Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pedagogical Approaches for Promoting Critical Thinking in Information Literacy, Technological Literacy and Information Technology

The terms information literacy, computer literacy, media literacy and technological literacy have some distinct implications for teaching and learning. While some may view these terms in a very limiting fashion, they can be broadly defined to include the abilities to “access, evaluate, and use” information (Doyle, 1992, p. 2). Doyle’s definition of information literacy identifies, in addition to other aspects, individuals “who … [use] information in critical thinking and problem solving” (Doyle, 1992, p. 2). It is the use of, or the application of information in a particular pedagogical approach that should be a goal in promoting information literacy. Thinking of the end result, promoting critical thinking, information literacy is the ability to discern quality, computer literacy is the ability to become efficient and each type of literacy must be developed to develop critical thinking (Kasowitz-Scheer and Pasqualoni, 2002).

Literacy is much more than skills taught, received or developed within an academic setting. It can be said that information literacy can contribute to “a productive, full, and satisfying life” (U. S. Department of Labor, 1991, p. i). Without an acceptable degree of information literacy and technological literacy, individuals who are seeking employment or advancement may be limited in their array of choices.

The pedagogical approaches to enhancing, improving and integrating information literacy both across the curriculum and into discipline specific curriculum include “the realms of critical thinking and ethical usage of information” (Spitzer, Eisenberg and Lowe, 1998, p. 26). Blending traditional curricular approaches of reading, writing and speaking with critical thinking should become the rule, if we are to view information literacy as an inclusive, rather than exclusive perspective (Doyle, 1994). This integration produces students who are competent and prepared to not only enter the workforce, but also succeed as a part of the workforce.

In the case of information literacy, it is more than keyboarding, composing, surfing and viewing. These skills, when developed, “enable the construction of higher orders of meaning, nuance, and inference” (Daley, 2003, p. 36). Through developing information literacy, we are beginning a journey. We choose to make the journey and want to experience all that we can along the way. The approach to literacy is based, in no small part, on the desires, needs and perceptions of the end user. Whatever approach we take, we know that we must become literate. The approaches need to be flexible and include “other literacies: visual, media, computer, network, and, of course, basic literacy” (Spitzer, Eisenberg and Lowe, 1998, p. 26).

Technological literacy becomes a subset of information literacy. An individual who becomes information literate will, from necessity, become technologically literate (American Libraries Association, 2000). Technology becomes a means to an ends: through the use of technology, one can become information literate much easier and quicker because of the mere presence and availability of technology. Education should focus on enhancing critical thinking skills. Technological literacy will produce a greater sense of information literacy. Information literacy, when refined, produces critical thinking. We should focus less on requiring critical thinking skills, and more on acquiring critical thinking skills (Kurfiss, 1988). Once students understand the process of critical thinking, and we provide them instructional opportunities to develop their skills then, and only then, will they begin to understand critical thinking.

The benefits of technology to teaching and learning

With the increasing presence of technology in our classrooms, and the comfort of students using technology, it is important for faculty to understand the pedagogical implications of integrating technology into their classrooms (Gilbert, 1995; Watts and Hammons, 2002). It is important to provide a model classroom for faculty to see best practices exemplified, and observe how the various technologies can be integrated in teaching and learning. A truly model classroom can provide tangible evidence of the “inter-relationships of the various types of audio-visual materials” (Dale, 1946, p. 37). This multi-modal delivery system (synchronous and asynchronous audio video origination and receive), is ideally suited to the variety of learning styles and may increase both student engagement and academic achievement. Equipped with the range of equipment available in other classrooms, faculty are now able to teach in this space in the same manner as in another space – the physical arrangement of this room is not the primary driver of teaching – the use of the equipment in this room by an experienced faculty member transform this into the ideal learning space. Faculty development efforts and programs must focus on the integration of technology into teaching (Chism, 2004; Ehrmann, 1995). Instructional or educational technology should be “integral to teaching practice” (Chism, 2004, p. 43) and not viewed as an add-on to teaching (Bates, 1995; Bates and Poole, 2003; Grasha and Yangarber-Hicks, 2000).

Instructional technology can influence and improve learning (Gilbert, 1996; Kulik, Kulik and Cohen, 1980). These types of technologies can improve teaching and learning by increasing teacher and student efficiency and reaching different learning styles (Flecknoe, 2002). Through increased exposure to and competence with technology, faculty can select those technologies that improve “the quality of teaching and learning [and] student motivation” (Gilbert, 1996, p. 12). With the variety of instructional technologies available, a well-prepared instructor can move students from concrete examples of learning to more abstract examples of learning with a greater emphasis placed on the use and integration of technology within the teaching and learning environment (Dale, 1946).

Describe the ways technology might expand teaching and learning opportunities:

Teaching methods in most community colleges are more traditional, and do not normally include the integration of technology (Schuetz, 2002). For those faculty who do adopt instructional technology, the past experiences with technology have demonstrated some level of efficiency and thus render them appropriate for teaching (Gilbert, 1995; Gilbert, 1996). The presence of technology, the insistence of students to use technology, and the ever-evolving workplace environment are driving the inclusion of technology into teaching and learning. To respond to the external and internal stakeholder’s perceptions of the efficacy of technology demands that technology become commonplace in higher education (Nantz and Lundgren, 1998). To place this technology in a space that may not have been utilized to it’s capacity demonstrates the desire to use all spaces for teaching and learning. In a space of such magnitude and physical grandeur, technology is a natural extension and asset.

Imagine the possibilities of increasing the use of technology in teaching, and imagine the impact of teaching with technology on student engagement (Grasha and Yanbarger-Hicks, 2000). The pervasiveness of technology in the workplace demands that we provide technology in the classroom. While most faculty support and participate in professional development opportunities, most professional development does not include the integration of technology into teaching (Chism, 2004; Schuetz, 2002). The presence and availability of newer technologies for teaching and learning are integral in demonstrating the viability of programs and the desire to prepare graduates for success (Moquin and Travis, 1999). This technology has the potential to change the learning experience in a positive manner (Green, 1999), and demonstrate the commitment to educational innovations.

Critical thinking activities

Promoting critical thinking is the result of deliberate curriculum design. Critical thinking should be an integral part of instructional strategies. Students are presented with problems and must solve them, or arrive at a solution. They must discern accurate information and identify ways that the information provided will help them arrive at a solution. Students must “think logically … analyze and compare … question and evaluate” information presented within a course or unit or assignment (Carr, 1988, p. 69).

Critical thinking activities focus on the acquisition of skills that:

• Encourage students to identify relevant information (Mahaffy, 2006), and learn how to “detect and avoid fallacious reasoning and … analyze deductive and inductive arguments” (Kurfiss, 1988, p. iii);
• Encourage students to research effectively and efficiently (Mahaffy, 2006) by supporting arguments or conclusions with research (Kurfiss, 1988) and
• Encourage students to communicate effectively their conclusions (Mahaffy, 2006) by reading and writing (Kurfiss, 1988).

Critical thinking, as a curricular element, focuses on assignments, rather than content (Kurfiss, 1988). This is not a discipline specific pedagogical process, but an instructional methodology.

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Watts, G., & Hammons, J. (2002). Professional development: Setting the context. In G. E. Watts (Vol. Ed.), Enhancing community colleges through professional development. New directions for community colleges. Number 120. (pp. 5-10). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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