The purpose of this chapter is to present and discuss findings from a study of students’ information seeking and use for a learning assignment. The overall interest is to describe the coherence between differences in the quality of students’ information seeking and the quality of their learning outcomes and to relate this to issues of information literacy in the Knowledge Society. The study was framed within a sociocultural perspective of learning and adopted an ethnographic approach. Analysis of data resulted in the identification of two major categories of competences related to information seeking and knowledge formation, one of which involves serious shortcomings in meaningful learning through information seeking. There is little evidence that ICT conclusively supports the development of new knowledge in terms of seeing the world differently. Conclusions are that the school system tends to produce ‘information illiterates’ which may entail unwanted consequences for both individuals and for maintaining a democratic Knowledge Society.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information Literacy: involves the ability to critically seek and use information effectively in various situations. In contexts of education, information literacy is seen as the ability to seek, find, critically evaluate and use information for learning of some particular knowledge content, exploring an issue or solving a problem. Information literacy is also seen more broadly as the generic ability of citizens in a democratic society to make well informed choices based on the critical evaluation of a wide range of information sources.
ICT: Information and Communication Technologies, signifies a range of tools and technologies for managing, storing, retrieving and communicating information in digital form.
Competence: refers to a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes. ‘Key competence’ defines competences necessary for all. It thus includes basic skills, but goes beyond them.
Knowledge contents: concern some subject matter or concept or aspects of a problem that form the content of a learning task.
Learning assignment/task: implies a task for students to accomplish with the aim of learning particular contents, concepts or relationships. In this text, learning assignments involve students’ independent information seeking and use of a wide range of information sources.
Digital Competence: involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. It is underpinned by basic skills in ICT: the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet. (Commission of the European Communities 2005)
Learning Outcomes: involve what students learn through accomplishing a learning assignment, including intended knowledge contents as well as other contents, skills and abilities that students may learn through an assignment.
Information seeking: involves seeking and using information for learning or other purposes, where information is not restricted to digital form but may include a range of formats such as print material, oral information, etc. Nevertheless, digital information and ICT tools are of central interest for the research and practices of information seeking.