One of the most frequently heard buzzwords in your child's school these days is "information literacy." What this means is that you're unlikely to find your child poring over the "Great Expectations" anthology you studied when you were in grade school. While some schools still (and happily) have a place for traditional methods in the "teaching of English," the subject is now broken down into separate subjects of "Language Arts" and "Reading." Both are components of information literacy. But information literacy refers as much to the information contained in math, science, history and world cultures courses as it does to courses in reading and literature appreciation.
Information literacy goals of the American Association of School Libraries combine traditional language arts skills with sophisticated computer technology enhancements to form an ideal of information literacy. There is good reason for parents to get aboard with the program. Schools with strong information literacy programs produce higher achieving students.
Most school children can operate computers. This is often pleasing to parents who are themselves anxious about technology, but it is far from an accurate measure of information literacy. Teachers and library media specialists will quickly tell you that many of today's students have literacy problems that go beyond simple keyboarding skills. Information literacy must go beyond the basic Google or Yahoo web searches with which most parents and students are familiar. These searches yield an impressive and massive number of responses with a level of relevance that diminishes rapidly in accordance with the user's inability to sort it all out.
It is of vital importance to teach your child how to use the variety of so-called "deep web" search engines which eliminate some of the "chaff" received in the generalized searches one finds on Google or Yahoo. How many parents have used Ixquick Metasearch, for example? How many parents are familiar with internet file extensions like "*.gov" for government websites or "*.edu" for educational sites? How many parents are aware of the increasing linkage between libraries across the region, across the state, across the nation, and even across the world?
Wise parents introduce their children to literacy skills early by reading to their children long before they learn the alphabet. The wise parent-teacher develops techniques which play to the child's innate appreciation of the interaction provided by pictures and text in children's storybooks. When reading to your child, experiment with your voice, change tone volume, level, and pitch to fit the action of the story.
Don't be embarrassed if your husband or friends catch you watching cartoons at home with little Freddie. Watching cartoons can give a parent-teacher voice coaching. Don't feel silly mimicking cartoon voices-very young children are still in sensory mode. They love voices.
Parents should familiarize themselves with the many websites for kids. Web links like KidsConnect and KidsClick can introduce the young learner into the logic, power, and fun of information seeking.
Information literacy is needed to survive in the modern world. Learning to read is a first step on the long road to information literacy. Information literacy requirements of the state education boards mandate that students learn not only to read but to organize, manipulate and use information productively. Parents should make an effort to familiarize themselves not only with traditional print materials, but with the variety of information sources available to the modern learner. Traditional scholarly journals, newspapers, and other print materials are increasingly found online in university academic and public libraries. But many parents and students do not know how to differentiate between full-text or catalogued abbreviated articles on the internet. A consultation with a school or public library media specialist can usually remedy the problem.
Not all American parents are employed in the field of information technology. This can be a problem for some children. Many traditionally educated parents take comfort from the keyboarding skills demonstrated by children who are adept at playing video games. Keyboarding skills can serve information literacy goals by eliminating the fear of technology that some adults experience. However, true information literacy means more than keyboarding skills. It means knowing where to look for information. It means knowing what information is reliable and current. It means knowing how to organize the information. It means following ethical and legal guidelines regarding the use of information. It means leadership, the same kind of leadership and information management that is needed by tomorrow's corporations, hospitals, universities, and government facilities.
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