Information Literacy in the 21st Century

Information Literacy in the 21st Century

Carmel McNaught (Chinese University of Hong Kong, China)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-881-9.ch067


Information literacy is a key capability for the 21st century. The distinction between information and knowledge is central to understanding the meaning of information literacy. Information literacy goes beyond that of information retrieval and evaluation. An information-literate person actively uses information to further personal learning and growth with respect to all facets of life. The importance of planning information searches and prioritizing potential sources of information is stressed, as is the need for active engagement with information to seek understanding. It is at this point that the bridge between information literacy and learning occurs; the transformation of information into knowledge that is demonstrated in the production of a unique product (be it an essay, report, media object, etc.). Technology can facilitate learners’ development of information literacy skills but also bring new challenges. The model of a community digital library may be a valuable one in this regard. One challenging but exciting new area is how e-books may contribute to curriculum design in the 21st century. Another emerging area that will impact on information literacy is the nature of online communities and whether Web 2.0 will bring new levels of information literacy to learners of all ages in the 21st century.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning: Learning is a personal construction of knowledge. In order to learn a particular concept or skill, the learner needs to consider how new information relates to the existing understandings that the learner has. The process of sifting through available information in order to select the most appropriate information to use in knowledge construction requires the skills of information literacy. Good information literacy skills are a prerequisite for effective learning.

Information Literacy: Information literacy involves accessing, evaluating, managing, and communicating information.

Critical Literacy: The use of the word “critical” emphasizes two aspects of a holistic definition of information literacy. The word “critical” has connotations of evaluating information carefully, of making a critique of it. Another meaning of the word “critical” relates to its use in discussion of societal power; in this sense an information-literate person is one who realized the social, cultural, and political implications of information. Information is not value-free.

Web 2.0: As Web 2.0 is still an emerging set of technologies and standards, it is premature to give a definitive definition. The phrase was coined by Tim O’Reilly in 2004 (e.g., see and refers to interactive and communicative Internet-based services where online collaboration is emphasized.

Wikipedia: An example of a loosely structured online resource collection where the information resources can be contributed by any person and the process of validating the information occurs voluntarily by members who consider themselves part of that community. The growth of Wikipedia entries has been rapid and there are now over 100,000 articles in many languages.

E-books: E-books are books available in electronic format, most often downloadable from the Internet. E-books should be distinguished from shorter online articles. The process of accessing and effectively reading significant parts of a book onscreen needs careful investigation in order to see if the electronic format can support the development of information literacy skills.

Community Digital Libraries: A community digital library is a resource collection, often in a defined discipline area, that is developed and managed in a structured fashion by the community itself. The Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) is a well-documented example of a successful community digital library.

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