Information Literacy In the 21st century

In the 21st century, it is important to be able to research and make wise decisions based on reliable information. In fact, employers have high expectations regarding their employees’ abilities to research. As discussed in the Post Your Introduction forum, due to the overwhelming amount of information available, researching and locating reliable sources to guide decision-making can be very challenging. Let’s examine in this discussion the challenges of research and how developing information literacy skills can help.Prepare: Read Module 1 of your textbook to learn more about information literacy. Next, read the At Sea in a Deluge of Data article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. This article details the research expectations employers have of new employees hired in the digital age. Reflect: Consider your reaction to the information in the article, At Sea in a Deluge of Data, and Module 1 and identify areas that you connected with the most. Based on the article and Module 1 of your text, consider how information literacy skills can impact being a critical consumer of information. Write: With Module 1 of the textbook and the article, you explored in mind, answer the following questions in your discussion post:Based on the information you read in Chapter 1 of your textbook and the At Sea in a Deluge of Data article, how would you define information literacy?How can improving your information literacy skills help you in being a critical consumer of information, in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, and in your professional career ambitions?Your initial post should contain a minimum of 350 words written in complete sentences. It must answer all aspects of the prompt (refer to “Think about it this way” below). It must be posted by 11:59 p.m. Thursday evening. Correctly cite the source of any information that you use in your post. Guided Response: You must reply to at least two classmates. As you reply to your classmates, attempt to extend the conversation by examining their claims or arguments in more depth or by responding to the posts that they make to you. Keep the discussion on target and try to analyze things in as much detail as you can. For instance, you might consider sharing additional ways that information literacy skills can help them be critical consumers of information.Think about it this way…This discussion is asking you to do six things.Read Module 1 in your textbook and the At Sea in a Deluge of Data article.Based on your textbook and the article, write a paragraph explaining how you would define information literacy.Answer the question, “How can improving your information skills help you in being a critical consumer of information?”Answer the question, “How can improving your information skills help you in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge?”Answer the question, “How can improving your information skills help you in your career ambitions?


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Skill in finding useful information and a sense of what to trust will prove essential in the 21st-century
workplace. Librarians can play a crucial role in training students accordingly.
This spring, more college students than ever received baccalaureate degrees, and their career
prospects are brighter than they were for last year’s graduates.
Employers responding to this year’s National Association of Colleges and Employers’ “Job Outlook
2014 Survey” said they planned to increase entry-level hiring by almost 8 percent. But what they
may not realize is that these seemingly techno-savvy new hires could be missing some basic yet
vital research skills.
It’s a problem that we found after interviewing 23 people in charge of hiring at leading employers like
Microsoft, KPMG, Nationwide Insurance, the Smithsonian, and the FBI. This research was part of a
federally funded study for Project Information Literacy, a national study about how today’s college
students find and use information.
Nearly all of the employers said they expected candidates, whatever their field, to be able to search
online, a given for a generation born into the Internet world. But they also expected job candidates to
be patient and persistent researchers and to be able to retrieve information in a variety of formats,
identify patterns within an array of sources, and dive deeply into source material.
Most important, though, employers said they need workers who can collaborate with colleagues to
solve problems and who can engage in thoughtful analysis and integrate contextual organizational
details rarely found online.
Many employers said their fresh-from-college hires frequently lack deeper and more traditional skills
in research and analysis. Instead, the new workers default to quick answers plucked from the
Internet. That method might be fine for looking up a definition or updating a fact, but for many tasks,
it proved superficial and incomplete.
It turns out that students are poorly trained in college to effectively navigate the Internet’s
indiscriminate glut of information.
Another Project Information Literacy study, involving more than 8,300 undergraduates at 25
American colleges, found that most make do with a very small compass. They rely on tried and true
resources such as course readings, library databases, Google, and Wikipedia.
Only 20 percent of the students said they ever sought help from librarians, the mavens of searching
and finding in the digital age, especially when it comes to learning how to “ping pong” effectively and
strategically among offline sources, experts, and online information, blending the full range of
knowledge sources in all their forms.
The skills that students cultivate through traditional assignments–writing essays based on library
research–are far different from those required to perform efficient, high-level, accurate research in
the digital world. All of those types of research skills take practice under the eye of experts.
Sharon Weiner, a professor of library science at Purdue University, has argued that those essential
core competencies belong not to any single discipline, but to all of them.
This skills gap is not necessarily the fault of faculty members, administrators, librarians, or even
students themselves. Part of the blame lies with the crowded information landscape that students
inhabit today.
Knowledge work–processing information and thinking for a living–is faster in the 21st century, and
meaning and credibility are more fluid and tougher to ascertain than they were in the 20th century.
Frequently now, subjects are, as the information-technology thinker David Weinberger put it, “too big
to know.” One undergraduate we interviewed told us that while traditional research skills still matter,
“the hardest part of research is figuring out the question to ask.”
While students will always need to think critically and ask the right questions, emerging in this new
world is the need for a skill set we call “knowledge in action,” a kind of athletics of the mind aided by
Internet-enabled devices, search engines, and pools of data from a wide variety of outlets.
We recognize knowledge in action when we see it done effectively, but too many professors don’t
teach this fundamental skill systematically and progressively as part of an academic program. Sure,
students know how to use keywords and how to refine searches. But imagine that you’re Googling
“vaccine autism” or “violent video game” or any other hot topic. You’ll soon be flooded with a torrent
of conflicting findings, many not credible. Knowledge in action means being able to sort through that
growing thicket of information. This is a lifelong learning skill, crucial to health, wealth, social
equality, and well-being. In an era of partisan fog and the polarization of many subjects, it is a skill
vital for effective citizenship.
This goes well beyond search techniques. Engaging knowledge at the speed of the web takes three
additional things, which tend to be separate in our curricula rather than integrated: a basic
understanding of statistics and inference; a sense of the major research institutions–a basic
understanding of what it means when you see results attached to URL’s such as “,” “”
or “” and how those institutions produce knowledge; and a sense of how the
scientific method works and what it means to test a hypothesis with data.
Further, because our web experience will increasingly be personalized through algorithms that key
off of everything from geolocation to our prior digital traces, students must learn to recognize the
limits of their online environment and to seek information creatively outside of channels that serve up
results skewed by Internet companies and other paternalistic, biased, or profit-driven gatekeepers.
Yet from community colleges to the Ivy League, a significant learning gap is widening. Librarians,
trained in both digital and print research techniques, are in the best position to step into the breach.
But that will require more support for library services at a time when budgets are under siege. And it
will take an administrative commitment to ensure that training is incorporated comprehensively
throughout the curricula.
This is not to say that everyone must develop the hybrid expertise of an investigative journalist, highlevel consultant, or front-line infectious-disease analyst. But that blend of speed, smarts, and
problem solving will prove essential in the 21st-century workplace for effective and informed
decision-making, creative solutions to problems in both science and public policy, and breakthrough
discoveries and innovations.
Alison J. Head is director of Project Information Literacy, a research scientist at the University of
Washington’s Information School, and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
John Wihbey is managing editor of, a project of the Kennedy School’s
Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, and a lecturer in journalism at Boston University.
Credit: By Alison J. Head and John Wihbey
Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle; Caption: At Sea in a Deluge of Data 1
Word count: 1105
(Copyright Jul. 07, 2014 by The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Module 1
Introduction to Information Literacy
Learning Outcomes
• Define information literacy.
• Explain the benefits of becoming information literate.
• Compare and contrast the four skills needed for information literacy.
• Provide an overview of the five steps of the research process.
• Describe how to develop a research question.
• Compare and contrast various characteristics of information.
• Identify different print and electronic resources.
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Module 1 introduces you to the concept of information literacy and to the Association of College and Research Libraries information literacy framework. After defining information literacy, the module explains how improving your own information literacy can enrich your personal, professional, and academic life. The module also describes the skills needed to become
information literate. It then provides a brief overview of the research process, and lastly, an
introduction to different characteristics and formats of information.
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©Credit Goes Here
1.1 What IsTitle
Goes Literacy
and Why Does
HereIt Matter?
Your Roadmap to Success: Section 1.1
Learning Outcome #1: Define information literacy.
Why is this important?
Mastering this learning outcome will give you a critical foundation: It is the first step to
success in this course. As an example of this outcome’s importance, consider Marisa, a new
student at Ashford. Learning the definition of information literacy got her excited to be a
student again and expand her mind, and her world, through her studies. She also got an A on
her first quiz, which asked her to define information literacy!
How does it relate to your success in this course?
This section’s learning outcome is associated with the following course learning outcome:
Analyze the concept and value of information literacy for successful lifelong learning. Mastering this learning outcome is essential to your success as a student; it will increase your
chances of getting good grades and will increase your capacity to learn to your full potential
in your academic, personal, and professional lives.
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1.1 What Is Information Literacy and Why Does It Matter?
Learning Outcome #2: Explain the benefits of becoming information literate.
Why is this important?
Mastering this learning outcome will help you understand information literacy in a way
that is relevant and meaningful to you. For Clifford, becoming information literate meant
more than just learning how to find the information he needed to complete his assignments
at Ashford. Clifford believes becoming information literate has helped him to locate more
resources and ideas to assist his son who has learning disabilities.
How does this relate to your success in this course?
This section’s learning outcome is associated with the following course learning outcome:
Analyze the concept and value of information literacy for successful lifelong learning. Mastering this learning outcome is essential to your success as a student; it will increase your
chances of getting good grades and will increase your capacity to learn to your full potential
in your academic, personal, and professional lives.
To review the course learning outcomes and their relevance to you, see the Your Roadmap to
Success feature at the beginning of this book. Best of luck on your journey to success!
Take a deep breath and slowly look around you. What do you see? Mostly likely, copious
amounts of different types of information surround you. In addition to the laptop or other
device you’re using to read this text, you might have a yearly planner, your smart phone, a
magazine, or a book lying beside you. Now take a moment and listen to the sounds around
you. You may hear a television in the background, perhaps with commercials or news
updates, or music, or traffic outside. The point of this brief exercise is for you to take notice
and acknowledge the amount and variety of information permeating your life. Some of it may
be in a ­physical form, and some of it digital. The way you take in, process, evaluate, and use the
information around you determines your own personal level of information literacy.
What Is Information Literacy?
Information literacy is the ability to identify a need for information and successfully locate,
evaluate, and use that information ethically and legally for a determined purpose. For this
course we’ll focus on information literacy regarding your research papers for school. But
information literacy is important in all aspects of life. Being information literate can help you
research schools to find the one that’s best for your child, find the right sources to determine
whether a folk remedy is a valid treatment for illness, compare products critically to find the
best value, and think creatively to solve problems.
Recently, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), developed an information literacy framework that expands on
this definition (Figure 1.1). The framework identifies six threshold concepts meant to guide
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1.1 What Is Information Literacy and Why Does It Matter?
Figure 1.1 Information literacy framework
Research =
inquiry =
Information =
value =
Scholarship =
Authority =
& contextual
constructed & contextual
Information creation
= a process
= a process
Searching =
strategic exploration
Source: Association of College and Research Libraries. (2014). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Retrieved
students in the process of becoming lifelong learners through the acquisition of information
literacy skills (ACRL, 2015). A threshold concept is a central or main idea within a specific
subject that can transform your perception of that subject, as it becomes integrated into your
way of thinking (Booth & Mathews, 2012). The ACRL’s six threshold concepts are
1. Research as inquiry: The research process is all about asking questions. Good
research questions are dynamic and change according to the results of background
research. As the understanding of a research topic increases, so should the quality of the research question. You will explore this concept in more depth later in
the module, where you will learn how to develop a research question and conduct
background research. You also will explore the different characteristics and formats
of information that can be used to help answer your research question.
2. Scholarship as conversation: Experts within a field communicate to share information, debate their ideas, and gain understanding. They often contest each other’s
ideas and seek out the opinions of other scholars within their fields to test these
ideas. This concept will be discussed further later in the module, where you will
learn the difference between scholarly and popular information sources and where
to locate them. It is explored further in Module 4.
3. Information creation as a process: Information is presented in different formats
because of the purpose of its creation. Considering the creation process of information types will help you select appropriate sources. Later in the module you will
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1.1 What Is Information Literacy and Why Does It Matter?
learn more about this concept and be introduced to formats of print, multimedia,
and digital resources.
4. Searching as strategic exploration: The one perfect source that answers all
aspects of your research question most likely does not exist. Instead, you will need
to gather bits and pieces of information from various sources. When researching,
explore many different formats of information. Module 2 provides more information
about this concept and introduces you to strategic searching in a digital library.
5. Authority is constructed and contextual: All information sources are not created equal. Reliable sources come from authors with experience and expertise, also
known as an authority, in the subject area they are writing about. This concept is
further discussed in Module 3, which covers what gives an author the authority or
credibility to write on a particular topic. Module 3 also introduces a set of criteria
that you can use to evaluate sources you find on the Internet.
6. Information has value: Information has value for the author, society, and the publisher. In many ways, it can be considered a commodity. Information can have a monetary value, an educational value, and also a transformation value. Module 5 explores
this concept further, including an introduction to copyright and correctly crediting
your sources.
These six threshold concepts encompass what it means to be information literate in the 21st
century. You may have noticed that these concepts do not exist in isolation, and there is bound
to be some overlap between them. As you master these concepts, your information literacy
skills will improve, along with your effectiveness as a student and working professional.
It is important to note that information literacy is not the same as computer literacy. Often
there is confusion between the two. Computer literacy is the fluent use of technology over a
range of platforms. In contrast, information literacy is the fluent use of information over a
range of environments. It’s quite possible you may be an expert in using computers and a novice in using information. Although a certain level of computer skill is mandatory for accessing
information online, information literacy is a much broader competency.
Why Is Information Literacy Important?
Do you still subscribe to physical newspapers and magazines? Or do you choose to access this
content online through your computer, iPad, tablet, or smart phone? Today, more information is produced in a digital format without a physical counterpart than ever before. Consider
the technological advances you’ve witnessed in the past 10 years. How have they changed
your daily routines? Have you learned new skills to keep up with the technology? What about
learning new skills to process the increased amount of information you encounter daily? As
new websites and new technologies are introduced every day, the need for information literacy is greater than ever.
As you continue to progress through life, the amount of information produced will continue
to increase at an incredible rate. Much of this information will be published on the Internet
without any verification or vetting process. The volume of this information contributes to our
feelings of information overload and the need to make quick decisions about what sources of
information to use. When you are information literate, you have the skills to recognize when
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1.1 What Is Information Literacy and Why Does It Matter?
information is needed and have the ability to efficiently locate this information. Once you’ve
located the information, you are able to analyze, evaluate, and have confidence in your ability
to use this information creatively, ethically, and effectively.
Another benefit of developing information literacy is that it places you on the path toward
becoming a lifelong learner. This is the deliberate act of choosing to learn new ideas and
concepts throughout your life. Lifelong learners embrace the process and challenges associated with acquiring new knowledge. They have a growth mindset in that they seek out
opportunities to learn new things and put forth the effort to do so. Reflect upon the following
quote from the ALA:
Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to
learn. …
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