Monday, 19 January 2015

Thought experiments and information literacy

A little while back KDA (Librarian Edge), enthusiastically placed a book on my desk and said I had to read it and I had to create a library guide based on it (I did, see this, and it was very enthusiastically received by Mr. Fleischman).  She was completely right.  What a wonderful resource has been placed into the hands of librarians and teachers everywhere.

There's more than enough research out there (and no, I'm not going to cite it, as this is my personal, write for fun reflective blog, not my academic, must cite site), that indicates that information literacy (IL) is best embedded in the context of real life or the curriculum rather than taught as a stand alone unit.  So, about the book:

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleishman, reviewed here by Kirkus Reviews,  Washington Post and SLJ.

I'd dare to say that the reviewers (with the exception of SLJ) have only focused on one aspect of what makes this book an important resource for students and teachers.   They focus on the climate change and sustainability message of the book and laud its efforts in creating awareness and critical thought around these themes.  I would argue that the true strength of this book is in its way of leading students through the process of searching for and critically evaluating information around a theme (sustainability) and then embraces the whole point of information and knowledge creation as a call to action and the response of digital citizens (read Waters on this point, it's a valuable article).

The chapter headings guide the reader through a series of intellectual, perceptual and psychological states and emotions that cannot be divorced from the information gathering and evaluation process namely:

  • Noticing (Optical Illusions, Essentials)
  • Perception (Vested interests, Common Sense, Out of Sight, In the Now)
  • Defence Mechanisms (Denial, Projection, Regression)
  • Systems (Democracy, Capitalism)
  • Attitudes (Science to the Rescue, Never Retreat, No Limits, Losing Control)
  • Eyes Abroad and Ahead (Conflict, Chindia, Fixes, Coming Soon) (Fleischman, 2014)

Library Guide including links, videos and visual elements.

If one were to attempt to link this to Kuhlthau's Guided Inquiry process

  • Initiating—opening the inquiry;
  • Selecting—selecting a general topic; 
  • Exploring—exploring for back-ground information and ideas; 
  • Formulating—forming a focus; 
  • Collecting—synthesizing information about the focus; and
  • Presenting—organizing information and ideas to share with others (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2010).

one could consider mapping the book as follows:

  • Initiating              Noticing
  • Selecting               Perception 
  • Exploring         |  
  • Formulating     |   Defence Mechanisms; Systems; Attitudes 
  • Collecting         |
  • Presenting            Eyes Abroad and Ahead 

The framework of the book could be used for any Global Perspectives or TOK (Theory of Knowledge) topic where students would be required to evaluate a range of opinions from various sources with an agenda or point of view which would need to be evaluated. 

While reading the book, a devious part of me would love to conduct a thought and manipulation experiment, whereby one section of a class or year group were to be given one set of curated data all pointing to denial and climate change sceptics and the other group pointing to the climate change as a reality and to see where students (would / could) end up on their own steam and if they would look above and beyond what was presented to them.

I also see endless possibilities for digital augmentation of this resource beyond the physical / eBook, incorporating digital storytelling and locally curated resources by students and librarians around the world telling their part of this global story.

Fleischman, P. (2014). Eyes wide open: going behind the environmental headlines. Candlewick Press.

Kuhlthau, C. C., & Maniotes, L. K. (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18. 
Waters, J. K. (2012, September 4). Turning Students into Good Digital Citizens. Retrieved January 2, 2015, from

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