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What is Information Literacy?

A young girl reads a social media post on her iPad. Information literacy is an important part of her education.For the current generation of K-12 students who grew up with innovative technology and digital devices, life is often split into two separate worlds. One is the physical reality we all inhabit. The other is online.

No one knows this more than teachers. Every day in class, they face students familiar with social media, websites in every possible niche and the most popular meme currently making the rounds worldwide. Students have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Unfortunately, not all of it is based on fact.

This has made information literacy more important than ever. Bombarded daily by information from many sources, it’s often difficult for students to tell the difference between a reputable source and a “fake” one. Children, in particular, are susceptible to inaccurate, low-quality information.

Teaching Information Literacy Skills

In this environment, educators need to know how to help students separate the real from the fake when it comes to information sources. Fresno Pacific University offers teachers a professional development course on the topic called Teaching Digital Citizenship.

Jordan Samsonas, the instructor for the course, said he’s frequently reminded of the importance of information literacy and teaching students how to evaluate sources for credibility.

“Every time I read the news and speak with my students, I see the need for this course,” Samsonas said. “An increasing percentage of the global population is online. However, most of them have had little or no education regarding how to navigate the online world successfully. As a result, fake news is accepted as fact, people are unkind to each other and inflammatory rhetoric spreads unchecked, with often unforeseen consequences.”

The Importance of Information Literacy

Information literacy involves the ability to identify, evaluate and use information effectively. It’s used to decipher the quality, credibility and validity of the information found on websites and identify what to believe and what not to believe on the internet.

Because teachers can influence students’ thought processes around online information it is especially important that they understand—and master—the concept themselves. They can help guide students in learning how to find reputable sources that offer accurate information. That’s why information literacy is a learning outcome in all Fresno Pacific professional development courses for educators.

For teachers, reputable sources include Fresno Pacific news articles. Also, teachers who take professional development courses through Fresno Pacific build a professional network. Many reach out to their former Fresno Pacific instructors for guidance and advice on information literacy and other issues.

Teaching Digital Citizens

In the Teaching Digital Citizenship course, teachers learn how to address students’ digital lives and how they receive information. They learn ways to educate their students on navigating the internet and social media safely while making a positive contribution to online communities.

Samsonas said many resources are available on the topic as more organizations and schools recognize the need for teaching digital citizenship. The Fresno Pacific course includes resources on information literacy from Google, Microsoft, and education departments in various states and Ted Talks.

“The pitfalls of the digital world are many, and I address those potential dangers in the course,” Samsonas said. “More importantly, however, the course will help teachers use the internet as a tool to further their classroom goals and objectives.”

Learning outcomes for the course include:

  • Understanding why teachers and students need to become effective citizens of digital society
  • Learning how, as a teacher, to model digital citizenship for students
  • Developing lesson plans that teach students model digital citizen skills
  • Developing digital citizenship standards
  • Developing a plan to partner with parents and school administration on making digital citizenship a community focus

Samsonas said teachers can provide needed support for students engaging with the online world without adult guidance. He said most adults feel they aren’t qualified to provide that guidance, but the Fresno Pacific helps them become the adult voice that students desperately need.

“I feel very strongly about the need for this course,” he said. “So many unfortunate things happen online. I feel that many of these things can be avoided if increasing numbers of people know how to be good digital citizens.”