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Entries in Schools (17)


Great internet age divide is a myth: children no better with technology than adults, claims Google scientist

This recent Herald newspaper article Great internet age divide is a myth by Andrew Denholm brought a knowing smile to my lips.

The article was about Dr Dan Russell a senior research scientist for internet search company Google, who was 'visiting Scotland to deliver a lecture in the importance of digital literacy at Strathclyde University, Glasgow'. 

He said: "There is a myth about the digital native and the Google generation kid who, because they are young, are seen as being more computer literate than their parents, but that is totally wrong.

"Kids can be very fluid and fast with computers, but they are only fast when they are doing something they have had a lot of practice in."

Haven't we been saying that since the digital generation was first spouted? 

The article goes on to say that

'Mr Russell said research showed the way younger users of technology learned skills came from interactions with their friends rather than formal education.

"This is a huge disservice because, certainly in the US, lots of colleges have stopped their information retrieval courses and they assume falsely that students know this stuff and I think it is pretty clear they don't."

Sound familiar? I'm sure it does. What springs to mind is head teachers who don't think schools need school libraries or school librarians - just a computer centre, as everything is on the internet and young people know have to use computers ... 

As he says "We are doing a terrible disservice to our students by not making research a crucial element of the curriculum. It has to be because, in a world where these things are changing rapidly, if you don't have the skills to be able to keep up you will be stuck in the past." I would endorse that but also include information literacy as a crucial element. 

According to the article 'Mr Russell's talk explored the changing definition of literacy at a time when it is possible to search billions of texts in milliseconds over the internet.' and that:

"Although you might think literacy is one of the great constants that transcends the ages, the skills of a literate person have changed substantially over time as texts and technology allow for new kinds of reading and understanding.

"Knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, how to interpret the texts you find, how to organise and use the information you discover are all critical parts of being literate as well."

Sounds like information literacy to me ....

I looked at the online article comments - not surprisingly they were about computers and programming in my opion completely missing the skills point. 


ECIL Conference Dubrovnik 20-23rd October 2014

The second European conference on information literacy took place in Dubrovnik this year. Bill Johnston was the rapporteur for the conference this year and with his permission I enclose his summary of all 175 abstracts from the conference. It is an excellent summary of the conference content.

John Crawford

ECIL 2014

Commentary on the Abstracts

Bill Johnston, Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Strathclyde, Scotland, UK 

The following impressions are based on my reading of the abstracts for papers, posters, pecha kucha sessions, workshops and panels accepted for ECIL 2014. 

During the conference I will be accessing a variety of sessions in order to present my further impressions and conclusions in the closing session of the conference.  I look forward to meeting colleagues and hearing their views on the current status of information literacy and the directions for future research, practice and advocacy.  

Introduction – What are we talking about in 2014?

The elements which constitute information literacy, as described in the abstracts, are mainly based on long-standing accounts of information literacy, such as those entailed in the ACRL Standards, Big6 model and other professional contributions. Consequently ‘assessing’ ‘searching’ ’ managing’ ‘evaluating’ ‘applying’ etc. are recurring key terms used to express the concept of information literacy.  Additional terms in use include:

  • digital literacy;
  • health literacy;
  • visual literacy;
  • infographics;
  • media and information literacy;
  • information behaviour;
  • trans-literacy;
  • post-literacy.  

This range of terms suggests an opportunity for a focused debate on the nature and scope of information literacy at this point in time. 

A frequently used framing strategy in the writing of the abstracts is to position the significance of information literacy in relation to broader notions of: 

  • information society;
  • digital society;
  • multimedia society;
  • knowledge economy;
  • the 21st century.  

These entities may suggest a relatively homogeneous perspective, with connotations of a particular kind of socio-technological formation and political economy.  However complementary and alternative conceptions of information literacy are represented in the abstracts, which should serve to extend the discussion. For example:  

  • indigenous perspectives;
  • post-colonial experiences; 
  • critical information literacy;
  • socio-cultural  interpretations of information literacy;
  • radical information literacy;
  • Green perspective.

Again an opportunity to discuss where and how information literacy connects to wider social and economic formulations and movements.  

In essence we have the opportunity to talk about not only the micro levels of information literacy experiences, individual’s searching for example, but also the broader social, cultural and historical contexts that encompass them. 

Methodological Features

A number of studies are founded on research, with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods in use.   Research approaches and designs include:  

  • correlations between a chosen population’s perceptions and capacities, and an established professional/governmental framework for information literacy;
  • comparative evaluations of specific technologies and course designs;
  • phenomenography;
  • ethnography;
  • action research;
  • grounded theory;
  • bibliometric analysis and systematic literature reviews 

Equally a number of the studies offer detailed accounts of projects, new service designs and collaborative initiatives aimed at improving practice and raising the profile of information literacy in particular institutions. 


The bulk of contributions is from higher education institutions and mainly constituted by examples from university library practice. They illuminate multiple aspects of academic practice including:

  • adoption of educational theory and concepts as a basis for pedagogical decision making;
  • introduction of relatively new constructs, such as ‘Threshold Concepts’;
  • expanding/evaluating the range of technologies, particularly mobile devices, entailed by blended learning;
  • gameification of instructional design and teaching practice;
  • emphasis on active, collaborative, inquiry-based pedagogy to engender independent learning, critical thinking and a wider range of academic and professional skill;
  • acknowledgment of the importance of systematic course design as a key element of academic practice;
  • focus on assessment of learning;
  • specific initiatives for postgraduates and post doctoral students;
  • discipline specific examples, including LIS education programmes;
  • dealing with plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Dissatisfaction with ‘one-shot’ teaching sessions is evident and linked to moves to develop longer sequences of integrated activities, with a much greater engagement with disciplinary and professional curricula and university-wide values and strategic objectives.  Consequently there is attention to larger units of analysis and action such as Freshman/First Year Experience initiatives, and institution/department-wide reform and re-design of curricula.

It seems clear that many university librarians are determined to make their universities more information literate, and to do this by moving their teaching and instructional services forward as part of educational development in their organisations. 

Primary and Secondary Schools 

A significant number of contributions focus on this sector and include:

  • implementation of national curricula;
  • teacher/librarian collaboration;
  • inclusion of parents and families in supporting pupils;
  • online ‘risks’ and ‘safety’;
  • entailing information and other literacies in curricula and school practice;
  • measures to improve pupil information literacy; 

Public Libraries

Whilst there are a small number of contributions, there is a strong sense of ‘mission’ to provide information rich environments for the widest range of patrons to meet their varied purposes, and to foster the skilled use of information technologies in the service of that mission.  There is an equally strong sense of combating inequality and helping marginalised sections of the community.   Given the capacity of public libraries to impact large and varied populations, the number of contributions should not be taken as a potential weakness for the conference.

National Studies

A variety of studies are provided including: 

  • information literacy in citizen development;
  • public libraries contribution to socioeconomic inclusion;
  • sectoral and cross-sectoral overviews of information literacy policy and practice;
  • whole age group studies;
  • specialist groups studies;
  • historical accounts of information literacy;
  • development of a professional community of practice for information literacy;
  • database development;
  • implications of copyright legislation.

The range of national origins of these contributions goes beyond the formal borders of Europe and underlines the strong international character of the conference.


The themes I identified are diverse; some are discussed singly in their own right, whilst others are entailed in particular contexts.  Themes include:

  • nature and definition of information literacy;
  • relations between research and practice;
  • nature and meaning of ‘reading’ in understanding information literacy;
  • implications of changes in copyright arrangements in digital publishing;
  • generational approaches, seniors as well as younger age groups;
  • media socialisation.

Conclusion – Where are we going in 2014?

It is difficult to sum up the riches promised by the abstracts, however my short formulation of the direction of travel is – creating information literacy and lifelong learning for digital citizenship in the 21st century.


Bill Johnston



Exploring child information poverty, looking at children’s access (or lack of) to information, in particular children living in poverty.

Just reading the latest posting from 23 (more) librarians Frances - doctoral researcher about 'Exploring child information poverty, looking at children’s access (or lack of) to information, in particular children living in poverty' a doctoral research by Frances Breslin (University of Strathclyde). 

Frances post really interested me form several points. Firstly that it is information literacy orientated and secondly it is research focused and like me has become a PhD student.

Frances is at the early stages.

I am currently undertaking my literature review in which I justify my research, set parameters and seek information to assist my research.  This stage feels like a personal treasure hunt, I am looking to know more about certain topics and have to navigate a sea of information to track down what is pertinent. 

I look forward to hearing more about Frances research / PhD and are now following her on Twitter @FBreslinDavda  

if you haven't heard of the 23 librarians blog and 23 (more) librarians then I would recommend it 


Impact of school libraries on learning 

Impact of school libraries on learning

On the 19th of June I attended a workshop on the impact of school libraries on learning. It was held at Edinburgh Central Library and was led by Dorothy Williams, Caroline Wavell and Katie Cooper. It was prompted by the publication of a report, commissioned by the Scottish Library and Information Council.

It is a follow up to a study completed in 2001 and reviews some 64 impact studies, undertaken between 2001 and 2013. Rather disturbingly most of these studies were undertaken in the US with much less work being done in the UK. The evidence from Scotland is thin with more work needing to be done in this area. However positive outcomes from the study are:

  • Higher test or exam scores equating to academic attainment: this includes academic attainment in the form of higher standardised test scores in reading, language arts, history and maths, and better grades in curriculum assignments or exams;
  • Successful curriculum or learning outcomes, including information literacy: this includes higher quality project work, the development and practice of information literacy, increased knowledge and reading development;
  • Positive attitudes towards learning: including increased motivation, improved attitude towards learning tasks, self-esteem, and wider reading for pleasure

Most of the attendees were school librarians. The day was spent identifying impact factors and planning collection of evidence to support impact studies in Scotland. Priority areas for impact measurement included values, achievement/attainment, the reading culture and learning through information (information literacy).  In the afternoon we discussed planning for collection of evidence in Scottish schools. My group discussed information literacy so I felt I had something to contribute.

It was interesting after attending the DigiScotFest event the same issues to do with website blocking were discussed at length.

John Crawford



LILAC 2014 presentations - Thursday 24th April

In addition to presenting at LILAC I attended other parallel sessions on the Thursday. I also tweeted at the sessions and or retweeted others. The Twitter feed was #lilac2014 -it is worth a look. 

As usual I picked sessions that were not mainstream for LILAC - these were:

From local to global: sharing good practice in information literacy - the session discussed recent initiatives to facilitate the sharing of information literacy teaching materials as open educational resources both in the UK between librarians from all sectors and internationally. Not surprisingly there is a 'small group of people sharing' and a larger number viewing. This reflects email discussion lists and our own community of practice and the handful of people who blog. What's happening with the professional voicer online? 

I was interested to hear that the CILIP IL subgroup that aims to support and encourage the development and sharing of information literacy teaching materials as open educational resources is looking at creating a website for their Community of Practice. The group discussion about why people are or are not sharing was similar to a discussion I had held at an EU workshop earlier in the year. Similar reasons given. 

Dialogism, Mikhail Bakhtin and information literacy

Drew (Andrew) Whitworth's presentation was a theoretical look at IL where he looked at 'new theories of IL and discussed implications for practice'. Whilst some of the articles he spoke about were new to me - many of his implications for practice were not as I and John Crawford have been saying this for years based on our research and experience e.g.

  • IL is for all it can be taught anywhere workplace
  • Don't just look for IL as the library defines it.

He has a new book coming out 'Radical Information Literacy' it is a Chandos Publication.

Embedded information literacy in the 21st century curriculum

Good to see a school librarian Darren Flynn, Dixons Allerton Academy presenting at LILAC. I was interested to hear that the library has the 'largest teaching space in the school'. Other aspects were familiar issues such as 'pupils need to be more independent learners', linking IL to the curriculum, 'project based learning where pupils have to come up with their own driving question'.