Information skills, technology and innovation

The following 3 abstracts were written by the Curriculum Leadership Journal (CLJ) team and published in November 2007. To receive the weekly electronic journal, register at,102.html

Testing information literacy in digital environments: ETS’s iSkills Assessment

Full article published in: Information Technology and Libraries
Volume 26, Number 4, September 2007; Pages 3–12.
Ivan R Katz

There is increasing evidence that the technological competence of the ‘Net Generation’ does not translate into effective skills for research and communication. In that sense, today’s students may be ‘less information savvy than earlier generations’. Information literacy refers to the ability to determine information needs, and to find, evaluate and apply the information effectively. ‘ICT literacy’ refers to these abilities as they apply within digital environments. Standards for ICT literacy have been set out by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). The Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States has created an ‘iSkills assessment’, an Internet-based test designed to measure students’ information literacy skills in technological contexts. The test contains 15 interactive tasks: 14 simple tasks to be completed in three to five minutes, and one 15-minute task requiring a more complex problem to be solved. The tasks were all designed to test cognitive decision making rather than ICT competencies. The interactive tasks allowed for various pathways to accurate answers. Automated help after incorrect answers offered participants the chance to move on to show other skills. In May 2006, the test was taken by 1016 secondary and over 5000 tertiary students. The 63 participating educational institutions selected participants through a variety of methods, including random sampling and invitation. Overall, students ‘performed poorly’. For example, when asked to evaluate a number of websites, only 52% ‘judged the objectivity of the sites correctly’ and only 49% ‘uniquely identified the one website that met all criteria’. In a web search task, only 40% entered multiple search terms to narrow the result; in general, with all tasks, they struggled to narrow searches effectively. Participants tended not to tailor responses to a particular audience. The National Forum on Information Literacy has established a National ICT Literacy Policy Council which is working toward the creation of national ICT literacy standards for the United States.

Information Technology and Libraries

Virtual library: e-ssential

Full article published in: Access
Volume 21 Number 3, September 2007; Pages 5–8
Carol Grantham

A well-designed virtual library teaches students information literacy skills and provides access to quality online resources that complement the physical library collection. Virtual libraries will vary depending on the needs of the school and the curricula they support, however some elements are common to all well-constructed online learning environments. Navigation of the site should be simple and intuitive with research guides linking students to physical and online resources for particular subjects and assignments. The virtual library should contain search tools and electronic database pages, and a link to the school library catalogue. Bibliographic and citation guides and other reference services, such as an ‘ask a librarian’ email service, should be accompanied by thorough instruction in information literacy. Students should be taught to use appropriate search engines, how to read URLs, and how to select relevant databases. Teaching information ethics, including an understanding of plagiarism and correct referencing, as part of a curriculum unit ensures that students are informed and possess the skills relevant to their immediate needs. Virtual libraries can help supplement the curriculum with validated age and reading-level appropriate material. With interactive whiteboards increasingly present in classrooms, digital resources and learning objects are particularly appropriate as they can cater to a range of learning styles. A virtual library can be updated more frequently and easily than the print collection. However, building a virtual library demands web design and web publishing skills as well as significant time to search for materials and maintain the website. Some schools may find generic gateway sites a more feasible option. Schools should also be conscious of the ‘digital divide’ that exists as a result of unequal access to the Internet from students’ homes, as well as the instability of Internet links, which should be checked regularly. Schools should be realistic about virtual library design, building up capacity over time. Teacher librarians can also save time by encouraging subject teachers to contribute relevant web resources and subject links to the site. Today’s students are accustomed to using the Internet to meet their information needs, and teacher librarians must either harness this reliance on the web or risk being seen as irrelevant.

Rules of innovation?

Full article published in: EQ Australia
Summer 2007; Pages 8–10
Heather Watson

To integrate ICT effectively, schools need individual innovators solving small problems with ‘baby steps’. New technologies are commonly associated with a ‘hype cycle’: the positive hype peaks with inflated expectations resulting in a trough of disillusionment that typically leads to more realistic expectations and an eventual plateau of improved productivity. Educator attitudes to technologies vary widely, as do the quality of the technologies themselves, and the extent to which learners should be taught to resist or rely on new technologies remains controversial. Continuing scepticism has rendered the pace of ICT integration in education ‘monumentally slow’. Innovations related to Web 2.0 technologies, for example, are considered mainly in terms of potential dangers, overshadowing their potential for enhancing learning. Yet the sustainable, effective application of Web 2.0 can promote student-centred, participatory pedagogies by giving users the ability to manipulate information and adapt tools for participation. By delaying uptake of these valuable technological innovations, schools risk losing their influence in shaping learners in the 21st Century. Schools lose credibility in the eyes of students who witness divergence between formal school structures and the personalised learning that takes place outside the classroom. The education sector’s reluctance to engage with technology also cements its position at the fringes of the technology market, thereby ensuring that tools will continue to be designed predominantly for business, defence and leisure rather than specifically for educative purposes. Where technology is being used, schools are usually still attempting to fit new technologies into old pedagogies. However, individual teachers often innovate effective and specific changes that go unnoticed in the busy school day. Schools must develop cultural and operational practices that support such innovations and encourage dialogue. Problems need to be addressed ‘from the bottom up’, with teachers driving small changes and sharing their innovations with colleagues. 

These abstracts were originally published in Curriculum Leadership Journal, Vol. 5 issue 40 Nov 2007
Reprinted with permission