Info Lit IS Squishy

I was enjoying my day off in celebration of the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I just finished watching the Oprah Show (which I never do) which highlighted the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by illustrating modern day illustrations of the Civil Rights Movement.  It was an outstanding show and everything shared on TV is now on her website.  (Kind of an interesting contrast with the current discussions among presidential candidates about civil rights.).

After the show, I thought I would check in with some blogs I read.  I learned that I missed out on several weeks of discussions about Information Literacy, the new AASL Standards for the 21st Century, and standards in general.  However, Doug Johnson has once again done a masterful job of corralling (do they do that in Minnesota?)  the discussion on his blog.  What caught my attention, was this posting from AASL President Sara Kelly Johns.  This caused me to read a previous posting from Paula Yohe, and this response from Chris Harris, this previous response from Mike Eisenberg on the AASL blog, and the original post on the AASL blog by Sharon Grimes.

Now, I was at the AASL Conference when the new AASL standards for the 21st century learner were released and I thought they were pretty good.

Originally, Sharon Grimes voiced her frustration over the new standards saying, “I do not feel that sense of empowerment and excitement I felt when I first read Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning.”  I would have to agree.  It is a mistake to take the new standards as a “stand alone” document, out of the context of the importance of Information Literacy, the previous standards or from academic standards.

Paula Yohe suggests that the new standards, as well as the ISTE standards, are squishy because as she explains:  “Any standards have to be easily understood and written so that the people who will use them understand what they are supposed to do and what they mean.  There are too many standards. If funding or test scores are not tied to any standards — in most cases they will fall by the wayside. ”  Boy, wouldn’t it be great if all standards were written so they are easily understood.  Our California State Academic Standards have taken over a decade to be understood and defined.  We even aligned our state test to these standards and the teachers teaching the content can’t understand how the test writers decided on the questions they decide to ask…and they all read the same standards!

Chris Harris points out that with the new standards,  “It is our job to take them, work with them, shape them, align them, draw from them what we can use, embed them in local curriculum documents, and otherwise do to them what we did with the Information Power standards.”

The problem with any set of “standards” is that once they are written, things change, and by nature, standards are not written to necessarily change.  Additionally, I suppose the “standards” purists would say that if you have standards, you have to have a way to assess them.  But, in this ever-changing information-rich world, how can know how to assess everything that is being developed?  From various reports, only 20% of educators even know of the existence of Web 2.0 tools today.  Thanks to the first Information Power (1988), most people now understand the importance of information literacy.   Twenty years ago, that was not the case.

I  think the new AASL standards do fit the times.  They are general, specific and flexible to meet the information challenges of today and in the future.   And, they challenge each one of us to read them and make them our own.  It is also good to know there are AASL committee members working to further translate and transform the new standards.  No matter what the subject, standards are only as good as what each us make them…in our libraries…in our schools…in our districts…

After all, information literacy, in general, is SQUISHY… that’s why we need information professionals to help others to become more information literate!


1 Response to “Info Lit IS Squishy”

  1. 1 Doug Johnson January 22, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the kind words and interesting post.

    One place I believe we get in trouble talking about “standards” is differentiating between program standards (Information Power) and student learning standards (21st Century Learning Standards). These got somehow mushed together in IP2, but are two different tools designed for two different purposes by two different committees in AASL (although they reference each other.)

    At least that is my understanding.

    All the best,


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