Thursday, 4 June 2015

Literacy is not enough: Why we need to teach information literacy

Some weeks are just like hitting the jackpot in terms of the news and media world shouting out "yes, this is necessary" - although of course they don't phrase it that way, and they certainly wouldn't invoke libraries, librarians and information literacy in their communal hand wringing. But they should.

The first was the retraction of an article in Science. (Retraction watch - who knew that it even existed? And now I know it's going to be on my reading list from time to time! They're on twitter @RetractionWatch so that makes it easier - makes me think of "This idea must die" which is also on my reading list after hearing this talk).

Jesse Singal has written an excellent article - "The Case of the Amazing Gay-Marriage Data" - it really is worth reading the whole thing because it covers so many aspects of the world of academic publishing, how it can go badly wrong, and just how unlikely it is that it is found out and even if it's found out, how hard it is to be a whistleblower.

The second, was about chocolate, and how unfortunately it doesn't help in weight loss and in fact we'd all just been had as it was a bunch of science writers playing with journalists and our gullibility and lack of information literacy.  Here is John Bohannon, the culprit (?) 'fessing up: "I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How" and Rachel Ehrenberg's indignant retort on behalf of journalists "Attempt to shame journalists with chocolate study is shameful"

Obviously (one hopes) this is going to have repercussions in tertiary education and in journalism. But what can we learn from it in the K-12 environment?

Well a good place to start would probably be to introduce students to the concept of cognitive bias (and to do it WAY before they're doing TOK at IB level).  Here is a great little article by George Dvorsky on the twelve most common cognitive biases. Let's get everyone thinking - a little assignment for my readers - post in the comments what cognitive biases were present in each case! Just as we teach our G4's about marketing tricks of the trade, I'm sure this can be presented in a way that is accessible and easy to understand and relate to their own lives. 

I'm also thinking about how we could expand the math curriculum to replace a fear of numbers and statistics with a healthy dose of scepticism and what questions to ask and how to dig behind the "headline" numbers. I sometimes wonder why it is that we don't challenge our students more about their own data.  Thinking back to the exhibition presentations of our Grade 5's - yes they did a great job, and it was amazing what they pulled together and the confidence with which they could present. But who was looking at the data? Each group had a mentor, who could (should?) challenge when things don't add up, when what they're saying and what they can back it up with doesn't match. When things just don't make common logical sense.   Now this is a tricky thing. A very tricky thing. We don't like confrontation, and we're not really good at it either.  Now look back at the first article.  If the co-author had applied a little common sense and said "hey, if you've sampled 100,000 people, how did you get the $1m budget? (simple multiplication / extrapolation)" 

... how about Brookman? Things don't make sense to him, and what's everyone saying? "don't rock the boat"  And our students. Yes we want to created a safe learning environment where mistakes can be made.  BUT and this is a big BUT, we also want to be able to call them on their mistakes, give them a chance to correct them and build the resilience of being able to cope appropriately with (constructive) criticism AND the idea that this research thing is serious, and can and will be up to challenge, AND make them think more critically about how they interpret and use other's research.  I was not a part of the whole process and I know our digital literacy coaches and librarian were involved, I'm wondering if the math coach was also involved or not?  And in a school without a math coach - who would be doing this?  How many teachers at any level feel comfortable and confident enough around numbers and the "math" side of research to assume this role?  I'd argue all should be, and if not that's some PD that needs to be done as a priority. Because in the future and in the now, numbers are being used all around us, and the big big thing is "big data" and if we don't know how to look at numbers and to ask the right kinds of questions we are going to be manipulated into making the wrong assumptions, making the wrong choices. This stuff is important. (See my favourite math blogger Mathbabe on this).

All of us are literate in the sense of reading and writing. And some of us are critical readers of literature, we can analyse and comment and dissect. And then we get into the realm of being information literate, on the basic level, the whole model thing of finding a question, finding information, interpreting and using it, reflecting etc.  And then only can we get to the point of understanding who is writing something and why and then really understanding the socio-cultural / political and meta-cognitive things that are going on behind information. And if we don't start with the basics and make sure it's embedded in everything we do, how will we ever get there?

Articles and Publications

IASL Conference 2015:
Boelens, H., Cherek, J., Tilke, A., & Bailey, N. (2015). Communicating across cultures: cultural identity issues and the role of the multicultural, multilingual school library within the school community. In Manuscript submitted for presentation IASL2015. Maastricht, Netherlands.

INCITE magazine: 
Bailey, N. (2014). Getting Organised Digitally. INCITE, 35(10), 24. Retrieved from

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Livin' and Learnin'

Now that I’ve started breathing again I can start to think about the iBooks experience and what I’ve learnt from it. (Here it is .... my little baby: Digital Language Learning Ecology)

I found out today that there are no iBooks in Singapore where I’m living and where I wrote / produced / cobbled together my first iBook. Nope, none. Something I didn’t really actually realise. I mean I’d tried to buy Dave Caleb’s excellent photography iBook and couldn’t do it here, but I didn’t twig that I couldn’t buy ANY iBook here…   read more ....

Monday, 1 June 2015

Mad Rush to the finish line

Well it’s done! Well it’s kind of done. The digital essay part is done and I’ve got all the little interactive bits and pieces and I hope they work in real life and not just in preview.
Thanks to Sharon who has also been experimenting with iBooks author and was the crucial hour or so ahead of me to warn me of the pitfalls (only published within 24 hours of submission – YIKES) and the work-arounds – export to pdf.
Of course I was overly ambitious – this is not just a digital essay but I want it to be so much more. I want to expand it as a guide to the implementation of a digital language learning ecology at a school. So I do have blank chapters and LOTS of ideas. Of course this can be added to over time.
This is the pdf which will have to do for now, because the iBooks file is WAY to big for what thinkspace will allow me …Read more ....

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Transformation and Autonomy with a twist: from information to learning - Critical Reflection INF530

It's been quite a ride this INF530, and as they say "it ain't over until it's over", I have yet to complete my digital essay and enter that huge time warp black hole of combining words with media and images in such a way that it enhances rather than distracts, compels rather than confuses.
INF530 key wordsLooking back on the topic headings I decided to make a wordle, to see things with a little visual perspective. What jumped out was “information” and “learning” and I had to think back to previous courses where the nuances of data, information, knowledge, wisdom were picked over in meticulous detail (Barrett, Cappleman, Shoib, & Walsham, 2004; Hecker, 2012; Pantzar, 2000; UNESCO, 2005) or the role of the teacher or school or librarian is discussed, particularly in the light of information literacy (Eisenberg, 2008; Mihailidis, 2012; O’Connell, 2008; Sheng & Sun, 2007; Wallis, 2003). Yes these are all part of the picture, but the words that I’d like to contribute and focus on are not there, because they are implicit and essential rather than explicit. Integral to information and learning are transformation and autonomy.
Firstly transformation, it’s synonyms (conversion, metamorphosis, renewal, revolution, shift, alteration) and its’ derivatives:
  • the doing – to transform,
  • the process – transformation,
  • the subject and the state – transformed, and
  • the agent - transformer.
And the twist, because in education we are simultaneously the agent and the subject, the initiator, the process and the end state. We cannot “do” without “being”. And that is the value of plunging into a distance-learning course that takes one beyond the mundane and everyday into personally being transformed and feeling the simultaneous discomfort and thrill of not always being in control of the process or the outcome. Sometimes the truth is found in the antonym – stagnation and sameness. The resistance to change that saps energy rather than re-energises as transformation does.
Conole (2013, p. 61) stated “We have to accept that it is impossible to keep up with all the changes, so we need to develop coping strategies which enable individuals to create their own personal digital environment of supporting tools and networks to facilitate access to and use of relevant information for their needs.” That is part of the solution, the other is finding one’s place in digital and physical learning ecologies (O’Connell, 2014; Vasiliou, Ioannou, & Zaphiris, 2014; Wang, Guo, Yang, Chen, & Zhang, 2015). Yes ecologies, because we are, and our students and children will be “shape shifting portfolio people” (Gee & Hayes, 2011) whether we want to acknowledge and embrace the fact or not.
Which brings me to the second of “my” take-away words. Autonomy. It is autonomy with a difference - autonomy within communities and networks of our own and others' making. As Downes (2012, bk. Connectivism and Connective Knowledge) puts it “knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, … learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks”.
However without the aforementioned transformation we can’t have the autonomy. It is an autonomy hard won, through dint of our own efforts, the pushing and pulling and attraction of our teachers, mentors, peers and heroes. Autonomy feeds off motivation and self-regulatory control (Kormos & Csizér, 2014). The latter including commitment, meta-cognitive, satiation, emotion and environmental control (Tseng, Dörnyei, & Schmitt, 2006). Ironically we need others to attain autonomy. Autonomy is not independence but interdependence, not being on your own, but being part of a larger community of learners all together on individual journeys. It’s the forums, blogs, comments, feedback and Facebook posts. The emojis, irrelevant and irreverent tweets; words of encouragement and critique, ideas and suggestions that propel us forward and backward and around in circles - but ever expanding circles and cycles of improvement and transformation.
Thank-you to my peers, my course co-ordinator Judy, those who went before us and those who will come after us may we transform and be transformed, gain autonomy and enable others do so too in this journey of life-long learning.
What you are speaks so loud I can not hear what you say - Original Quote by Emerson
What you are speaks so loud I can not hear what you say - Original Quote by Emerson


  • Barrett, M., Cappleman, S., Shoib, G., & Walsham, G. (2004). Learning in knowledge communities. European Management Journal, 22(1), 1–11.
  • Conole, G. (2013). Open, social and participatory media. In Designing for learning in an open world (pp. 47–63). New York ; Heidelberg: Springer.
  • Downes, S. (2012). My eBooks [Web Log]. Retrieved April 19, 2015, from
  • Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39–47. Retrieved from
  • Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2011). Language and learning in the digital age (1st ed). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Hecker, A. (2012). Knowledge beyond the individual? Making sense of a notion of collective knowledge in organization theory. Organization Studies, 33(3), 423–445.
  • Kormos, J., & Csizér, K. (2014). The interaction of motivation, self-regulatory strategies, and autonomous learning behavior in different learner groups. TESOL Quarterly, 48(2), 275–299.
  • Mihailidis, P. (2012). Media literacy and learning commons in the digital age: Toward a knowledge model for successful integration into the 21st century school library. The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 2. Retrieved from
  • O’Connell, J. (2008). School library 2.0 : new skills, new knowledge, new futures. In P. Godwin & J. Parker (Eds.), Information literacy meets Library 2.0 (pp. 51–62). London: Facet.
  • O’Connell, J. (2014, July 19). Information ecology at the heart of knowledge [Web Log]. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from
  • Pantzar, E. (2000). Knowledge and wisdom in the information society. Foresight, 2(2), 230–236.
  • Sheng, X., & Sun, L. (2007). Developing knowledge innovation culture of libraries. Library Management, 28(1/2), 36–52.
  • Tseng, W.-T., Dörnyei, Z., & Schmitt, N. (2006). A new approach to assessing strategic learning: The case of self-regulation in vocabulary acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 27(1), 78–102.
  • UNESCO. (2005). Towards knowledge societies. Retrieved from
  • Vasiliou, C., Ioannou, A., & Zaphiris, P. (2014). Understanding collaborative learning activities in an information ecology: A distributed cognition account. Computers in Human Behavior, 41(0), 544–553.
  • Wallis, J. (2003). Information-saturated yet ignorant: information mediation as social empowerment in the knowledge economy. Library Review, 52(8), 369–372.
  • Wang, X., Guo, Y., Yang, M., Chen, Y., & Zhang, W. (2015). Information ecology research: past, present, and future. Information Technology and Management, 1–13.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Academic honesty should never be ambiguous

Ok, I know I have a somewhat ambivalent stance on what constitutes plagiarism and the value of collaborative and cooperative learning but one thing I'm clear on is academic honesty.  If you used something that someone else made just say that you did that. And depending on your age and level a simple copy and paste of the link is sufficient.

I recently went around our G5's exhibition project and was thoroughly impressed at their work. I did sneakily ask a few for their sources and most could point to at least a page of attribution as to where they'd got their numbers and facts.  Well done (here is a great video of it by the way).

G5 Exhibition Video 2015 from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

Fast forward to early this morning. I'm putting the washing in the machine and the kids are getting ready for school and finally my daughter lets me see the video she's been working on for the last 4 days - one holidays and festivals in the middle ages. It's a great video with her narrating the festivals of the year with lovely pictures and music from the middle ages in the background.  And then at the end "Thank you for watching" and black screen.

I told her I thought it was great, but that she didn't have to thank anyone at the end, and instead a list of attribution for the images and music would be good. "Our teacher said we didn't have to do it" was her reply. I told her that she knew that I expected it of her, and she then showed me that she had in fact made a list of the URLs but hadn't put it into EasyBib to get into MLA format. I asked why not, and she came with some story about how citations / attribution hadn't been in the original assignment nor in the rubric and the teacher didn't want to add it on afterwards. I was a little annoyed at this. I said she could at least put it at the end of her video, but she didn't think that would be "fair" on the others who didn't. Fair? How about the fairness of the people to whom the images belonged? OK they're all long dead now, and perhaps most of the images are in common domain, but still, it's the principal.

I was annoyed at myself being annoyed at her, when actually I should be annoyed at the school. How can they go from being citation semi-stars in primary school to not having it expected at middle school. This is not the first instance, it is one of many, many, many in both my children's grades across all subjects - academic honesty really does need to be institutionalised and inside every single assignment across the board! I'm at least glad my ranting has had an effect on my kids and they're at now keeping lists to show me - but if it's only for me for how long will my influence last?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Activity and paralysis

Reading, reading, reading. I know I should start trying to write, but I'm in a kind of simultaneous paralysis and activity. Each new reading I do, I discover a whole field of knowledge and information that I know way too little about. Today I discovered the LEA (language experience approach) to teaching reading and writing. And the relevant (for me) "cousin" D-LEA (i.e. with digital). I'm sure every single teacher in the world is totally familiar with this and today was the first time I'd encountered it - academically at least. I'm pretty sure it's what they do at school and that my kids experienced it, I just didn't know the name. Duh. So this has kicked off a new round of activity - frantically learning more about it and how it relates to my topic; and paralysis - not being able to start writing my assignment yet.