Keep Learning: Information Literacy
What is information literacy?
The ability to identify, find, evaluate, effectively use, and acknowledge sources of information.(1) People of all ages need to learn these skills if they want to make informed and wise decisions
Awareness of what’s happening in the world
Growing with technology as long as our minds are functioning properly
It is not using social media as one's primary source of current events and political information
Considering all sides of an issue to learn the truth. We must be willing to hear different perspectives and points of view, which involves civil discourse
Continuing to learn in order to stay relevant to others.
Information Literacy is a necessary life skill
An important part of my job as a 21st century librarian was to teach information literacy, People who fail to learn these skills are at risk of manipulation, so it is important that we all learn to be informationally literate if we want to make informed and wise decisions.
We are going through a different type of 'Dark Ages' today
We live in a day and age where most of us have access to more information at the touch of a fingertip than all of recorded history combined. And yet, I believe we are going through a different type of ‘Dark Ages’ today due to the fact that many people have trouble finding and recognizing truth. Some are calling this era a “post-truth world,” and too many have given up the pursuit of truth after hearing over and over again that everything is “fake news,” which is just another form of manipulation.
Manipulation can also apply en masse when people only use hearsay or limit their information sources to make decisions. Social media is the perfect platform for propagating misinformation and untruths because people repost inflammatory, out of date, or false information without checking to see if it’s true or not. Social media has the power to sway elections because politicians know that people can be manipulated when they don’t or won’t verify information.
Most people are compassionate, generous people and would not intentionally repost lies, but that still doesn’t excuse them from the responsibility of checking information before reposting. I regularly see the same post circulate asking for prayer for a man that died in 2011.
We must be careful that we aren’t shopping around for points of view we prefer to believe rather than seeking the truth, which can sometimes be uncomfortable to learn
Another dangerous trend is refusing to consider other points of view. The truth is often found in the middle of an issue, but if people refuse to sit down and participate in civil discourse, or refuse to consider multiple information sources to get all sides of an issue, they are most likely getting biased information. We must be careful that we aren’t simply shopping around for points of view we want to believe rather than sincerely seeking the truth, which can be uncomfortable to learn.
The ABCs of Evaluating a Website
The ability to evaluate an information source is a skill everyone who uses the Internet needs to learn. Using the ABCs, here are some ways to help you determine if an information source is valid.
A – A reputable website should have an “About Us” page that shows some kind of “Authority” or “Author.” Too many websites just copy and paste information plagiarized from other websites with the intent of earning advertising money from website visitors.
B – A good website or article will either list a “Bibliography” or may link their online sources within the article. Some websites are reputable enough that they don’t list their sources for every article, especially if the website or author is credentialed or considered knowledgeable on the topic, i.e., an online encyclopedia.
C – “Commercial or .com” websites, the most common on the Internet, are often trying to make a profit. You can find a lot of good information on these websites, but note if their primary motive is to make a profit. “Clickbait” is another good “C” word to remember. Many websites pay to include ads on other websites, even reputable websites, or add hyperlinks beneath inflammatory, sexually suggestive, or false pretexts just to get you to visit their site, which generates more views and revenue for them.
D – Check the “Date” to see if the article is current or out-of-date. Has the website been updated recently? Are the links still active or dead? This is a big problem for Wikipedia in that many of the source links listed are no longer active, and some of the sources used in writing articles aren't necessarily good ones. Some historical information won’t necessarily go out of date, but the website should look like someone is continuing to maintain it. Current dates are very important in medical and technological information, which changes often.
E – “Expertise” – Does the author or website of the article show some kind of expertise on what they are writing about? That can include listing degrees, years of experience, a teacher of the subject, a business specializing in that subject, etc. Many articles are by writers who researched a topic and submitted it to a website that calls for contributors. It’s good to double check facts elsewhere, if that is the case.
F – “Fair” – Does the website or article present a balanced and objective view about an issue? Are all sides of a story presented, or is it telling only one perspective? A one-sided view is called biased. Looking up multiple sources on an issue will usually present a more accurate picture.
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." ~Isaac Asimov.
If we women want to be considered relevant and worth listening to during our later years, we cannot stick our heads in the sand and let ‘others’ handle everything. If we want the words coming out of our mouths to be deemed credible, we must continue to read widely and think critically about the issues of our day.
Keep learning, sisters. It does a mind good.
Donna Van Cleve