Improving Student's Web Use and Information Literacy: A Guide For Teachers and Teacher Librarians

Sue Weddell (University of Ontario, Otago, New Zealand)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 25 October 2011



Weddell, S. (2011), "Improving Student's Web Use and Information Literacy: A Guide For Teachers and Teacher Librarians", Library Management, Vol. 32 No. 8/9, pp. 638-639.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

As an Academic Liaison Librarian in a University Library and involved to some extent with developing information research skills in undergraduates and post‐graduates, I am particularly interested in new literature on information literacy that comes my way. Even though this book is focussed on the primary and secondary school sector and the training of teachers and teacher‐librarians, it is still relevant to any professional charged with developing information searching skills in their clientele. I regularly work with tertiary students for whom Libraries are places for a chat and to search Facebook with Google and Wikipedia their sole sources of information and who have little or no knowledge of other sources. I would love to get students coming in that have already gone through an information literacy programme and have already learnt the basics, it would make my job so much easier.

The author of this title, James Herring has published many articles and books on teaching library skills; school librarianship; IT and the internet; and information literacy over the last 32 years. He currently teaches at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia, but is based most of the year in Scotland. His current research focus is on information literacy skills in schools and he has frequently presented both keynote and refereed papers at conferences as well as facilitating many workshops.

Herring's latest offering, by his own admission, in his blog (refer‐books/) “contains a mix of theory and practice, although practice is high on the agenda. There is also some of my recent research in the book. Overall, it is a book for practitioners, and I hope that both teacher/school librarians and teachers will be able to put into practice many of the ideas and examples in the book.” He acknowledges that new aspects of web 2.0 change frequently but “my book is focused on improving learning in schools and not just identifying the latest fad”.

Beginning with what he calls the “big picture” and to set the scene, Herring starts with a look at learning and teaching in today's schools, briefly covering different theories on learning and teaching in schools, the incorporation of the web into teaching and the importance of collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians. He then launches straight into the practical with an excellent chapter on finding and using information on the web. Search engines in general are covered briefly and appropriately, Google as you would expect, is covered in some detail but there is no great push to use this exclusively. The advice given on effective searching is excellent and serves to remind even those of us who are professionals that you do need to ask the right questions before embarking on your search.

I was pleased to come across a chapter exclusively dealing with the evaluation of web sites, this is a very important area and too few students appreciate how important it is to know how to critically evaluate information sources. While the web site evaluation criteria discussed relate more to primary and secondary education levels they do apply across the board.

Web 2.0 is covered well and the chapter devoted to this topic should be very useful for teacher‐librarians endeavouring to introduce in‐service sessions for other staff.

Chapter Five looks at “information literacy” – a term incidentally the use of which is beginning to fall out of favour among librarians in the tertiary sector for reasons we won't go into here. Herring looks at a range of definitions for information literacy and introduces some of the many models available for use in schools – the Big 6 model; the ISP model; the NSW DET model (developed for schools in NSW); and the PLUS model. For each model he gives an example of how it was used in a particular school. Information literacy and the transfer of skills and abilities across the curriculum is also discussed and the importance of collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians is stressed.

Ideas for improving student use of the web are presented in Chapter Six with the underlying goal being the development of students as “web learners” rather than just “web users” (p.88). Chapter Seven continues into the development of learning websites for student use, tailoring learning resources to suit their curriculum and the special aspects of the school.

The final chapter looks to the future with a discussion on what Herring calls “The next phase of ICT in schools”. He encourages teachers and teacher‐librarians to reflect on the skills needed by students in the twenty‐first century, to consider Web 3.0 and new learning technologies and above all focus on the need to continue to develop information literacy skills in our students whether they be primary or secondary.

This book is a gem – it is well planned, the learning is “scaffolded” with each chapter building nicely on what has gone before. The learning objectives are laid out at the beginning of each chapter, the topics are dealt with succinctly, there are lots of examples, tables and figures are included as appropriate and each chapter has a conclusion and references. Herring set out to provide a much needed practical guide for teachers and teacher‐librarians and he delivers in only 143 pages, I highly recommend this title to not only librarians, as Herring himself says (refer blog) “many parents would benefit from reading it” too.

My review copy is already dog‐eared and I intend to refer to it constantly for the great ideas that are included, as a reminder of the evaluation criteria, and as and aid to help plan useful tutoring sessions with the under‐graduates and even some post‐graduates who do not have the skills one would expect at the tertiary level. How much better it would be if in a few years we can see the information literacy skill level improve as the benefits of these ideas become mainstream in our schools …

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