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Information Overload: Teaching Information Literacy in the Technology Age

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
January 12th, 2010

In today’s digital age, students are presented with numerous sources of information that may or may not be factual. They are often not aware of the various research techniques and resources available to them and do not know how to gauge whether or not the information that they find online or in databases is from a reliable source.

Saya Bobick, Melissa Chesanko, Jayné Chapple, Arnita Sitasari, and Laura Trent, graduate teaching assistants in the Center for Women’s Studies, decided to research this problem in an attempt to better serve their students. The graduate students conducted two hands-on workshops for each of their Introduction to Women’s Studies classes in collaboration with Carroll Wilkinson, West Virginia University librarian.

Chesanko commented that the information literacy sessions for her classes gave her an opportunity to learn along with her students.

“Each time Carroll comes to our class I pick up something new,” she said. “It also serves as a great reminder about searching effectively and checking the validity of the sources I use in my own research.”

Following the workshops, they tested students’ understanding of the research techniques and presented course assignments that required the students to use their new skills. This activity augmented their curriculum because their students explored databases and internet searches specifically geared towards research in the field of women’s and gender studies. Through their research experience, the instructors showed how to effectively integrate information literacy and tailor it to a specific subject.

At the completion of this research, Chesanko, Sitasari, and Trent organized a panel discussion, “Incorporating Information Literacy into Introductory Level Curriculum,” at the 6th Annual Georgia Conference on Information Literacy in Savannah, GA.

“Presenting our own research at a conference was a wonderful opportunity. Because this was an interdisciplinary conference, it gave us the chance to share the field of women's studies with educators and librarians from many institutions,” said Chesanko. “It also allowed us to grow personally and professionally.”

The graduate students appreciated the opportunity to meet educators from many different schools. The conference fostered networking and sharing ideas and it gave them a better idea of how other programs and institutions incorporate information literacy into their curriculum. In addition to their research paper, they discussed some of the challenges they encountered due to the level of experience of the students in their classrooms and how to deal with potential resistance from their pupils.

“The workshops and panels offered many wonderful suggestions,” said Trent. “I can’t wait to use some of those methods in my women’s studies classes next semester.”

Sitasari noted that the experience increased her confidence in sharing knowledge about researching information and writing academic research papers in the field of women’s and gender studies. She was grateful for the opportunity to build a professional network with scholars and librarians and to discover new methods to obtain data for her own dissertation research.

Their participation in this conference was supported by the Judy Mossburg Fund for Student, Faculty, and Staff Development. To learn more about the fund, visit wmst.wvu.edu.

This article has been reprinted from Nexus, the Center for Women's Studies' newsletter.

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