Back in familiar territory for me, as a librarian. Thus the coziness of the post.
I read through and listened to a smattering of the links for this week. How funny to be directed to the new ACRL Information Literacy Framework. It’s a bit of a controversial document still within academic libraries – stirs up a lot of strong feelings. Instruction is a secondary task for me, so I don’t personally think about it as much as my colleague does since he is primarily involved with instruction.
The content that sticks out the most to me is the whole idea of fake news and evaluating content. I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to emphasize this in my instruction as I think it helps with that motivation piece for students learning how to do evaluation. For myself, I have not in the recent past been very engaged politically. During the recent election cycle, however, I tried to do better as a citizen than I have in the past. This process involved reading and reading a lot. I find myself not fitting nicely in any one political group, and I wanted to intentionally read from multiple points of view. What I really wanted to find was a source (podcast, web site, news source, whatever) that would actually provide both “sides” to any given story. The best I could come up with is www.allsides.com which is still a bit clunky. I’ve also tried KCRW Left, Right, and Center, which I did enjoy, but it didn’t go to the level of depth I was looking for. If anyone knows of something that does strive for deep analysis that provides multiple perspectives, please share. What I have landed on is reading/listening to a lot of things. I listen to Decode DC and a National Review podcast called The Editors. I read the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, and Politico to name a few. I look at Politifact and FactCheck to check on politician claims. This is not to say I listen to every single episode or read every article, but the bit I do is time consuming enough. I have family and friends that run the gamut on politics, so relying on one perspective is not going to work for me. Plus, I don’t find relying on one perspective to be intellectually honest. Having said all that… again, it’s time consuming. I don’t really expect everyone to be able to dedicate the amount of time needed to be the best possibly informed citizen. I certainly don’t. I suppose the best I hope for is that, whether or not I have time to investigate a claim, I have the knowledge/skills to know to be skeptical of whatever that claim is. Maybe I won’t immediately share it on social media, convinced of its truth.
One of the frames in the new ACRL Information Literacy Framework is “Authority is Constructed and Contextual.” I like this point in particular:
Experts know how to seek authoritative voices but also recognize that unlikely voices can be authoritative, depending on need. Novice learners may need to rely on basic indicators of authority…
To me, this point is trying to grapple with the democrat vs neo-gatekeeper opinions that Alexander discusses in his post. Like many things, I don’t think it’s an either/or. (This part of my personality is a source of endless frustration to my loved ones. I am forever playing a bit of devil’s advocate or trying to see both perspectives. It sounds like a good thing, but it can also leave one a little ungrounded and paralyzed when you have to actually make a decision.) I think authoritative sources can have their purpose (I would see Politifact and FactCheck as having that function for me when I do my current events reading) as long as there is a bit of skepticism kept in the mix. I recognize that while these sites do their best to refrain from bias, there always is bias. And sometimes, the voices that are being shut out by the authorities are ones that need to heard. The majority can be wrong, as we all know from our history classes. Those concepts are challenging to bring to college students, but I do think at this educational level and age they should start grappling with that complexity. I don’t typically get to that point with students in my instruction because I only have so much time with them. My hope is that as they continue on to upper-level classes they come to understand those ideas through the instruction of their professors, which I think they usually do. I have fond memories of a few different professors who achieved that with me.
It’s clear this concept is important to me. Information literacy is also important to the VCCS and is included in our general education competencies. Digital literacy, which seems related or broader than information literacy, is not mentioned (as far as I know). For those that are accredited by SACS, it seems like a great topic for the Quality Enhancement Plan piece of the review. Here at Germanna we are too far along in that process to bring up digital literacy, but it’s important enough to keep in the back of my mind as opportunities arise to investigate it and suggest it as an area of concern for the college.
I always find myself landing on practical thoughts rather than philosophical ones… I promise I do enjoy philosophical reading from time to time…