Turkish Delights (Rahat Lokum) Flavour Two: Information Literacy (Lemon)

By Philip Keates

Hello again, and welcome to part 2 of my library-famous blog series! This time, we’ll be looking at Information Literacy (or IL). IL was a hot topic amongst our speakers, receiving at least a mention in many, if not most, of the presentations.

I’m sure a lot of this will be familiar stuff to our IL professionals, particularly the core IL concepts, but I hope that even they might be able to sift a few useful golden idea nuggets from the… um… mineral-rich waters of the training week, using the… uh… the brain-sieve that is this blog post… no, this metaphor’s got away from me. You get the idea.

To start with, let’s look at how some different library professionals defined IL. Amanda Bond of Istanbul International Community School described the impressive programme of information literacy training provided for their children. She showed us one of her favourite books (Stuck by Oliver Jeffers), which is described as ‘a tale of trying to solve a problem by THROWING things at it’. In this spirit, she told us that her core aim is to teach users to choose the right tool for a particular job, and to know how to use it effectively. Their progressively complex referencing training starts as early as 5 with information source stamps, and moves on to using programs like NoodleTools  and EasyBib. I’m sure a lot of our jobs would be much easier if all students arrived at university having had a grounding in referencing like this!

Sami Çukadar of İstanbul Bilgi University, in his presentation on IL, cited Michael B. Eisenberg’s article, “Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age” as key, and talked about the works of Alvin Toffler, quoting his maxim that modern literacy is about the ability to “Learn, unlearn, relearn”. Sami and Phoebe Leung of Lingnan University also stressed that the ability to spot ‘fake news’ should be a major focus of IL training today.

Now let’s have a look at the content of some IL courses. Mine Akkurt of Sabanci Universitesi Information Center mentioned how they provide users with orientation in specific databases. Vasia Mole of Koç University talked about their general Academic Writing 101 course, and their 10x range of courses for specific subjects, as well as their course on ‘how to find a thesis topic’. Academics were not neglected – Mine mentioned a courses on ‘iThenticate plagiarism detection’ and ‘branded instructional material creation’ for their faculty, whilst Vasia described how they offer to help Academics create Mendeley profiles.

Actually getting the users to attend the training is often the major part of the battle, of course, and librarians in other countries seem to struggle just as much as we do. Sami insisted that IL needs to be integrated into courses to be effective, which some universities, such as the American University of Beirut, have achieved through having librarians embedded in courses with full administrative support (it’s alright for some, eh?). Mine’s team have tried both online reservation for seminars and drop-in sessions, finding the former markedly more successful. At Koç University, students can book attendance on courses through an online calendar. Vasia also talked about how they have, through working with their Dean of Students, created a compulsory IL course worth one credit.

Moving away from face-to-face sessions, Sami talked about using Adobe Connect Online Seminars for information literacy training. The most impressive example of online IL training from the week was without a doubt InfoLit for U, an information Literacy MOOC from Hong Kong, presented by Phoebe. Creation of InfoLit for U (which I am going to refer to as IL4U from now on, for the sake of my sanity) was funded by the University Grants Committee, Hong Kong, which also provided HK$15,000 funds each university, for academics to enhance IL training within their courses. You can watch the rather hallucinatory launch video here), and the MOOC itself is freely available for all to access from http://keep.edu.hk (just search for ‘InfoLit for U’).

The aim of IL4U, according to Phoebe, was “To provide a broad information experience to students in [a] university learning context… [and] …to facilitate students to develop effective information literacy competence, practices and habits of mind, through modules that highlight [the] inquiry-based nature of university learning, and career-relevant disciplinary task scenarios.”

It offers two modes of learning – self-paced, needing about 1.5 to 2 hours per module, with a core module and optional subject-based modules, or course-integrated, which takes a task-orientated approach, embedding selected tasks into your course content. The importance of IL to so many careers is emphasised through expertise sharing from professionals in a variety of fields.

Finally, Sami offered some suggestions for ‘gamifying’ IL training, a change in teaching method that he believes will help libraries better meet the expectations of today’s students. He cited this article on IL gamification, which includes various examples of computer games designed to teach Information Literacy. He also talked about the ‘Information Hunters’ treasure hunt game run by his library, in which teams are timed completing IL tasks within the library, and the winners get an iPad! Not sure where we’d get the funding to give away iPads, but it’s certainly an interesting idea to provide a substantial incentive like that.

That’s all for now – next time we’ll be looking at marketing, student engagement, and visual design.

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