Learners of all ages now have access to vast amounts of information. Developments in technology mean that there are now more and more computer-based resources on CD-ROM and DVD, and fast internet connections can give learners access to huge amounts of information on the web.
At the same time as this growth in easily available information, there have been significant changes in education. Teachers use a greater variety of teaching methods, and learners are encouraged to work more independently.
These changes make two key skills especially important for learners today: study skills and information and critical literacy. There is an enormous area of overlap between these two sets of skills, but there are also some skills that are specific to each.
Learning and Teaching Scotland has commissioned this collection of learning materials to help learners develop the study skills and information and critical literacy they need in order to become independent learners and develop their full potential as individuals, citizens and workers in the 21st century.
Most people are reasonably familiar with what is meant by study skills. By contrast, the concept of information and critical literacy is relatively new to many.
In simple terms, people are information literate if they know when they need information, and are then able to identify, locate, evaluate, organise and effectively use the information to address and resolve personal, job-related or broad social issues and problems.
The 'information' is not just about what's available through computers; it takes account of information that can be derived from many sources and many forms. There are learning objectives about asking people to get information from visual sources, such as pictures, newspapers, advertisements and TV shows, and there are objectives which deal with the way in which information is presented - as posters, booklets and drawings as well as on websites.
In this learning series, the learning objectives for information and critical literacy and for study skills are grouped in such a way as to suggest meaningful pathways to navigate through and between the objectives.
The activities are grouped around the four main stages for effective studying and the successful processing of information. The four headings - What, Look, Choose and Tell - follow the logical steps which people take: what they need to find out about, where they should look for it, how to select the appropriate information, and finally to use it in another context by telling someone else about it or doing something with it.
The activities are designed for different levels (second level, third/fourth level and senior phase), each with a set of relevant skills to learn, practise and apply. The age bands are very wide, so some of the activities will be more appropriate for the youngest and some for the oldest in the group.
There are sets of notes for teachers, parents/carers and students which explain the objective of the activity and how to make the most of it.
It is hoped that the units will be flexible enough to be used by teachers in the classroom, either through using an interactive board to promote whole-class discussion or through making the materials available on individual computers for students to work through in small groups or on their own. They could then be asked to access the materials as a way of reinforcing what is learnt in lessons or to work through with parents or carers.
As the concept of information and critical literacy becomes more established within the education community in Scotland and the online learning community matures and grows, an increasing demand will inevitably arise for the development of further resources, perhaps with an increasing degree of subject specificity over the next few years. These learning objectives will provide a solid foundation upon which to devise and construct a wide variety of new resources in the future.
In order to provide teachers and learners with some valuable tools to enable them to develop ideas and map information electronically, in a way which can be widely shared, every school in Scotland has been provided with mind-mapping software.
This software can be used in the context of a whole-class activity, where a teacher is brainstorming ideas with large group of learners; or the programs can be used singly by students for their own purposes. At the senior level, the more appropriate program is Inspiration; at the junior level it is Kidspiration.
To explore this in more detail, take a look at the pedagogical rationale underlying the materials:
Research carried out by Caledonian University, with the aim of defining information literacy learning in terms of statements of skills, knowledge and understanding. Project information can be found on the Scottish Information Literacy Project (Caledonian University) website.