late night rambling on informed learning

According to Bruce, Hughes, and Somerville (2012):

“Informed learning may be defined as using information to learn. It is learning through engaging with or interacting with information. Informed learning is about being aware of the kinds of information we are using, how we are using information, and how different forms of information come together to inform and transform our work, study, or personal lives (Bruce, 2008).  It enables us to draw on and develop our information literacy, to enrich our awareness of our information use experiences.”

I’m attending the 5th Information Literacy Research Symposium tomorrow, and Dr. Mary Somerville, a prominent researcher in this area (?) of information literacy, is presenting on this topic. Before I received the email from my supervisor, I’d never heard of it as a term. I decided to read up on any article I could find that seemed to relate and found the following with a familiar author:

Bruce, Christine, Hilary Hughes, and Mary M. Somerville. “Supporting Informed Learners in the Twenty-First Century.” Library Trends. 60.3 (2012).

As I was reading it, I again found it ironic that another article indirectly criticizes standards- and skills-based conceptions of literacy as the predominant mode of instruction for libraries. Or most criticisms that I see because I don’t know of many graduate schools really teaching the more contemporary conceptions of information literacy (or all-encompassing things like metaliteracy). Even if they are, there are only a handful of libraries that are structured or progressive enough to integrate them. But I digress.

From what I can gather,  informed learning stems from the idea of lifelong learning. It–this article–seems to actually draw out the metacognitive domain of metaliteracy, which s illustrated in Goal 4:

Goal 4: Demonstrate ability to connect learning and research strategies with lifelong learning processes and personal, academic, and professional goals 

In fact, the parallel is clear when we see that the article is applying informed learning in “educational, community, and workplace contexts”. Still, as I read this, I have a hard time shaking off the feeling that it just unnecessarily bloats an existing concept with additional terms:

“The essence of informed learning is to make explicit awareness of these different forms of information and their use, as well as make explicit the various activities through which information is interpreted and understood.”

I complete agree that people should be more aware of and also continually evolve their ideas of information forms and how to engage with them, but I still call this information literacy. Well, maybe I’ve been calling it metaliteracy more recently.

Okay, maybe I’m being overly critical. Blame exhaustion. But to discuss pros, I do like the discussion of technology. It takes a more practical, realistic, and responsible view of it:

“Many information experiences are now inextricably entwined with technology; while the conceptual skills involved transcend technology, the basic practices remain. The more complex forms of informed learning are not dependent on technology, and these experiences must be emphasized to ensure that when technology is available it can be used to maximum advantage. For example, a writer must seek history, context, inspiration, collaboration, and review with or without technology. While technology may simplify or make the process more complex, it may also act as a barrier or may add new facets to the experience.”

I think technology empowers more people to participate in communities of knowledge and that it has enabled us to think about knowledge or information in new ways. But I think it sometimes does more harm than good without informed learning (which is perhaps the more extreme stance than what the authors here would say). And then it’s important to note that there’s still a gap when it comes to equity of access, which these authors also mention.

Anyway, I think that’s all I have time for tonight. A lot of the rest of the article are policy suggestions or context-specific strategies for supporting informed learning environments. I’ll have to report more after tomorrow–I think the symposium tomorrow is a little different than this journal article I’ve skimmed through.

Oy! This on top of the metaliteracy MOOC sessions I’ve had to miss too. Way too overloaded this fall. Still, as an informed or metacognitive learner, I’m aware that this article is a first stab at letting similar ideas converge to bring me to new understandings.

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