I recently came across a document from the National Forum on Information Literacy that addressed literacy standards for Adult Learners. While some are reminiscent of Bloom’s Hierarchy, the descriptions and actions associated with each level are focused on both print and electronic resources. I began to think about students who are trying to use electronic sources, but do not know where to start.
Students often have difficulty determining which information is appropriate when dealing with electronic sources. I suggest student think about where their information if coming from, in other words, students should be aware of biased sites and sites which have false information. I suggest students pay attention to .org, .com, .edu, and .gov as clues to the sites they choose. Of course, this is easier talked about than done. When a site is amateurish, and it has format and grammar or spelling errors, one is more apt to not trust the site. However, sites that are very polished are often very tempting for students looking for quick information. So, I now encourage students to go ahead and look at Wikipedia, but with the idea such a site is a starting point, a place to find some key terms and to get some type of very “loose” notion of how to proceed. I also caution about the use of blogs. Some blogs just sound so good, students are easily swayed. So, once again, I remind students blog might help them get a “feel” for their topic, but blogs are just a place to graze and not a place to fill one’s plate.
For a student who is a novice to finding and using information to write a paper, to understand a concept, or to just get more information, the wide array of information available in electronic and print sources is overwhelming. So, it is important to share our experiences with students about how we find source material and use source material. A few minutes during instructors’ explanations about papers and projects about how to locate good source material and a few suggestions for sites and databases give our students a better chance of being a good consumer.