What is information literacy?Information literacy, also known as critical literacy, is a major component of traditional comprehension teaching. At it's simplest, information literacy involves questioning a text, challenging the ideas presented and recognising that the author has their own personal background and beliefs; information literacy reduces the likelihood that the reader is "manipulated or misled" (Fellowes and Oakley, 2010, 490). I believe that the skills associated with information literacy are more important than ever, as the internet provides such a vast amount of information, that can be contributed to by anyone. The internet is such a valuable resource, so we need to equip our students with the skills to make the most of it, without being manipulated.
How can we teach online information literacy?Fellowes and Oakley (2010) describe 3 broad approaches to teaching information literacy, and these can be applied just as well to an online setting. Deconstruction of texts involves looking at the language features, pictures and the structure used in a text. Reconstruction involves putting texts together in a different way and then analysing the effect the new form has. Juxtaposition involves comparison of texts.
Using these approaches, students could analyse the features of a website that operate to convince them of the authors intentions; for example the use of colour and emotive language on a political website. Students could create their own website showing a different view to that of another website. By comparing two websites on the same subject, students can compare similarities and differences, and relate these to the authors intentions. Bogus websites are a fantastic resource to challenge students ideas about the reliability of online information. The Sellafield Zoo website is a fantastic example. Lesson ideas include carrying out further research on the nuclear disaster described or on the credentials of Mr Travis Beauchamps. Students could generate a list of clues that indicate the site might be false, and then perhaps create their own bogus animal and create a convincing publishable profile for their creature.
Fellowes, J. & Oakley, G. (2010). Language Literacy and Early Childhood Education. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.