Information Literacy

IL-UmbrellaInformation literacy is more important now than it ever has been. With the rapid rate that technology progresses and the degree in which people use technology to get their information in our world today, having the full range of information literacy skills is imperative to an individual’s success.  The American Library Association stated, in their Presidential Committee on Information Literacy final report, that in order “to be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information”. Previous generations primarily used books to locate information. Today, the primary resource people go to for their information is the internet. Regardless of the resource the importance of information literacy has progressively become more and more important in helping people be successful, whether that’s in the classroom or a workplace.

For our Tech Play 4 assignment I had the opportunity to explore resources for information literacy considering the many aspects of it on the National Forum on Information Literacy’s infographic regarding information literacy skills (see image). Naturally, I began my exploration in Google’s search engine. I simply typed information literacy teaching tools to see what would result. As I evaluated the sites served to me and thought about what tools would best benefit students learning about information literacy I found a few that sparked my interest. One is the Glean comparison search. Glean Learning Tools are free science, math and information literacy teaching tools produced by Public Learning Media, Inc., an education technology 501(c)3 nonprofit. The Glean Comparison Search helps you compare and contrast different viewpoints of a research topic. This is beneficial for students because oftentimes people are naturally biased one way or another without even realizing it. By default, people simply use what they know about a topic as a starting point and if that knowledge is biased toward a certain point of view then the research itself will likely be biased as well. Glean-ComparisonThis tool from GLEAN helps students see what results the search serves them when they type in a research topic and choose both a positive and a negative comparison term. After following the simple steps “Glean Comparison Search” provides real time feedback based on live data that helps students understand how one simple adjective can impact the information they find in a web search … and how their own views can color what they find and create unintentional bias”. Simply enter a search term in the search engine and press enter, then step 2 is revealed. Now I can select a positive and a negative adjective. Below, two very different sets of search results shows up, proving to students that choice of words when doing research is a very important detail.

When looking back at the NFIL infographic I believe this tool falls under three sections, including searching (under Research and Library Skills), computer literacy (under Media Literacy) and critical thinking (under Critical Literacy). I included it in my list of valuable tools for teaching information literacy because it helps teach how to perform research using the internet and it demands critical thinking skills. I think that students can really benefit from being conditioned not to be biased when performing searches online, doing research, and writing essays, etc. I think it is helpful for students to see two different sets of search results side by side to display how one little word can influence their research. I remember many times in my academic career that I was to write an unbiased paper and had a hard time not letting my personal feelings show, even after the paper was in its final draft. I had to read and re-read and get other’s opinions to make sure that I wasn’t favoring one side or the other. A tool like this can help students practice not being biased as well as help them see both sides of a topic to help them become neutral. I realize that this tool neglects the information ethics section. It is simply not related to ethics but still serves as a valuable tool.

cyberbeeAnother tool that I explored can be found on the Cyberbee website. Here teachers can find a small section about copyrights where there are teacher resources and an interactive learning tool to teach students the basics of copyrights. The interactive learning tool shows a classroom full of students with hands raised. As you move the mouse over each student, their questions pop up in statement bubbles. When you click on the student whose question you want answered you are directed to a new window that displays the answer. I think it is so important for educators to help students learn about how to respect copyrights as well as how to avoid violating those laws. Our students may be in the position one day in their professional lives where they will need to know how to protect their own work, how to accurately give credit to other’s materials, and what fair use entails, etc. Of course this is also important in their academic careers as well.

This tool falls under the copyright section of Information Ethics on the NFIL infographic. I included it in my list of valuable tools because students need accurate, solid information on what is and is not lawful in order to protect themselves in the digital sphere. With the mass of information they are faced with and the fact that some media is fair play on the web while other media is not, it can all be very confusing. Everyone, not just young people, need more clarification about copyrights. I realize that this tool neglects all other aspects of the infographic but it is such an important domain and there are so many aspects to it. I believe this tool is valuable but of course, as a teacher I would round out my instruction regarding information literacy with other tools covering the other aspects of the infographic for a well rounded look at information literacy.

A third tool that I explored issafety land an internet safety game set in the virtual city of Safety Land where students can learn how to recognize dangers while using the internet. In this game Captain Broadband has to find the cyber criminal who is posing a threat to Safety Land. Students must guide Captain Broadband through each building and help him answer questions about internet safety. The questions cover topics such as giving out personal information online, what to do with emails from strangers, meeting strangers that you met online in person, sending pictures to strangers, etc. When all the questions are answered correctly the criminal is taken to jail. Upon completion of the game students can print their own hero certificate. This is a quick game that brings up great topics that need to be addressed at some point with all children who use the internet. The importance of everyone, including adults, recognizing the dangers of using the internet cannot be taken lightly.

When looking back at the NFIL infographic I believe this tool falls into the security, and privacy, etc. category (under Information Ethics) because it brings up topics for students to think about ways to protect themselves while on the internet and that involves both security and privacy issues. I included it in my list of valuable tools for teaching information literacy because I believe it is important for children to know about these potential issues that pose a threat to their safety. A game like this can open up dialogue for a very important discussion at school and can then be carried into the home, where it is even more important. Many of today’s students are doing homework online at their computers and they may not be supervised. If we, as teachers, are going to ask them to get online to do homework assignments it is important for us to attempt to protect them from dangers while connected to the World Wide Web where danger lurks for unsuspecting, immature audiences. I realize that this tool neglects every other aspect of the information literacy as reflected on the NFIL infographic. Again, my argument and justification for that neglect lies in that this is an important aspect of internet security and I would include this tool as a small part of many others in teaching my students information literacy.

big6Finally, the fourth tool I explored with which I might teach information literacy to my students is the Big 6 Model. As I thought about the importance of knowing how to effectively search for information online as a student I performed an internet search on Google in which I typed “teaching tools for searching internet” in the search engine. That’s when I came across the Big6, which is a process model of how people of all ages solve an information problem. The Big6 integrates information search and use skills along with technology tools in a systematic process to find, use, apply, and evaluate information for specific needs and tasks. The Big6 was developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz and is the most widely known and widely used approach to teaching information and technology skills in the world. It is used in thousands of K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and corporate and adult training programs and is applicable whenever people need and use information (source: http://big6.com/pages/about/big6-skills-overview.php). I think this is a useful model for students because with the myriad of information available to people today we have to know how to find the information we want, when we want it, and in a form we want it so that we can use it successfully for our own purposes. It can help students learn how to work smarter as they go through problem solving skills while sorting through information. While the model may look like a step-by-step process, it’s actually not always a linear, step-by-step process. This model is necessary and sufficient for solving problems and completing tasks. It is an ideal approach for integrating information literacy learning with all subject area curricula at all grade levels.

When looking back at the NFIL infographic I believe this tool falls under three sections, including searching (under Research and Library Skills), critical reading and critical thinking (under Critical Literacy). While the purpose of the model is to help us search and sort through information, it is also important that we read the information with a critical eye and think about it critically in order to determine whether or not it is sufficient to use to solve our problem or perform the task at hand. The tool does neglect Information Ethics and Media Literacy but it is still an important part of the whole as far as information literacy is concerned. If students don’t know how to successfully perform the tasks outlined in the model they will have a hard time successfully executing research.

I believe that these resources can transform both my teaching and my student’s learning because they bring up important aspects of what information literacy is. They are all great resources for teaching students different parts of how to exercise information literacy skills that they need to have to be successful in school and, later, in the workplace. From how to perform unbiased internet searches, understanding copyrights, how to stay safe while using the internet, and how to sort through information they encounter, each aspect helps students practice important skills in becoming more information literate. I believe these tools can provide a great platform for students to mature in their information literacy skills. These skills will make them more efficient in how they work. I think knowing how to use the resources they have, and use them correctly, will help to build their self esteem as well. If they feel like they are working successfully they will not get discouraged and will be more likely to go through their assignments with ease. I think that most students really want to be successful in the classroom. Teaching them how to work smarter will help build on that success. I feel that it is my responsibility as a teacher to help make my students successful and prepare them for their future. The resources I have explored can provide a great platform for doing just that.

Creativity Tools

This week I explored creativity tools that can be used in the classroom. Creativity tools allow students to create or produce something based on their knowledge. With the use of the internet or tablets there are several options of creativity tools for students of all ages. The tools that I explored were Toontastic, PhotoPeach, and Tagxedo.

Toontastic is a creative learning app for the iPad that enables students to create and share their own cartoon creations. With this tool students are empowered to draw, animate and narrate their own cartoons. This app is very self explanatory because it walks students through the process step by step as they customize. When you open the app and select New Cartoon it verbally explains that the cartoon is made up of different scenes (setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution) which together form the story arc, which provides a measure of the story’s emotional energy. Students get to choose the settings where their story will takes place. The full version of Toontastic offers a very wide variety of scenes to choose from, such as Dracula’s castle, the Lincoln memorial, an elementary classroom, the Savanna, Bay City, the North Pole, etc. There’s an option to use a toy camera to capture a realistic scene for a story and students have the option to draw a scene as well. Next, characters are chosen. Then you bring the scene to life through animation and narration as Toontastic records your voice and your characters movements as you play. Finally background music is chosen based on what feelings are to be conveyed to give the scene emotional energy. You go through all four steps for each scene until your story is complete. Then you give your movie a title and put your name as the director and select a genre that your story falls under. Once everything is complete you have the option to share the cartoon on ToonTube where you can see cartoons created by kids around the world. When the cartoon is played credits roll like a real movie. I really like everything about this app and I believe that students of all ages, even high school students, would enjoy using it because it’s unique and entertaining.

Another creativity tool that I explored was PhotoPeach. This is a free online service that allows users to create media rich slideshows of anything at all, making it ideal for the classroom. Students (or teachers) upload photos, add text and background music, integrate audio, and customize the transition effects to their liking. After they have created their slideshow and have it ready for presentation they can share projects with parents or the public by publishing the slideshow online as public pages. Other sharing options include uploading to Facebook or Twitter, embedding them in blogs or websites, or you can download unlimited shows in burnable DVD (.iso) Format and High Quality Digital Video (.mpeg) format for sharing online. Photopeach is free but it also has a premium edition with more features. I really like that this can be a replacement for PowerPoint which seems like something that everyone has seen and done. This is something more new and exciting for students to play with and create presentations on. There really wasn’t anything about this tool that I didn’t like. It is very user friendly and gets the job done efficiently.

I spent most of my time exploring Tagxedo because I appreciate the visual that it provides students. This is a great creativity tool that turns words into eye-catching word clouds. I think of myself as a visual learner so perhaps that is what drew me to it. When you input words into the generator they are individually sized appropriately to highlight the frequencies of occurrence within the body of text. After uploading either a document from your computer, a website, or simply pasting your text into the generator you can customize the shape, theme, color, orientation and font of your word cloud. When you are satisfied with your personalized word cloud you can save the image for printing and sharing. This tool is so versatile. There are many different things students could use Tagxedo for, such as taking and tracking polls, creating a visual of any of their written work (summaries, poems, biographies, journal entries, essays, etc.), studying vocabulary words, presenting statistics visually, and so much more. This tool can be used for any subject because you can input things other than words such as punctuation, equations, and math signs. Students and teachers have easy access to it and can easily share it, print it, or even make a t-shirt out of it. I really like that you can customize the word clouds in so many ways because that’s what this generation enjoys doing as a means of expressing themselves and sharing a part of themselves with the world. I chose to create a word cloud out of this blog post and I really like the way it turned out. The only thing that I didn’t like is that it wasn’t quite as self explanatory as the other tools that I explored but I think the good outweighs the bad in this case.

word cloud

This creativity tool would fall into the TPK section of the TPACK model. Students are using technology, which is almost always a good thing in the classroom when used correctly. They would be exploring a new tool to create a visual related to content they have recently learned. As far as pedagogy, it would be important for the teacher to walk students through an example to create a word cloud and demonstrate the many customizable features it provides. If I were demonstrating it to my students I would make it a class effort and have students give their input to make a product that we could all be happy with. I don’t think this tool provides a content aspect because it’s simply creating a supplementary visual.

TPACK2

I think it’s so important to use creativity tools like the ones that I explored because they allow students to have fun and be creative with their school work. It is important to use such tools to get children excited about education. They quickly and easily lose interest in their work and it’s important that we, as educators, do what we can to make it fun for them. There are so many different creativity tools out there that teachers should be exploring and integrating into their lessons to keep their students engaged. Even for those teachers who don’t have access to iPads, there are many tools that can be used on the internet. I don’t think a lack of new technology is a very good excuse for not trying some of these tools. These creativity tools offer students the chance to have creative freedom in expressing what they have learned. This is something that other, more traditional tools, do not offer. Creative freedom is something that students today crave. There’s something about having that freedom that is comforting in a classroom. It gives students a chance to open their minds and use the given tool however they wish. They seem to be so turned off by written work and wish to use technology as much as possible. I, for one, don’t blame them.