Standard Questions

I am not a great lover of standards and competencies, the result of taking standardized tests since Kindergarten, but I understand their value. For the past week, I have been examining both the ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education and ETS’ Information and Communication Technology Standards. These standards intertwine like vines in my mind. Each set is logical in the world of Higher Education and, in my opinion, support and reaffirm each other.

It seems obvious, but when I started looking back over the archives on ILI-L (Information Literacy Instruction) I was surprised by some of the attitudes towards ICT. The discourse surrounding ICT is a lot like the discourse that occurs around Information Literacy itself. Do we need this? What is the purpose of this? Are librarians the ones who should be teaching this? Is ETS stealing property that should belong to librarians? Does IL/ICT happen in the library or out in a discipline?

My response to all of these questions would be that nothing happens in a vacuum. Do our students need to be able to retrieve information, evaluate it, and manipulate it with technology? Yes. Should librarians be the ones to teach these skills? Yes, but we should strive to do so in the context of other disciplines on campus. It is no secret that students learn better when there is a need for them to do so. To teach IL with a technology component effectively, we must do so in the context of an established class or assignment. IL and technology learning should occur concurrently because students will require both to use information properly.

I wonder if some of the aversion of having a standardized test for ICT is the “We did not come up with it first, feel threatened, and thus shall oppose it” attitude. Because ETS came up with a viable testing platform that has been, if not embraced, than discussed favorably among some institutions, before librarians have developed a similar test for IL, some librarians may be wary. Most of us are still arguing the value of Information Literacy in our institutions and in the world. I may be completely reading the attitudes wrong, and I would like to be wrong, but as a profession we tend to view warily things we perceive to “invade” our space. The animosity towards Google is a perfect example. It works better than anything we have ever come up with and that has to be OK. The more we fight about it, the more we alienate ourselves from our users. Just my two cents.

I am not going to go into if IL should be a course for credit or not; that is an argument for another day. Academic librarians already teach technology skills in the classroom and at the desk. We should be open to discussing the merits of giving technology a larger piece of the pie. Very few database or Google searches can occur without the effective use of technology and the ability to evaluate and use the information retrieved properly. How do we fight to add new components to IL when we are still trying to get Professor X to bring their students into the library at all? This discussion in the profession is far from over. We are still struggling with the place of IL on our college campuses and it is hard to argue content when we are unsure where we are going.

–Jane, where is she going?

Resources for Further Reading

Educational Testing Service (ETS)

ICT Literary Assessment

ETS Resources on ICT (Notice that ACRL is the first link)

ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education

Asaravala, Amit. “Testing Your Tech Smarts.” Wired News April 8, 2005

Bagnata, Kristen. “New Exam Tests Students’ IT Abilities.” Community College Week February 14, 2005

Heller-Ross, Holly. “Reinforcing Information and Technology Literacy: the Plattsburg Tip Sheet.” College and Research Library News June 2004: 321-325

Mackey, Thomas. “Web Development in Information Science Undergraduate Education: Integrating Information Literacy and Information Technology.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 46 1 (Winter 2005): 21-35

Warnken, Paula. “The Impact of Technology on Information Literacy Education in Libraries.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 30 2 (March 2004): 151-156

Young, Jeffrey R. “Testing Service to Unveil an Assessment of Computer and Information Literacy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education November 12, 2004