Charting the Future for P-16 Information Literacy Collaboration

Hello GLMA folks!

Since this is my first post as a guest blogger, I’ll use it to introduce myself and explain why I’m here. I’m Nadine Cohen, a reference and instruction librarian at the University of Georgia, with a mission to collaborate with school and public librarians to embed information literacy in Georgia’s education curriculum, from pre-school to college. My mission is born out of the frustration I sometimes feel with my teaching. I employ all the current pedagogical goodies – active learning exercises, peer teaching, group work, etc. but I’m not happy with the level of learning taking place. Most of the students come to UGA with few or no information literacy skills, are overwhelmed by the academic databases in GALILEO, and don’t understand why good research isn’t one-stop-shopping in Google. There’s just too much to teach them in too little time and no amount of good teaching practice can make up for that. Why are most freshman coming to UGA with such poor information literacy skills? And even worse, why are so many leaving as seniors in pretty much the same shape? What can be done to fix the problem?

In the winter of 2005 I decided to call a media specialist to get another perspective on the issue. Not knowing any, I arbitrarily called a local high school and, to my great good fortune, stumbled upon the irrepressible Mindy Doler at North Oconee High. For every frustration I described, she replied “I know, me too!” Our problems were identical – underprepared entering students, not enough teaching opportunities to get them up to speed, and teaching faculty and administrators who don’t realize we’ve got an information literacy problem on our hands. The conversation went the same way with Lindy Pals at Jefferson Middle and Sharon Mitchell at Benton Elementary. We discovered that our information literacy teaching methods and objectives were complementary, and in a perfect world where we could spend enough instruction time with every student, we would produce competent researchers at every grade level.

It became clear to us all that the problem doesn’t lie with us or the students, it lies in the lack of a systematic, P-16 information literacy program in Georgia, one that teaches students research skills in manageable increments with lots of built-in reinforcement. And one that is embedded in the curriculum and tied into the Georgia Performance Standards so that teachers can appreciate how information literacy will enhance their lesson plans and even improve student test scores.

Creating that program and finding partners to work with us on implementation is the next step. In my future posts I’ll describe the efforts that are currently underway. If you want to be involved, come to the GLMA Summer Institute in Macon in June, and attend the meeting of the task force called “Charting a Course to Improve Information Literacy in GA through Organizational Collaboration”. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me! My email address is ncohen@uga.edu.

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Posted on April 21, 2008, in Information Literacy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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