Information Literacy in the 21st Century Classroom

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Information literacy skills are of paramount importance in the 21st Century. Information Literacy is an all encompassing term that includes traditional reading, writing, oral communication, digital literacy, media literacy, digital citizenship and higher order thinking skills. Higher order thinking skills includes critical thinking, and are are necessary for all curriculum areas and learning skills to help students assess sources of information for the reliability, validity to themselves and the subject. These skills are not add-ons, they are perhaps the most important skills our students will need for the future.

The ultimate goal of information literacy is to help learners become critical consumers of information which includes self-direction towards the knowledge that is both personally meaningful, but that also has reliability and validity.  However, students are also active producers of information as well. Regardless of how information is shared in the 21st century, Information Literacy skills are valuable to help students contribute to the greater good of the world by posting and sharing meaningful information throughout their lives.

Students do not acquire higher order thinking skills on their own. Teaching is art form that needs to include students as active users of information through technology. While kids show confidence with technology, this does not translate into information literacy skills.

Teaching information literacy skills works best when embedded within other areas of study. This helps to make the skills relevant and applicable across the curriculum, and hopefully translatable to other areas of life.

Therefore, lesson planning that provides meaningful opportunities for students to engage in these important areas will greatly serve our students throughout their school careers and beyond.

The following is a list of 5 criteria for integrating information literacy skills:

1.Classroom Ecology: Critically think about your classroom community, the needs, the best ways to promote student voice. Is information literacy set up to be a natural extension of the learning that takes place in your learning environment?

2. Participation vs Consumption. Consider how the students and learners are going to participate with the curriculum as higher order thinkers. Promoting inter-disciplinary study, and inquiry-based learning will help students to make meaningful connections to what is important to them, and help them to become skilled at participating in information literacy, not merely consuming.

3. Manage distraction. One that cannot be ignored is that many technology tools are linked with other tools including social media tools, other digital learning tools, advertisements, and irrelevant information. How can we manage inevitable distraction for students, when we cannot work alongside them all the time?  

4. Promoting Collaboration. In what ways can we use the information to learn together, to collaborate, to share, and to build new knowledges. How can we tailor each situation to our own specific needs?

5. Equity and Accessibility. How are we ensuring that all students have opportunities to develop the very skills that they will need to succeed both in school, and beyond? Equity is also about ensuring that our most disenfranchised students are not missing out on key opportunities to learn basic methods of information literacy.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Great reflection. My only add would be that rather than minimize distraction, we need to promote appropriate use. This is no different than regular supervision of a class (it used to be passing notes). There has to be regular interaction with the students and the teacher needs to be checking in with them to assist in staying on task.


    1. Thank you very much for commenting! I agree that minimizing distraction also means promoting appropriate use! I believe that we can build capacity in our students to use edtech in meaningful ways, and use it to help students gain momentum in their learning. Continually checking in is very important. However, I also believe that the room for distraction is higher than passing notes – ie., the amount of notes (aka – social media) that could be ‘pinging’ a student could be quite large!lol. Teachers too! I really appreciated your post and thank you very much for taking the time to comment:) Deborah


  2. I have a problem with assertion that “information literacy” includes “media literacy.” Those who teach info lit, do not include media literacy concepts such as stereotypes and representation to name just a few.


    1. I appreciate your point of view. I really see media and information as closely interrelated. You can’t have one without the other. Media essentially comprises the many ways that information is shared in our world. We use the functions of the media available to us in order to evaluate the information therein to make decisions in our lives. I personally have difficulty seeing them as separate entities. Thanks very much for connecting and engaging in dialogue about this!


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