There’s more to it…

As I wrote earlier, information literacy has been in the air lately. It’s a good thing from my perspective, as one who advocates for info lit. But it’s frustrating too, because people don’t seem to get what I’m talking about. It’s disturbing as well, when I read things from people I respect and admire that present these extremely narrow views of info lit. It’s one thing to see Pearson equate info lit with CRAAP:
Maybe simple makes for easier sales. But there is more to information literacy than simple evaluation rubrics. And even those evaluation rubrics are not as simple as Pondisco pretends.

Is information literacy CRAAP? As the American Library Association explained it,

To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

“Evaluate” is in there, but there’s also that bit about recognizing information needs, and the part that says, “use effectively,” both of which contain multitudes. The UNESCO description is a little more verbose:

Information literacy enables people to interpret and make informed judgments as users of information sources, as well as to become producers of information in their own right. Information literate people are able to access information about their health, their environment, their education and work, empowering them to make critical decisions about their lives, e.g. in taking more responsibility for their own health and education.

CRAAP is a tool we use to introduce the evaluation of information. It’s a starting point, just one way of starting a discussion, not an end goal and certainly not anything definitive. To get a better view of info lit, one could look to Bruce’s Six Frames (PDF), which provides a good overview of the multifaceted complexity of the topic. We don’t really approach this complexity in higher education. Andretta, quoted in Whitworth’s Radical Information Literacy, notes that the focus on info lit at its most basic levels “is based on the fact that [they] emphasize, and most importantly assess, types and levels of skills developed by the learners that suit the universities’ requirements for ‘objective’ testing of students’ academic performance.” Our systems place a premium on assessment and measurement, so we end up focusing on things that are easily assessed and measured because we have such limited time. When we say we need more info lit, we don’t mean more CRAAP. Those are training wheels. There’s more to it than that.


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