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The Importance of Information Studies
Purpose of Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12, 1998
New Features of Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12, 1998
Role of Parents
Role of Teachers and Teacher-Librarians
Role of Students
Curriculum Expectations and Achievement Levels
Strands in the Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12, 1998
Information Technology and Equitable Access
Independent Reading in the School Library Program
The Kindergarten Program and the School Library
Planning Student Programs


The Importance of Information Studies

Our students live in a new era known as the Information Age. The focus on information and technology has profoundly affected the nature of society and the world of work. More information is accessible to all people in our society, and more businesses are seeking employees who are proficient in information retrieval, analysis, and communication, in conjunction with highly developed technological skills.

It is therefore vital for education in Ontario to develop comprehensive information literacy skills.

Futurists predict that within ten years almost half of the workforce will be employed in information-based occupations - gathering, processing, retrieving and analyzing information. To be successful in this information economy, students must prepare themselves with the knowledge and skills they will need in tomorrow's world of work. The illiterate of the year 2000, according to Alvin Toffler, will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Our students need to be information literate, lifelong learners. (Koechlin and Zwaan, Teaching Tools for the Information Age).

Information literacy is defined as "the ability to acquire, critically evaluate, select, use, create and communicate information in ways which lead to knowledge and wisdom" (Information Literacy and Equitable Access (ILEA): Draft Document, Ministry of Education and Training, 1995). Information literacy is the key to helping students use learning throughout their lives as a way to solve problems, act ethically, plan for the future and prepare for change. According to the Association of Teacher-Librarians in Canada (ATLC), students, to become lifelong learners, must be able to:

  • recognize the need for information to solve problems and develop ideas;
  • pose important questions;
  • use a variety of information gathering strategies and research processes;
  • locate relevant and appropriate information;
  • access information for quality, authority, accuracy and authenticity;
  • use the practical and conceptual tools of information technology;
  • understand form and format of information, location and access methods, including how information is situated and produced;
  • format and publish in text and multimedia, adapting to emerging technologies.

As Figure 1 demonstrates, information literacy encompasses "all other forms of literacy -- traditional literacy (the ability to read and write) and media literacy (the ability to critically evaluate and create media, such as television, advertising, news stories and movies) and numerical literacy (the ability to understand and solve problems with data and numbers)." (ILEA)

All students should have "equal opportunities to participate and succeed in tomorrow’s world. Educators must ensure they have access to information technology, information skills instruction and a wide range of information. Equitable access is fundamental to achieving the goals and expectations of our education system." (ILEA).

Figure 1 - The Scope of Information Literacy

Figure 1. The Scope of Information Literacy


Purpose of Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12, 1998

The purpose of Information Studies: Kindergarten to Grade 12, 1998 is to support, develop and integrate cross-curricular information expectations, both stated and implied, of the elementary and secondary Ontario Curriculum. This document provides a comprehensive program of information literacy for all grades such as that provided by school library information centres. This document recognizes the need for and importance of:

  • formal and informal programs that encourage the transfer of information literacy skills and knowledge to real-life situations;
  • an information problem-solving process, as well as specific information application skills;
  • a research process that develops higher-order critical and creative thinking skills;
  • expertise in the use of the tools and applications of the Information Age, from traditional print to digital information technologies;
  • the development of student independence in using information for lifelong learning;
  • the use of information-based decision-making and decision-making to enhance life at school, at work, and at home;
  • the collaborative role of parents, teachers, and teacher-librarians in promoting independent thinking and information problem-solving;
  • the development of safe, ethical and responsible practices in acquiring, using, and communicating information;
  • the integration of a wide range of activities and resources to provide a lifetime of reading and learning.


New Features of Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12, 1998

This document specifically addresses the changes in and challenges of the information explosion. Nowhere is this more evident than in the evolution of school library programs. (See Table 1).

For the past twenty-five years the library program has been continually evolving. Before the 1980's, the popular term in use was library skills. Students received instruction in using libraries and print-based reference materials, and the gathering, organizing of information, in rigidly timetabled weekly periods in the school library. In the 1980's, the emphasis changed to resource-based learning and collaborative program planning between teachers and teacher-librarians. Information skills were meaningfully integrated into curriculum but the resources, although now encompassing print and visual materials, were still primarily housed in building-level collections.

The electronic revolution began for schools in the late 1980's with access to personal computers -- often networked within buildings. In the early 1990's, on-line access to sources beyond the school began the information explosion thus underlining the critical need for students to not only physically access these sources, but to develop intellectual access skills -- critical thinking and information literacy skills.

Table 1. The Evolution of School Library Programs in Ontario
  Before the 70's The 70's - 80's The 90's and Beyond
Curriculum Library-Based Curriculum of Isolated Skills Instruction School-Wide Curriculum of Integrated Content/Skills Units Real Life Curriculum of Core Information Studies
Assessment Isolated Opportunities to Assess Library Skills Wider Opportunities to Partner the Evaluation of Resource-Based Activities with Individual Teachers Full Opportunities to Report on Student Achievement in Information Knowledge and Skills Across the Curriculum
Resources Books
Vertical Files
Basic Computer
Audio -Visual
Online Databases
Facilities Library Library Resource Centre Library Information Centre
Support Services Isolated Models of Support Mostly in Larger Boards Linked Models of Support Between Adjacent Boards Shared Models of Support Among Local, Provincial and National Organizations
Technologies Print Media
Community Isolated Models of Community Involvement and Volunteerism Local Partnerships of Specific Involvement and Funding Network of Parent, Community, Provincial, National and Global Partnerships
Leadership Librarian Teacher-Librarian Teacher-Librarian / Information Coordinator

As a result of the evolution of the school library program, the Information Studies curriculum in this document differs from previous library information skills curricula in several important ways.

It provides learning experiences that:

  • acknowledge the exponential growth of information as a result of digital storage, retrieval, communication and transfer;
  • emphasize the importance of information knowledge and skills within the context of resource-based learning in integrated school library programs;
  • emphasize research activities to support writing, reading, reasoning and communicating;

To strengthen planning, implementation and evaluation, the information studies curriculum is carefully constructed to:

  • generate consistent overall expectations for all grades directly from the metaskills used to assess student achievement;
  • organize grade-by-grade overall expectations directly from the overall expectations and metaskills;
  • coordinate with the information knowledge and skills implicit in the achievement levels throughout Ontario curriculum documents;
  • can be used to track student achievement in individual subjects and in the learning skills section of the Ontario Report Card;
  • can be integrated into individual subject disciplines or delivered as an interdisciplinary course in Information Studies.


Role of Parents

Studies show that students perform better in school if their parents are involved in their education. Therefore, parents have an important role to play in supporting their child's learning. By reading the curriculum, parents can find out what their children are learning in each grade and why they are learning it. This awareness enables parents to discuss their children's work with them, to communicate with teachers, and to ask relevant questions about their child's progress. Knowledge of the expectations in the various grades will also help parents to interpret their child's report card and to work with the teacher to improve the student's learning. For this reason, parents are urged to read through the expectations for all grades rather than just the particular grade their child is in.

Participating in parent conferences, working on school councils, and encouraging children to complete homework are some of many ways parents can support their child's education.

Information Studies: Kindergarten to Grade 12, 1998 provides specific ways in which parents can support student learning. The information problem-solving process mirrors the life-long learning process. Parents can encourage their child to seek information before making decisions, and to reflect on decisions made. Parents can model information-based problem-solving and decision-making by sharing with their child the sources they use to reach their conclusions. They can look for opportunities to involve their child in decisions being made in the household, such as buying a new vehicle, which require gathering, using and analyzing information.

Parents can promote contact between home and school by visiting the School Library Information Centre, participating in Literacy Celebrations, Book Fairs, and Family Reading events, and supporting their child’s recreational reading. Many school library information centres offer extended hours after school and into the evening to encourage parents and their children to enjoy the materials, to work together on information-based projects, and to provide access to world-wide information sources and multi-media technologies which children may not have access to at home. Parents can encourage the use of the public library, museums, historical societies and other information sources within their communities.


Role of Teachers and Teacher-Librarians

Teachers and students have complementary responsibilities. Teachers are responsible for developing appropriate instructional strategies. They need to address different student needs and bring enthusiasm and a variety of teaching approaches to the classroom to ensure sound learning for every student. Teachers know the individual strengths and needs of each student and are the experts in the curriculum for the grade level they teach.

The role of the teacher-librarian is a vital one for overall student achievement. Research studies (Clyde, 1996; Lance, 1994, Haycock, 1995, Krashen, 1992, Haycock 1992, Woolls 1990) indicate that the development of student competence in information skills is most effective when integrated with classroom instruction through cooperative program planning and team teaching by the teacher-librarian and the classroom teacher as two equal partners.

Teacher-librarians are information specialists who work collaboratively with classroom teachers in planning, teaching, and evaluating students. Because of the knowledge explosion, it is impossible to learn all there is to know in any one discipline. All knowledge is interrelated and learning can be more efficient and effective through a process that recognizes these interrelationships. As cross-grade, cross-curricular information coordinators, teacher-librarians can assist teachers to plan and implement interdisciplinary curriculum and help students see the connections among subjects. They select a broad base of learning resources to support classroom programs and the range of student learning needs and styles. Recognizing that library collections are becoming a balance of in-house and on-line sources, teacher-librarians focus on acquiring and using information technology tools and skills to support student learning. They often provide network management and technology training to colleagues. The ultimate goal is that the technology becomes transparent and seamless in the learning process for students and teachers.

With their unique combination of professional skills – educator and information professional - teacher-librarians perform the role of the information intermediary – bridging the gap between the needs of students growing up in an information society, and the abilities of students to access and use the information they need.


Role of Students

With regard to their learning, students also have responsibilities that increase as they advance through elementary and secondary school. Students who make the effort required and who are able to apply themselves will soon learn that there is a direct relationship between achievement and hard work, and will be motivated to work as a result.

There will be some students, however, who will find it more difficult to take responsibility for their learning because of special challenges, which may include lack of support and other difficulties in the home or environment in which they are growing up. For these students, the attention, patience, and encouragement of teachers can be extremely important factors for success. However, regardless of their circumstances, taking responsibility for their learning and progress is an important part of education for all students.


Curriculum Expectations and Achievement Levels

Information Studies: Kindergarten to Grade 12, 1998 has two elements: expectations and achievement levels. The expectations identified for each grade, describe the knowledge and the skills that students are expected to develop and to demonstrate across all subject areas, in their class work, on tests, and in various other activities on which their achievement is assessed.

Teachers and teacher-librarians will use their professional judgment in deciding which instructional methods will best foster the development of the skills and knowledge necessary in the research process and the application of information technology. They will build their information literacy program based on the needs of students, the resources available, and the recognition that good teaching should build positive attitudes toward the role of information in a knowledge-based society. High achievement is the goal for all students. Teachers, teacher-librarians, students and parents are expected to work together to help students to meet the expectations specified.

The achievement levels are brief descriptions of four possible levels of student achievement. These descriptions, which are used along with more traditional indicators like letter grades and percentage marks are among a number of tools that teachers will use to assess students’ learning. The four achievement levels for the Information Studies Curriculum focus on four "metaskills", that is, the significant, comprehensive and unifying skills behind all specific, subject-based expectations: understanding of concepts/reasoning, organizing, communicating, and applying. When teachers use the achievement levels in reporting to parents and speaking with students, they can discuss what is required of students to achieve the expectations for a given grade.

The provincial standard identifies the level of achievement at which parents and teachers can be confident students are well prepared for work at the next grade. Level 1 identifies achievement that falls much below the provincial standard. Level 2 identifies achievement that approaches, but is not yet at the provincial standard specified for the grade. Level 3 describes achievement that is at the standard for the grade; and level 4, achievement that surpasses the standard. For example, a student who is currently able to conduct grade appropriate research only with constant assistance from the teacher would be described as achieving at level 1 in research and information problem-solving. A reasonable goal for that student in this category would be to attain level 2 or 3 by improving the ability to work independently.


Strands in the Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12, 1998

The program in all grades and subject areas is designed to develop information problem-solving and decision-making skills, which include accessing, analyzing, applying, creating and communicating information. Students will explore a variety of resources including print and electronic sources, visual media, and community resources. The expectations will lead to information literate students who are confident and competent in applying their information processing skills to their personal lives, in further education, and to the world of work.

The information studies expectations are organized into three strands which focus on process, applied skills and contextual knowledge. The three strands are:

Inquiry and Research • Information Technologies • Information and Society

Tables 2, 3 and 4 identify the overall expectations of each strand arranged by the four metaskills:

Understanding of Concepts/Reasoning • Organizing • Communicating • Applying.


Table 2. Strand 1: Inquiry and Research - Overall Expectations Arranged by Metaskill
Stages of Inquiry and Research CONCEPTS/
Preparing For Research - define information needs using a variety of strategies - identify varied ways of organizing information - explore information using a variety of group activities - relate prior knowledge to information tasks
Accessing Resources - select information appropriate to needs using a variety of strategies - collect information from resources using internal organizers and conventions of texts - collaborate with others to share findings and ideas - locate a variety of appropriate resources from a variety of sources
Processing Information - analyze and evaluate information using a variety of strategies - sort information using a variety of organizers and formats - test ideas to adjust research and problem-solving strategies - synthesize findings and formulate conclusions
Transferring Learning - reflect on and evaluate research product and process - revise product appropriate to purpose, audience and format - produce results of research in a variety of forms for a variety of audiences - transfer information skills and knowledge to solve problems and make decisions


Table 3. Strand 2: Information Technologies - Overall Expectations Arranged by Metaskill
- use information technology to define needs and to select, analyze and evaluate information, and reflect on and evaluate research - use information technology to classify, gather and sort information, and revise product - use information technology to explore information, collaborate with others, test ideas and present findings - use information technology to relate prior knowledge, locate information, synthesize findings, formulate conclusions and transfer knowledge and skills


Table 4. Strand 3: Information and Society - Overall Expectations Arranged by Metaskill
- analyze and evaluate the importance of information in society - understand varied ways of organizing and storing information - understand varied ways of creating and communicating information - transfer new information skills and knowledge to enrich personal life and to contribute to society


Information Technology and Equitable Access

Learning programs must provide students with a wide range of information, access to information technology and information skills training. This is important for all students, and crucial to the success of those who, because of background or economic circumstances, do not have access to information technologies in their homes.

Equity of access to information instruction and technologies in schools will help to overcome economic barriers to achievement. It will also help educators reduce other barriers that prevent some students from both imagining and realizing their potentials. Information technologies can:

  • provide new learning opportunities to geographically isolated communities and individuals. For instance, emerging telecommunications technologies make it possible to transcend physical, political, economic and cultural boundaries.
  • enhance instruction in French and other languages. Information technologies will make it possible, through the sharing of resources, for Francophone students, native students and those students for whom English is a second language to have greater access to information, learning materials, instruction and support.
  • expand racial and ethnocultural perspectives. By bringing new worlds of information to schools, information technologies and information skills training will give students of all races and cultural backgrounds improved access to information and knowledge about their cultures and the opportunity to develop greater confidence in their cultural and racial identities.
  • enable students to work and express ideas in an environment relatively free of gender stereotyping and other biases. In comparison with other forms of communication, electronic networks have the greatest potential for allowing students to interact regardless, for instance, of gender or exceptionality. They also allow students with any impediments to social interaction to interact with others in ways that build confidence.
  • provide new opportunities for students with special needs and abilities. Most information technologies can be modified to meet the special needs of students with special hearing, visual, motor and learning needs.

Information technologies have the potential to provide physical access to a broad range of information, but it is the equity of access to Information Studies curriculum that will produce information literate students prepared to live and work in the 21st century


Independent Reading in the School Library Program

In an information age, literacy demands not only the ability to read and write, but also the ability to process information and communicate effectively. Research suggests that reading proficiency increases with the amount of time spent reading voluntarily. The initial invitation to read may be provided within the home or by a Kindergarten teacher reading to students.

A primary goal of the school library program is to create life-long readers.

It is crucial that teacher-librarians work with teachers, parents, the public library and other community institutions offering literacy programs to find ways to instill the joy of reading while helping students build the reading habit.

To become life-long readers, students must have:

  • access to current, quality, high interest, and extensive collections of books and other print materials in their school libraries, classrooms and public libraries;
  • contact with adults who read regularly and widely and who serve as positive role models;
  • teacher-librarians and teachers who demonstrate their enthusiasm for reading by reading aloud and providing special reading programs;
  • time during the school day dedicated to reading for pleasure, information and exploration;
  • opportunities specifically designed to engage young people in reading;
  • schools that create an environment where independent reading is valued, promoted, and encouraged;
  • opportunities that involve parents and other family and community members in reading.


The Kindergarten Program and the School Library

Children's early learning experiences have a profound effect on their development; and children arrive at school with different backgrounds and experiences and at different stages of development. Regular visits to the school library are part of the foundation for life-long literacy skills and habits. Often, before the children are formally enrolled in Kindergarten programs, teacher-librarians invite families to the school library on a weekly basis to engage in storyreading and storytelling, and to begin borrowing exciting, quality literature materials.

Students in Kindergarten begin to understand that the school library is a source of authoritative information when they have questions, and that information can be found in many formats. Students begin to access interactive digital media such as CD-ROM storybooks. They can participate in interesting telecommunication projects. If there is a public library nearby, visits can be arranged so that students begin to build awareness of the vast network of cultural and informational resources available to them.

The library program is an ideal way to support the content and teaching / learning approaches of the Kindergarten program. (See Appendix B). The three strands of Information Studies: Kindergarten to Grade 12, 1998 provide excellent opportunities for:

  • structuring the integration of learning through real-life situations and activities;
  • providing rich language-oriented activities and resources that motivate children to listen and respond, and to prepare for reading and writing;
  • foster opportunities to learn through inquiry and research (e.g., observing, listening, experimenting and drawing conclusions).

Above all, the school library offers opportunities for play, where children are receptive to learning within a environment of safety and delight.


Planning Student Programs

As Haycock has summarized, " The development of student competence in research and study skills is most effective when integrated with classroom instruction through cooperative program planning and team teaching by two equal teaching partners –the classroom teacher and the teacher-librarian." (What Works: Research About Teaching and Learning Through the School's Library Resource Centre, Rockland, 1992.) Teacher-librarians and teachers work collaboratively to plan, teach and assess cross-curricular learning experiences that develop information literacy skills. (See Appendix B). These skills enable students to solve problems, make decisions and create new knowledge for a lifetime. Skills taught in isolation are rarely transferred by students to new situations; therefore, programs must be designed to integrate these skills in authentic and meaningful experiences. For example, information technology should be seamlessly incorporated in tasks that integrate higher order thinking skills with the tools of today's information society.

The library program continues to stress the fostering of a love and understanding of literature to lead to a love of reading, which is among the most valuable resources students can take with them into adult life… Important as they are, reading for information and reading for learning are not the only activities that should be emphasized as students develop their reading skills. A well-balanced reading program will provide students with many opportunities to read for pleasure, for self-discovery, and for self-enrichment. (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Language, 27)

In planning programs, school library information centres are expected to meet the needs of all students, including exceptional students, ESL students and adult learners. This means ensuring that appropriate resources are selected, necessary modifications of curriculum are made, and suitable facilities and equipment are available and maintained.

Figure 2 shows how teacher-librarians, in partnership with teachers, students, and parents, use the information studies curriculum to provide both formal and informal opportunities for learning and teaching across the curriculum.

Figure 6. Planning Student Programs in the Library Information Centre

Figure 2. Planning Student Programs in the Library Information Centre

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