional interest groups. Educational technology and learning theory should also play a large part in the design of online library catalogs, learning tutorials and other digital learning objects. For years the designers of these interfaces have struggled to produce a product that helps scholars easily and effectively navigate and learn about the millions of resources available to them with varying success. What can we learn from our users preferences for certain search engines such as Google or learning platforms such as Lynda.com? How can we incorporate instructional design principles, learning theory and the systematic approaches of educational technology to reach our modern users in the most valuable ways possible? History has demonstrated that these elements have played a part in information literacy but it would be wise to focus our efforts on other library initiatives as well using these proven guidelines.

Conclusion Learning theory and instructional design have played a part in information literacy for decades. Educational technology and systematic design principles have been gradually incorporated into the practice in the past 40 years. By using various learning theories, such as behaviorism, constructivism and connectivism, when designing the information literacy curriculum, academic librarians are ensuring stronger students outcomes and greater engagement with resources. Additionally, educational technology theories and instructional



design principles should be the guiding framework when creating digital learning objects and user interfaces. Academic librarians would be wise to utilize learning theory, instructional design and educational technology as they consider the needs of our 21st century scholars.

INFORMATION LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY References Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 5072. doi:10.1111/j.1937-8327.1993.tb00605.x Hyer, A.L. (1972, February 17). Educational technology: A challenge for librarians. Retrieved from


http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED0587 52 Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency Johnson, W.G. (2008). The application of learning theory to information literacy. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 14(4), 103120. doi:10.1080/10691310802128435 Marcum, J.W. (2002). Rethinking information literacy. The Library Quarterly, 72(1), 126. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4309580 McComb, R.W. (1958). Closed circuit television in a library orientation program. College & Research Libraries (19), 387. Salony, M.F. (1995). The history of bibliographic instruction: The Reference Librarian, 24(51-52), 3151. doi:10.1300/J120v24n51_06 Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 310. Weiler, A. (2005). Information-seeking behavior in generation Y students: Motivation, critical thinking, and learning theory. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(1), 4653. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2004.09.009 Wendt, P. (1967). New library materials and technology for instruction and research. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2142/6376