Information Literacy Videos

Transliteracy and Millennial Students’ Mental Models of Search

 

"Concept Mapping" (2009). CC image courtesy of yish on Flickr

One of the common criticisms of transliteracy is that “we can’t describe what a transliterate person looks like.” As far as I’m concerned, this is criticism is rooted in a simple category mistake: people aren’t transliterate, transliteracy is a cognitive function. That is, transliteracy is best understood as a cognitive skill or ability, one that can and should be emphasized in our information literacy curriculum. This is why I think that Lucy Holman’s recent article1 in The Journal of Academic Librarianship is especially important for those interested in transliteracy.

In the latest issue of the JAL, Holman has provided valuable, empirical research into the nature and content of the mental models used by student researchers. The concept of mental models has a long history in information literacy. For example, Holman references Brandt’s (1997) constructivist approach2 of “connecting students’ existing mental models (for example, use of a telephone directory) to that of an online index” (p. 20). Appealing to mental models is a core aspect of successful information literacy. Yet, as Holman’s research suggests, the most common approaches to information literacy instruction are rooted in a print-based mental model of online searching that is at odds with “millennials’ own mental models of Internet-based information retrieval with engines that more accurately and effectively parse a simpler, more natural language query” (pp. 25-26). Holman concludes by advocating that information literacy instruction shift focus from search strategies to evaluation, which is nothing new, but in rooting this shift in mental models she has provided an excellent proving ground for transliteracy-based instruction.

Put simply, students’ mental models of effective research practices are both poorly constructed and wildly divergent. Library instructors need to address this, and many do: the idea of connecting mental models (the telephone directory to online index example) is well-established in information literacy, but the increasing complexity (and the increasing number) of research avenues has lead to a need for a more nuanced approach that is independent of any particular mental model. If we could address how students construct and apply these models, it may make a world of difference in library instruction.

Elsewhere, I have argued that transliteracy is about linguistic competency, and one of the basic features of linguistic competency is the ability to construct mental models. Moreover, with each new information system or domain we encounter, we add to our available mental models. Google, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, Quora, JSTOR, etc…each either creates a new mental model, or affects an existing mental model, of how an information system behaves. For example, my mental model of how Wikipedia works is playing a part in how I approach Quora. In turn, Quora itself might lead me to a new model of understanding information-seeking behavior. The ability to construct and evaluate effective mental models is key in transliteracy instruction, so it follows that transliteracy may yet prove itself as that more nuanced approach to addressing the problems Holman identifies.

Whether you like the term ‘transliteracy’ or not, Holman’s research provides substantive evidence that the underlying concepts are important.

1Holman, Lucy. “Millennial Students’ Mental Models of Search: Implications for Academic Librarians and Database Developers.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 37, no. 1 (2011): 19-27.

2Brandt, D. Scott. “Constructivism: Teaching for Understanding of the Internet.” Communications of the ACM 40, no. 10 (1997): 112-117.

Why transliteracy?

I think I’ll back off the technical writing from the previous post and go from the gut in response to a common concern that keeps on cropping up in the general discussion about transliteracy. David Rothman frames the issue this way:

I can’t find anything on Libraries and Transliteracy that makes a compelling case for why the word should matter to librarians or what it means to you all aside from the need for libraries to be active in working with patrons in the use of new technologies (which is right, good, and almost universally agreed-upon without the need for the word ‘transliteracy’).

I can’t speak for everyone at Libraries and Transliteracy, but I can at least give a justification for why I am interested in transliteracy and why I think it is an important concept for librarians.

Read the rest of this entry »

Information is Always Evolving

The video below was made in 2007, the same year the term Transliteracy was coined by Production and Research in Transliteracy (PART).  It was created by Dr. Michael Wesch to show the way we find, house, and share information was changing.

Now in 2010, the video and its content are still relevant  This video really shows how the transliterate individual can do so much with the access to information we now have.  In addition to this, the video shows a clear need to educate people on how to transverse this now limitless sea of information. I think that this is where Participatory Librarianship and Transliteracy go hand in hand.  We need to understand how to help or patrons, students, friends, family, and colleagues become cognizant and comfortable with the tools they will need to communicate and collaborate with others.

Infowhelm and Information Fluency

An interesting look at the amount of information we as a society are producing each year from the 21st Century Fluency Project

via Information Literacy meets Library 2.0

Information Literacy for the 21st Century

This presentation was given by Sheila Webber at the 10th INFORUM conference held in Prague, Czech Republic, 25-27 May.

She also wrote a short paper to accompany it (pdf)  in which she expands the definition of information literacy

“Information Literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to identify, through  whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, leading to wise and ethical use of information in society.”

Appropriate information behaviour means IB that is best for the context. If your context is writing an essay at university, searching electronic journals may be best. If you are seeking information about using Google Docs to share material, then you might go to a specialist online discussion group for advice.

Webber outlines 7 key aspects of 21st century information literacy:

  • IL as context specific and context sensitive;
  • IL demanding a variety of behaviours: not just searching, but also encountering, browsing, monitoring, managing and creating;
  • People moving along complex paths to meet their information needs: moving between the virtual and physical worlds, and using different sources and spaces;
  • IL in digital environments;
  • IL with people sources;
  • People being information literate individually and collaboratively
  • People being aware they are information literate: you cannot be an information literate 21st Century citizen without being conscious of the need to develop these IL skills and attitudes, and continue to update your IL through your life!

Libraries and Librarians as Sponsors of Transliteracy

This week I shared two presentations in which I outline how libraries can function as sponsors of transliteracy.  The first slidedeck was developed for a brief talk at Computers in Libraries 2010, and the second slidedeck is an expanded version delivered at a preconference session of the Alabama Library Association Annual Convention.  This resource page, while geared for the initial talk, also provides support for the second slidedeck.

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