On Tuesday night I went to an event put on by the QUT Information Professionals Alumni Chapter, An evening with Dr Andrew Whitworth. It was awesome. And not just because he has a Northern English accent and says “I was sat there” (I LOVE that about the Brits) and “kit” instead of uniform and “pavement” instead of footpath. Although believe me, that accent makes anything more entertaining. But luckily, he’s actually a really interesting theorist with a lot of relevant stuff to say about information literacy / informed learning and I think I want to read his book, Information Obesity. Especially while the Aussie dollar is strong. My birthday is coming up, after all 😉
Here are a few select bits of my notes, paired with the actions I am undertaking or planning to as a result… this was meant to be the Cliff Notes, but it’s now as long as the summary I wrote. So consider it the verbose notes. Also check out his Prezi and website.
Concept: It’s an interesting notion: information obesity rather than overload. Using food as a metaphor, it’s about the need to select quality information rather than just lots of it (what I consider the Google effect, or the junk food of the information world). The development of the 24 hour news cycle, the proliferation of information on the Internet etc. was discussed.
Response: I am an information binger. I consume information in huge chunks almost obsessively by reading everything for a bit, and then I go on a starvation diet for a few weeks, then I consume like crazy again when I can’t take the deprivation anymore. I have information bulimia. Taking the food metaphor further, I need to become a grazer – eating five times a day from a range of healthy options (important to use different food groups, that is sources here) and ensure I eat larger amounts of the good stuff – for me that would be theory relating to the work that I do, and less of the junk – I have unsubscribed from all the “special deals” email I was getting and am going to also unsubscribe from the general library lists I am on. Knowing what is going on broadly is good sometimes, but that’s what Twitter is for 😉
Concept: Dr Whitworth draws from Christine Bruce’s work a lot, and he revisits the idea of frames of information penetration. Which of course is drawing on Edward de Bono’s work but let’s not get into that at the moment. As well as the macro (content & competency frames) and micro (learning to learn and personal relevance frames) which are so often the focus of discussions about perceptions & learning, he focuses more on the meso level, as the inter-subjective, social impact frame. He encourages us to recognise that we naturally seek out information that confirms our private beliefs (only reading left-wing papers when we have left-wing tendencies etc.) and that we need to challenge students (and ourselves) to read widely and be alerted to the social impact of research. That is, how is information distributed, and what is it then used for? Dr Whitworth emphasises the importance of learning that the quality of information is as important (if not more so) than the quantity of information, and suggests that we ask students not only what they need to find, but why they need to find it. I would go further and say who would produce that information – and if it hasn’t been produced, return to the why. I had no idea the who, what, why, where, when of primary school would end up being a life-long lesson!
Response: As well as making me more determined to go back to QUT and finish my Masters (especially so that I can learn from Christine Bruce), it has reinforced for me that the way to make information literacy all the more effective in my role is to engage in that “middle space” between the macro of providing a lecture to a whole class and the micro of working one-on-one with students. The importance of working with academics, and engaging with the school as a whole which is where I have been wanting to focus, and this confirms to me that ensuring the process of information creation and dissemination is understood and imparted effectively to students is more effective than the “point and click” information literacy model that librarians often reflexively engage in. Dr Whitworth points out that many academics are already highly information literate, however they may lack confidence in the use of technologies, so working with them to help identify gaps & use the frames of information literacy in the context of the curriculum is the way forward. I would like to start creating online demonstrations of the tools we use to find information to refer students to (as just-in-time resources embedded into subject guides and possibly course profiles), but focus much more on creative engagement in the lectures and workshops. I feel like I’m on the right track, but I have to do more of what I was already doing, and take the creative ideas I have and just run with them. This also brings home to me what my dear friend Kate is always saying about how we need to focus on play, and doing things in test mode – don’t wait for it to be perfect, do a pilot. Of course being a perfectionist means pilots are often ridiculously non-test-like, but hey, one challenge at a time…
Concept: Dr Whitworth talked about sustainable learning and complex problem solving, both separately and identifying the link between the two concepts. He challenged us to teach complex problem solving through the creative use of information technology, and recognise that we are all involved not only in the processes of information consumption & production , but information sustainability. He challenged us to think about what kind of learning will work in the future, and to work together to share ideas. He also pointed out that literacy is not just about reading, but also writing. That seems incredibly obvious, but (confession) I had never considered that before. I am highly literate not just because I have a high level of reading comprehension, but also because I can express myself effectively via the written word. So (by extension) information literacy is not just about seeking and finding quality information effectively, it’s also about creating quality information, and knowing where and how it is appropriate to disseminate it.
Response: Where do I start? I think the PLN I am engaged in is helpful here – as will #blogeverydayofjune that I have signed up for again (this year I am aiming for a professional blog post most days). There are also examples of libraries (I am thinking universities here) sharing information and tutorials with each other, but there are also some blocks to this – organisationally and at the more personal/subjective level (people are people, after all). There is also the challenge of identifying colleagues within our institutions with whom to collaborate in creating sustainable learning practices. I have both challenges and fantastic potential within my organisation to engage at this level. I have been in my role 8 months now, and I have been gathering information and scoping out the landscape over that time. I feel I am just about ready to put my ideas into motion, and partner effectively with colleagues in order to tackle those issues well. It’s a never-ending process of engagement, and I feel much more inspired and like I’m on the right track after hearing Dr Whitworth’s talk.
And I have an intense desire to go to Manchester.