In the comments to my recent rant about a proposal to add “technology and information literacy” to the No Child Left Behind requirements (and on his Blue Skunk Blog), Doug Johnson made a few good arguments in favor of the idea. And many that I can’t accept.
However, my biggest disagreement comes with his use of the term “info/tech literacy” (and variations) to label a set of skills students should learn, and NCLB should test. Information literacy and technology literacy are two very different concepts and cannot not be smushed together as if they are the same.
Information literacy is certainly a collection of skills we should be teaching every student from the beginning of their education. To me, the term covers the many processes needed to find, sift through, organize, and make good use of the various types of data thrown at people everyday.
Information literacy, however, has nothing to do with technology. Certainly most data is going to flow through a network to some kind of computing device and everyone needs some basic understanding of the technology working in the background. But the two literacies exist independently – and are not nearly of equivalent importance.
But as integral as information literacy is (or should be) to a good education, it still should not be part of NCLB. The standardized testing requirements at the heart of that law emphasize simplistic and basic rote memorization skills. And supporters of this misguided school “reform” program try to glorify passing those tests as proof a student has been “well educated”.
Fundamental literacy, whether information or any other kind, cannot be adequately measured using a paper and pencil multiple guess test. There are far more accurate methods for assessing student understanding. And, yes, they are messy. Welcome to real life.