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What is Information Literacy?

“Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning.”(1)

The Presidential Committee on Information Literacy defined information literacy as a set of skills, which require an individual to:

“recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”(2)

In January of 2000, the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education were approved and in February of 2004, the American Association for Higher Education and the Council of Independent Colleges endorsed them.(3) The Standards dictate that an information literate person:

  • Determines the nature and extent of information needed
  • Accesses the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system
  • Uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and accesses and uses information ethically and legally

Information literacy can no longer be defined without considering technology literacy in order for individuals to function in an information-rich, technology-infused world . The National Higher Education Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Initiative has developed a definition of literacy for the 21st century which combines cognitive and technical skills with an ethical/legal understanding of information.

ICT proficiency is the ability to use digital technology, communication tools, and/or networks to define an information need, access, manage, integrate and evaluate information, create new information or knowledge and be able to communicate this information to others.(4)

You will neither become information literate nor communication technology literate overnight. Just as with speaking skills and writing skills, your abilities will improve over time as you gain expertise in the topics you choose to investigate. This process will give you practice in searching for, selecting and evaluating the information you encounter and will allow you to create new ideas, which you communicate to others using a variety of technological tools.

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