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Understanding Information Literacy - September 1999

Understanding Information Literacy
by Barbara Humes

We are an information society. At least 27 percent of our homes in the United States have computers (NCES 1997). Sixty-five percent of our public schools have access to the Internet (NCES 1997) and over 70 percent of our public libraries do too (Bertot, J.C. et al. 1997). By the year 2000 we aim to have a computer in every classroom and every library so that students and citizens of all ages can have access to the information highway. We hear experts speak of technology-supported learning, school reform through technology, and global telecommunications. And we worry about access to technology, developing the skills to use the technology, and the costs of that technology.

We are outfitting our schools, libraries, and homes with electronic technologies--but are we preparing our students and teachers for the onslaught of information that is provided by these technologies? What happens when the student can get more information from the Internet than previously conveyed by a teacher or a textbook? What should a student do when faced with so many informational possibilities? Which of the information is credible and which is not?

With the provision of so much more information, and therefore more misinformation, everyone--whether they are in the education system or not--must have not only reading skills and computer skills but information skills, too.


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