This post is inspired by the “your mailbox is almost full” email I received this morning.
On this blog we’ve discussed the benefits of:
- protecting what’s valuable in an increasing insecure online information environment,
- repeatedly practicing important skills, across an entire curriculum rather than in only a single methods course, to unlearn information illiteracy,
- letting Google take the lead, since that’s where students usually start their acquisition of information anyway.
At my university, I can even call upon one of our trusty librarians to teach a class on a particular aspect of information literacy for me.
Despite employing these and other resources, I still constantly see basic ignorance among students about how to effectively locate and use information. I’m not alone. As stated by Kirschner and Merrienboer (2013: 178):
“students are really not the best managers of their own learning with respect to navigating through and learning in the digital world, choosing the best way in which to study and learn . . . or gathering useful information from the Internet.”*
Although academics pride themselves on being information literate, we also tend to be information hoarders. Like the NSA, we vacuum first and sort later. And then we set aside whatever we don’t immediately use, thinking that we might need it for some presently-undefined future purpose. The behavior is often driven more by a need for emotional satisfaction than practical need. So perhaps we don’t model — at least in a way that’s visible to students — some of the skills that we say we want them to acquire.
The author, journalist, and professor Michael Pollan once stated:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Re-wording the above:
Get real information. Just enough. That does what it needs to do.
How do we demonstrate a healthy information lifestyle to students (and improve our own lives in the process)? Experimenting with an information diet is probably a good place to start. It’s also worth recognizing that clutter is clutter — whether digital or physical. These seven steps for decluttering apply to information just as well as they do to household junk. Applying these principles to your own life will better enable you to teach them to your students.