Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Information Literacy: A 21st Century Skill For The Knowledge Economy

How can I help my students prepare for careers in the new "knowledge economy"? This is one question that has guided me in the development of a course I am teaching this summer,  Global Social Change.

What is the "knowledge-based economy" and what skills do my students need in order to be successful in this new economy?

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “The knowledge based economy” is an expression coined to describe trends in advanced economies towards greater dependence on knowledge, information and high skill levels, and the increasing need for ready access to all of these by the business and public sectors"(OECD 2005:18). 

Making informed decisions -- at work, in business, at home or in the voting booth -- requires knowledge, which is dependent on accurate information. To know how to locate, analyze, critically evaluate, interpret, communicate and use information is to be information literate. 

CEOs and business leaders have recognized the need for information literacy in our knowledge-based economy. In 1999, Anthony Comper, president of the Bank of Montreal, told the graduating class of the University of Toronto

  “Whatever else you bring to the 21st century workplace, however great your technical skills and however attractive your attitude and however deep your commitment to excellence, the bottom line is that to be successful, you need to acquire a high level of information literacy. What we need in the knowledge industries are people who know how to absorb and analyze and integrate and create and effectively convey information and who know how to use information to bring real value to everything they undertake”(American Library Association).

 Information literacy is integrated into the assignments for my course, which include weekly discussion forums, a global research journal and a research log. Through research tutorials and discussions with librarian, Leslin Charles, the students have been honing their research, writing and citation skills. After the initial tutorials and discussion with the librarian, students posted their comments about the process of conducting research for their first journal entries.

  "...World Geography & Culture Online has a “Timeline” that gives you a precise overview and the complete history of the country. As per the librarian, it explains “why things are happening today” (Word Geography & Culture Online). I wish we had such databases when I was in elementary or even high school. It would have made my life much easier." 

 "Since I have a general knowledge of how to use some of the databases within the library, I thought I'd be able to skip the tutorials and just get started. However, I was having a hard time finding anything and navigating through the pages, so I watched the tutorials and then it took me less than a minute to find what I needed! This showed me that sometimes tutorials aren't pointless, because some are usually so long you don't want to even watch them, but these were short, simple and straight to the point!" 

 "I appreciated the video about the different ways to search for things online with Google and the different shortcuts that can help your search. The videos were very helpful and informative. Most of the time many of us use Google the wrong way and don’t realize it." 

 "I found the librarian's tutorial videos to be very informative. I have used the databases in the past for other classes, but have never used Country Watch or World Geography and Culture Online, so watching those tutorials were very helpful. Both Country Watch and World Geography and Culture Online are databases with information on countries, and although Country Watch looked very easy to use and navigate, I personally prefer the World Geography and Culture Online database because of its layout and features (like the timeline)." 

 "I am very familiar with the Berkeley College Online Library and how to navigate through the specific databases, but I have never used Country Watch or World Geography & Culture Online, so I'm very thankful that the librarian was kind enough to post tutorials on how to navigate within each of them. I found both tutorials to be extremely helpful in finding the specific information I was searching for. Usually when you start using a new online database it takes some time to get used to and sometimes they are hard to navigate unless you find some sort of directions on how to use them.  After watching all the helpful tutorials provided by the Librarian, I had no trouble at all searching for the information about Nicaragua and writing my journal." 

 "In a lot of previous research I have done, something I could have utilized was comparing the data I had to similar data from other countries. This database is truly incredible. So much research about other countries of the world is right at your fingertips. Of course, I used it right away and learned that there are only 1% of descendants from African immigrants in Portugal. One of my favorite cousins falls in that small percentage." 

It is clear to me that students are motivated to learn, but feel overwhelmed by "information overload". Integrating information literacy into the curriculum can help students learn how to negotiate the expanding volume of information and use it effectively in all areas of their lives.

 "Advocate for IL." Association for College and Research Libraries. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 13 Aug 2012.

 OECD (2005) The Measurement of Scientific and Technological Activities: Guidelines for Collecting and Interpreting Innovation Data: Oslo Manual, Third Edition” prepared by the Working Party of National Experts on Scientific and Technology Indicators, OECD, Paris.