It seems that I get irked more easily these days. Something others might find innocent or bland I take as pernicious. I now subscribe to Inside Higher Ed’s Daily Update and one of today’s items is mentioned as follows:
Colleges urged to teach information literacy by embracing the learning styles of video games. more
This line so annoyed me. I found it inane. I’ll explain why in a bit. But let me first point out other recent remarks I’ve found equally ridiculous. In arguing against the Senate’s recent measure to toughen CAFE Standards, Rich Lowery on the News Hour said that even if the standards improved fuel efficiency they’d have negligible impact because people will drive more. Oh my! (Presumably, smart consumers compute a cost per mile by dividing the price of gas by the car’s fuel efficiency and when the cost per mile goes up, for example as has happened recently with pump prices, we drive less and when that goes down, we get the opposite effect. But it is more complex than that, for example because driving can be a substitute for flying, the demand for which is also affected by the price of gas, and further, we really don’t know what the demand elasticity is, nor do we know what will happen to future prices at the pump.)
And then there is Vice President Cheney’s argument that his office is not part of the Executive Branch because the Vice President is also President of the Senate, proving once again that the real sin of power is hubris and that the exercise of hubris leads to outcomes that can’t pass a reasonable man test. (This is not an academic debate. At issue is whether the Vice President’s office must comply with and Executive Order requiring all “entities” in the Executive Branch to, on an annual basis, turn over classified information to the Information Security Oversight Office, a unit of the National Archives. The Vice President has wanted to keep these documents secret. And let’s recall that Scooter Libby worked for Cheney, so he seems well past the point of deserving the benefit of doubt on this one.) This incident makes you feel that instead of teaching Checks and Balances in grade school they should have the kids go straight to reading The Prince.
Second, if you do follow the “more” link at the end of the Inside Higher Ed blurb to get to the actual article by Scott Jaschik, you will find that the expression “information literacy” is not mentioned even once. Whoever cooked up that blurb must have surmised that all instruction Libraries provide for students falls under the mantle of “teaching information literacy.” Perhaps that’s true, but perhaps not.
The message of the article itself is mostly benign --- the Library as
The irony to me is that none of this seems like promoting information literacy and much of it seems like escapism. I’m quite ok with escapism and do my fair share of indulging. But what about information literacy? Is that still on the radar for Libraries? Does any of what is being advocated by James Paul Gee, George M. Needham, and others have anything to do with teaching information literacy?
I want to move from ALA’s orientation to information literacy, to my own and in doing so I want to return to the title of this post. In my way of thinking about information literacy we enter situations with a prior world view based on what we’ve experienced, what we’ve been taught, what we’ve argued with others, and what we’ve reflected on by ourselves. When we confront a new piece of information we do so with that prior world view operating in the background. We test the new piece of information. Does it fit? Does it contradict what we believe to be true? Is it redundant or does it add something new? Then, if it seems new and especially if it seems to contradict something else we believe, we perform other tests. Does the author of the content stand to gain from having you believe one thing or another? Are there others saying the same thing? Where do those others fit in the political spectrum? Has the author or any of these others said different things that you’ve come to believe are true? What else would I have to believe to make this true?
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of questions but rather was intended simply to open up the process that we go through when we speak of information literacy. Much of the time that process is implicit. We don’t actually make such a list of questions but we do zero in on whether the information is to be trusted as well as how we can incorporate it into our world view.
Information literacy is the critical issue of our times and, in truth, we’re failing at it. But it’s not just our students. Think of WMD and
But don’t just consider information literacy from the perspective of national politics. Think about it in your job. Ask whether non-learning technology types (other IT professionals, Deans and Provosts, faculty) are sympathetic to learning technology or not. Consider the furor over the Gorman posts about blogging.
Then think about information literacy in other aspects of your life. Think about the Lincoln quote on fooling some of the people, and ask whether the insidious effort to get Intelligent Design taught in the K-12 science curriculum as an alternative to
We’ve become a society where debate is absent; marketing prevails instead, the promotion of Madison Avenue, the White House, Fox News; the source matters not. It is the style of presentation that matters. How are we to evaluate that content? We’ve matured to the point where humor and lampooning seemingly have more credibility than straight news.
Then return to students in the classroom and ask about the “Will this be on the test?” mindset and the “I don’t know what you want” type of frustration that students express when they are receiving instruction from a faculty member. Ask whether students surrender their own world view in this classroom setting because survival in school qua grades seemingly demands it.
And with that brief tour of information literacy you’re now ready to consider where video games fit in. To me, they don’t. That’s why I got my dander up.